The Tragedy Of The Andaman Islands

The Jarawa inhabit Great Andaman Island in the Indian Ocean, they number between two and three hundred souls. Until recently they were regarded as one of the most socially isolated indigenous tribes in the world. During the late twentieth century a host of anthropologists, sociologists, linguistics experts and other assorted boffins finally wore down their resistance and eventually "friendly contact" was made, largely by way of the tribesmen been lured out of the bush to collect gifts such as plastic buckets and oranges. The contact may eventually reap doom for the Jarawa, history shows that indigenous islanders can be virtually wiped out by disease, the population decline of the Marquesas Islands serves as a classic example of this

Sadly, it has already been reported that measles has struck some of the Jarawa. With virtually no immunity to introduced diseases and no access to adequate medical care, their future looks precarious to say the least.

The history of Great Andaman Island bears witness to another tribe virtually destroyed. The Great Andamanese , who were not as resistant to the settlers as the Jarawa, were virtually obliterated. In 1858 there were estimated to be over 5000 Great Andamanese, today there are just 46 left, living on a reserve with many addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Another tribe, the Onge , who inhabited the neighboring island of Little Andaman, have seen their lands stripped away for development by the Indian administration, who took over with increased vigor when the British left in 1947. A nomadic tribe, they are now confined to only small areas of their own island, there are fears they may vanish altogether if tourism takes hold there. Their current population is 97, down from 700 in 1860.

Only one tribe in the Andaman Island group remains in tact and still totally isolated from the outside world. The Sentinelese of North Senitinel Island live a prehistoric life style, shunning the outside world and killing any invaders. How much longer before the ruthless march of globalization swallows up the world's few remaining tribesmen?

The author of these words mulls over the thought, a pervading sense of the apocalypse sweeps over him.

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