As the Centre plans to discuss the possibility of inclusion of Jarawa tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands into the mainstream, tribal rights body 'Survival International' today said such steps would be prove to be a disaster.
"Any attempt to keep the Jarawas in the mainstream by force would be a disaster," the London-based Survival said in a statement today.
"Forcibly assimilating tribal people into national society has been viewed as unacceptable by the international community for decades. Its catastrophic impact on tribal people has been widely acknowledged..." it said.
In the wake of a recent video footage showing semi-naked tribal women dancing before tourists, Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo had yesterday advocated for the inclusion of Jarawas into the mainstream.
"As far as my personal view is concerned, it would be totally unfair to leave them (Jarawa) in a beastly condition forever. At the same time I am certainly not the one who would like to expose them to mall and junk culture," he had said.
Survival's campaigner Sophie Grig said, "Minister Deo must move away from the idea that tribes will inevitably end up 'mainstream-ed' or that their life is 'primitive' or 'beastly".
The Jarawa have thrived in their forests for more than 55,000 years – they may be poor in monetary terms but their health and quality of life is visibly better than that of the Great Andamanese tribes who've been given the benefits of the mainstream, she claimed. Demanding that the Jarawa have the right to self-determination, the NGO said only the tribals can decide as to what kind of developments they want in their lives.
A report by Survival International shows that when tribal people around the world have been forced into the mainstream, rates of disease, depression, addiction and suicide have soared.
The Jarawas, estimated to be around 400 in population now, live in the reserve forests on South Andamans and have largely shun contact with the outside world.
Under the Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation, 1956, any attempt to contact Jarawas, photographing them, stopping vehicles while transiting through their land or offering them rides is a punishable offence.