Outrage over 'human zoos' on Indian islands

2012-01-11 15:20

New Delhi - Rights campaigners and politicians on Wednesday condemned a video showing women from a protected and primitive tribe dancing for tourists in exchange for food on India's far-flung Andaman Islands.

British newspaper The Observer released the video showing Jarawa tribal women - some of them naked - being lured to dance and sing after a bribe was allegedly paid to a policeman to produce them.

Under Indian laws designed to protect ancient tribal groups susceptible to outside influence and disease, photographing or coming into contact with the Jarawa is illegal.

The tribe, thought to have been among the first people to migrate successfully from Africa to Asia, lives a nomadic existence in the lush, tropical forests of the Andamans in the Bay of Bengal.

‘Not circus ponies’

India's Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo promised to take action over the incident, terming it "disgusting" on Wednesday, and the home ministry has sought a report.

Survival International, which lobbies on behalf of tribal groups worldwide, said the video showed tourists apparently enjoying "human zoos".

"Quite clearly, some people's attitudes towards tribal peoples haven't moved on a jot. The Jarawa are not circus ponies bound to dance at anyone's bidding," said Stephen Corry, the group's director, in a press release.

In June last year, Survival International accused eight Indian travel companies of running "human safari tours" so tourists could see and photograph the Jarawa.

The London-based lobby group called for tourists to boycott the road used to enter the reserve of the Jarawa tribe, who number just 403 and are in danger of dying out.

The Andaman and Nicobar tropical island chain is home to four other rare tribes - Onge, the Great Andamanese, the Sentinelese and the Shompens, each numbering fewer than 350 members.

Another tribe called Bo died out in January 2010.

The Andaman police downplayed the video, calling it "old" and blamed the British journalist for forcing the Jarawas to dance for the tourists.

"It is obvious that it is the videographer who is breaking the law of the land and who is inciting the tribals to dance," senior Andaman policeman SB Deol said in a statement.

The video can be viewed here.

Read more on:    india  |  culture
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