Indian Health and Family Welfare Minister visits Jarawa at Port Blair Hospital
Photos taken and sent to us by Denis Giles, Port Blair
Mr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, takes stock of the health of Jarawa patients admitted to G.B. Pant Hospital, Port Blair during his visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on 4th September 2005. Doctors in the Hospital take pride in explaining the tribe to the Minister. A young, unnamed Jarawa patient sits in the foreground.
From right to left: Dr. Tulasidasan, in charge A&N AIDS Control Society; Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; Dr. Sadashivan, Director of Health Services, Andaman and Nicobar Administration; Mr. Manoranjan Bhakta, Member of Parliament for Andaman and Nicobar islands. An unnamed Jarawa man sits in the foreground.
Police, Judiciary and the Jarawas
sent in by SAMIR ACHARYA (email@example.com) and
Dr. VISHVAJIT PANDYA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
response from Dr. Pandaya, 5 July 2005 to Samir Acharya's note below
How nice to know that the legal machinery works, if in a strange way! Here are some reactions and questions to Samir's information.
I wonder what the legal authorities were going to ask the Jarawas, and how?
What has happened to the AAJVS and medical staff accused previously of taking liberties with Jarawa women? In the past, the settlers merely had to produce arrows to claim compensation for the damage. Police was never sent in to bring back the accused. I think the real problem is caused by the medical authorities. They have used the hospital and medicine as the ultimate tool of exploitation with zero production in recent years.
Every visiting medical expert from mainland India, after the sunami, is taken to see Jarawas on the Andaman Trunk Road. Why? Why have the Port Blair authorities allowed interactions between Jarawas and non-Jarawas in the first place? Other lapses by of medical authority are deplorable!
How have they dealt with the Great Andamanese recently?
What medical regime and procedures are being followed by them as regards the Jarawas?
The casual approach and self glorification on the part of medical authorities has continued while AAJVS cannot even get them to provide services beyond Port Blair.
Five years back, a nurse at Dugong Creek abused young Onge boys so much that one of them is still suffficiently traumatized to be given mind-altering psycho drugs that are internationally banned!
The main culprit is the medical authority. It is about time that the medical authorities be questioned and brought under some scrutiny!
message from Samir Acharya of SANE, 30 June 2005
Now hear this.
On 29 June 2005, two Jarawa females were brought in a closed van to the District and Sessions Court at Port Blair, implementing a summons issued by the learned judge. Police made heroic efforts in tracing and fetching them from the jungles. The Court had actually asked police to produce the victim of the alleged Jarawa rape of 16 August 2002, along with four Jarawa witnesses. But the policeman said that it was so diffcult to go deep into the jungle and to identify the right person from the nomadic Jarawa bands that they could manage to catch only two. The poor Jarawas were kept sitting at the back side of the van, guarded by a posse of policemen wielding walkie talkies and what-not. Parked just outside the Court premises, waiting for a dramatic moment to make their appearance before His Honor. But alas! The moment never came.
On 16 August 2002 there was an allegation of one Shree Raja raping Lapa while she was admitted at the GB Pant hospital. Although the incident took place inside a Government Hostpital, no medical examination took place for several days even though the law provides for an immediate medical examination, an enquiry by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and trial before a Sessions Judge, none of this happened. A perfunctory enquiry was made by a police corporal and the accused was granted bail, by a Magistrate's court. The enquiry officer had no knowledge of the Jarawa language. Later, Ms. Shyamoli Ganguly moved the Calcutta High Court and got the bail revoked.
Following our complaints to various authorities and publicity in the media, the Deputy Superintendent of Police was asked to enquire into the matter. He did but could not find enough evidence as the trail had turned cold. Therefore, a charge for molestation was drawn up against the accused and this is what the court was supposed to hear. Going by the book, this time, a case was listed before the learned District and Sessions Judge and a Special Prosecutor Mr. D.R Parekh was appointed by a Gazette Notification as is provided in the Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled tribes) Act.
We must credit our authorities with always doing the right thing; but only after all other options have been tried out.
The case could not be heard on 298 June because the Defence Council submitted that the victim must be examined first before examining the witnesses. The Special Prosecutor agreed that that was a procedure laid down. The learned Judge fixed a new date, 12th July, for the next hearing and sternly directed the Police to produce the accused as well as all the four witnesses.
One wonders if the witnesses will be able to recall what transpired three years ago; Dr.Vishvajit Pandya has reported that they were unable to even recall how they used to light fire, before matchsticks were introduced to them.
The two poor witnesses summoned after being left stewing for 4-5 hours in a closed van under the sun, were escorted back.
A less informed official lacking sensitivity and respect for rank suggested that it would be more appropriate for the Judge to go to the Jarawa reserve and try the case there. After all to legalize the illegal detention of the NUPA prisoners at Campbell Bay, we went to such lengths as to fly the Chief Judicial Magistrate down to Campbell Bay to remand them in judicial custody and to declare the building in which they were being detained as prison.
The Onges, the Jarawas, and I - Interview with geneticist Dr. Laji Singh
by LALITA IYER
published in THE WEEK
5 June 2005
How long have you been working on this project?
For nearly six years. The project needed extensive work on the tribe and caste populations in the mainland. We signed MoUs with several universities accepting three to four M.Sc. students from each university every year, on the condition that each student would bring 100-200 blood samples of tribal populations of the respective areas. Out of those 8,000 samples, we have analysed mtDNA sequence of 6,500 individuals, which is included in the Science paper.
Descendants of Adam? Dr Lalji Singh takes a buccal swab from an Onge tribal.
How was the interaction with the Onges and the others?
Onge and Great Andamanese have been put up in settlements created by the government. Social workers interact with them and teach them Hindi. Their own language does not resemble any other known language. But thanks to the effort of the social workers, we communicated with some of them.
What did you get to eat?
The Onges, Jarawas and Sentinelese are hunter gatherers. Their favourite food is a species of small pig found only in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. One day, the Onges caught a dugong (sea cow), which is a large creature. They cut it into pieces and distributed it among the entire community. We also cooked a piece of the meat and found it delicious.
These tribals are protected. Will the study now make the government put them in a glass bubble, so to speak.
If we fragment their natural habitat and push them to smaller and smaller areas, we will be pushing them to extinction. The Centre built a road in Jarawa land many years ago disrupting their way of life. This invited the attention of NGOs and the Society of Andaman Ecology got a stay order to stop the building of roads in tribal areas. One of our earlier published study on these populations was used by the society to prove that they are the original inhabitants of these islands and have the right to live in these forests.
Andamanese Negrito DNA:
Out of Africa, India first stop for first humanity's long march?
from PALLAVA BAGLA,
published in the THE INDIAN EXPRESS
13 May 2005
In a discovery that could help rewrite the history of human evolution, scientists from Hyderabad have come up with startling evidence that India could very well have been the first stop in the long march from Africa. And that this journey happened through sea rather than land as is now widely believed.
While scientists from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) tracked this migration using modern molecular biological tools, vital clues came from an interesting source - the Onge and Great Andamanese tribes of Andamans.
Reporting their work in today's issue of the prestigious American journal Science, the scientists&emdash;in association with an Estonian team&emdash;were able to reconstruct this prehistoric story of human colonisation by comparing DNA collected from living humans.
Hunting for long-forgotten signs that erase fast when populations intermix, the seven-member CCMB team&emdash;led by Lalji Singh and Kumaraswamy Thangaraj&emdash;zeroed in on the Onge and Great Andamanese who have been living largely in isolation.
Dr. Kumaraswamy Thangaraj takes blood samples from an Onge woman.
Since no fossil records are available, the team used a novel approach of studying the latent molecular clock that is embedded in DNA. They recorded the tell-tale signs of this migration by way of unique mutations in DNA found in the powerhouse of cells called mitochondria.
Using blood samples, they compared the complete sequence of the mitochondrial DNA extracted from five members each of the Onge and Great Andamanese, all part of the negrito group of inhabitants of the islands.
To their surprise, the team found that the Onge and Great Andamanese resembled the African population more closely than east Asians or even the mainland Indian population of today.
This, according to them, could have happened only if the Onge and Great Andamanese were almost direct descendants of the first human beings believed to have been born in Africa 150,000 years ago.
The CCMB findings suggest that when humans started migrating, one group used the coastal route to reach the Andamans and continued to survive in pure populations&emdash;all intervening signatures have been erased by time.
Lalji Singh says this migration through the sea may have happened some 65,000-70,000 years ago and predates the land journey by about 10,000 years. In effect, the new evidence makes these two tribes possibly the oldest surviving human stock in Asia.
Lalji Singh calls them, ''immensely unique and very precious for humanity''.
The danger, of course, is that rapid modernisation is eroding the native lifestyle of these primordial tribes. Today, the numbers of Great Andamanese on Strait Island have fallen to a dismal 20 and the number of Onge to 98.
Singh calls these islands, ''the last Eden degrading fast''.
ca. 1940 to 17 April
ca. 1940 to
The Great Andamanese have lost their
by Dr Alok K. Das
It was just another day, Sunday 17 April 2005 at around 10:30 am, when I reached the Adi Basera tribal guest house in the heart of Port Blair right behind the Lt. Governor's official residence. This is where the Great Andamanese tribe had been shifted from their homes on outlying Straits Island after the tsunami. It turned out to be not quite just another day. The usual hustle and bustle was missing; the silence was deafening, the kids were subdued.
I was bemused when everybody I met wanted to shake hands with me. The Great Andamanese had never shaken hands with me before - and this was my 48th day with them. I moved on, surprised and in growing apprehension. Then I saw and smelt fragrant fumes coming from one of the rooms. It was only then that I was told that hands are traditionally shaken after a death in the community. The Raja of the tribe1, Jirake, had died. The news of his death in a Chennai (Madras) hospital had just reached them.
Jirake, aged 65, breathed his last at ten in the morning of 17 April 2005. He was a popular Raja1 of the Great Andamanese tribe and also the oldest male of the tribe. He had been ailing for the last two months. He was first hospitalized in G. B. Pant Hospital, Port Blair, on 16 February 2005 with a brain hemorrhage. Jirake's condition deteriorated with each passing day. When he suffered paralysis on his left side, he was transferred to Chennai. On 31 March his condition had worsened, he was suffering multiple system disorders and benign bedsores. Surmai, Jirake's wife, a doctor and an official from AAJVS (the tribal welfare department of the Government of India) were at his bedside accompanying him all through his ordeal until death.
Jirake's body was flown to Port Blair by Indian Airlines on the morning of 19 April 2005 and was kept at Adi Basera before being taken to Strait Island for the funeral ceremony and final burial. The ship 'MV Chouldari', carrying his body, left Phoenix Bay Port, Port Blair, at around ten in the morning. All members of the tribe accompanied the body on his final journey, which was finally laid to rest later in the day at around three in the afternoon. Raja Jirake was buried with all his belongings.
Jirake leaves behind a younger brother, Nao Jr., and a nephew, Bea. But most preciously, he has left behind his ever-smiling wife Surmai, eleven children2, thirteen grandchildren3, and four great grandchildren4. The youngest of Jirake's grandchildren was actually born 13 March 2005, when he was already in hospital. Lico, his eldest daughter, had given birth to a baby boy at Adi Basera. On his death bed Jirake chose the name of Berebe for his youngest grand child.
For his highly endangered tribe , Jirake was not only a father figure, but he was a statesman in the true sense of the word. He was liked for the unobtrusive way he exercised his influence on the whole tribe when he was freely chosen to be 'Raja' by his people 13 to14 years ago. Age is no criterion for being chosen as the 'Raja' or 'Rani' of the tribe. The candidate has to be the skillful, considerate and amiable. Indeed, Jirake was all of this. His age made him a link between the old days when there was no contact with the modern world and later times when the tribe had been in constant touch with the modern outside world. He represented best the uniqueness of his ancient people. He also was the one person who knew what his vanishing tribe could give to the modern world. Jirake brought his people from fatalistic somnolence to a stage where they could attempt the difficult balancing act between retaining their ancient traditions and finding a way into modern civilization.
I remember Jirake's last words. I had visited him at Port Blair hospital on 30 March March, the day before he was taken to Chennai: "take me home, it's been too long here". He also repeatedly asked for some liquor, making gestures with his right hand (he could not move his paralysed left) and his expressive face. In a world short of genuine intimacy, Jirake was a spontaneously warm, affectionate and demonstrative character.
Jirake's father, Maro, had come from the extinct Bo tribe while Jirake's mother, Loka, had come from another now extinct group, the Cari. Coming from parents with different linguistic backgrounds, Jirake happened to be the only person in the tribe who knew both these languages. The two languages contributed (along with others) to what we now know as Great Andamanese. Jirake also was proficient in some of the other languages contributing to the new language, namely Jeru, Khora and Pucikwar. He is also reported to have had a good knowledge of Burmese and Sadari (an Indian language spoken in Ranchi). With Jirake's passing, science has not only lost an irreplaceable linguistic source, humanity as a whole has also lost a link with an entire and very ancient lost world.
1 'Raja" in Hindi, as the Great Andamanese called Jirake, can best be translated as 'Chief of the tribe'. The English translation of 'Raja" as 'King' has sometimes be used inappropriately in connection with Jirake who was not, and who has never claimed to be, a sovereign ruler, i.e. a "King". The Great Andamanese is not, and never was, a feudal society. "Chief" would, in this case, be a better translation. Someone who is widely regarded as the most capable and skilful of the elder males is traditionally chosen as the Chief ('Raja') of the tribe. There is, however, at least one instance when a female Chief ('Rani') was chosen. Lico, the eldest daughter of Jirake, remembers one such case.
2 They are Lico (F), Meo (M), Ilphe (M), Renge (F), Buro (F), Tango (F), Reya (F), Nyaramo (M), Kanmo (M), Baluba (M), and Dec (M). Only Lico is born from his first wife, Loka, who died long time back. All other children are from Surmai, his present wife. Among his children, only three are married: Lico, Ilphe, and Tango.
3 They are Kobo (F), Moroko (M), Buli (M), Lephe (F) and Berebe (M) from Lico; Bui (M), Soni (F), and Mor (M) from Ilphe; Belei (F), Beno (F), Caumo (M), and Muku (F) from Tango; and one Kota (M), from Reya, who is unmarried. Among his grandchildren, only one, Kobo is married.
4 They are Olok (M), Leine (M), Khijire (M), and Teca (F), all from his eldest grand daughter, Kobo.
5 With Jirake dead, the total population of the Great Andamanese tribe today is 49.
Raja Jirake with his wife Surmai (the lady with the
pink skirt holding a baby)
Last change 27 August 2006