The Struggle for Dignified Livelihood by Tribes Of India: A Study on Jarwa Tribe in Andaman and Nicobar

By R. Ajitha, Christ University School of Law

Editor’s Note:  India has a composite population. The Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes, who not only need protection from exploitation but even positive help from the state for amelioration of their miserable lot. There are certain provisions in the Indian Constitution that protect the rights of tribals. The paper discusses these provisions. It also discusses the struggle faced by the Jarwa tribe in Andaman and Nicobar. In conclusion, it proposes certain solutions that need to be implemented to prevent this community from becoming extinct.


India has a composite population. The Indian society lacks homogeneity in sop for as there exist numerous religious, cultural andlinguistic groups. There are Hindus, Muslims, Christians. Paris, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and others. The pattern of culture vary from place to place. There are Anglo Indian based on racial, religious and linguisticfactors. Besides there are sections of people like the Scheduled Castes. The Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes, who not only need protection from exploitation but even positive help from the state for amelioration of their miserable lot. Even before India became independent there was a demand from many of the weakersections of society for special provisions in the Constitution for theirbenefit of weaker sections based on the promise that these sectionshad been socially and economically discriminated against during theBritish times and therefore special steps were called for to help andimprove the condition of these people.[i]

The framers of the Constitution tried level best to safeguardthe interest of the various minority groups whether based on religionor language, culture or socio-economic factors so as to give them asense of security. Now to look at the issue of Jarwas in Andaman. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is home to 4 Negrito and 2 Mongoloid tribes. Those belonging to the Negrito origin – the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawas and the Sentinelese – are still at hunting-gathering stage of economy.  The Mongoloid origin, Nicobarese, has accepted the challenge of change and have prospered and multiplied. The members of the other Mongoloid community, the Shompen, still shy away from outsiders.
The Jarawa, Onge, Sentinelese and Great Andamanese are thought to have travelled to the Andaman Islands from Africa up to 60,000 years ago.  The Andaman & Nicobar Islands remained the abode of the Negritos and the Mongoloids, who occupied the Islands for centuries.


Today, approximately 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in chaddhas – as they call their homes. Like most tribal peoples who live self-sufficiently on their ancestral lands, the Jarawa continue to thrive, and their numbers are steadily growing. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bows and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish, including striped catfish-eel and the toothed pony fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey. The bows are made from the chooi wood, which does not grow throughout the Jarawa territory. The Jarawa often have to travel long distances to Baratang Island to collect it.

Both Jarawa men and women collect wild honey from lofty trees. During the honey collection the members of the group will sing songs to express their delight. The honey-collector will chew the sap of leaves of a bee-repellant plant, such as Ooyekwalin, which they will then spray with their mouths at the bees to keep them away. Once the bees have gone the Jarawa can cut the bee’s nest, which they will put in a wooden bucket on their back. The Jarawa always bathe after consuming honey. These are few things which the jarwas do in their places.


There are many Articles in Constitution of India to protect the rights of the tribes in India. The framers of the Constitution were anxious to ensure the betterment of the Scheduled Tribes.

Article 46 epitomizing the policy calls upon the State (Central & State government) to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. It is comprehensive article comprising both the development & regulatory functions. The question is always that if this Article really works on the tribal people. It is very clear when we look at the Jarwas in Andaman. Their economic and the educational status of these people is not at all cared. Provisions relating to fundamental rights have been qualified with ‘reasonable restrictions’ in favour ofScheduled tribes.

 Article 15 prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth: butclause (4) thereof enables a State government to make special provisions for advancement of members of Scheduled castes andScheduled tribes. This Article also is not very effective on tribes in India. Even though if there are few provisions which are for the advancement of the Tribes in India, they are not very effective.

 Article 16 provides for opportunities for all citizensin matters relating to employment or appointment or post in favour of Scheduled castes and Schedules tribes. This Article is not at all effective. Where and what type of employment do these tribal people get. Even if they get, they don’t get low salary and they are discriminated among others.

Article 19 grants the rights to freedom of speech, Assembly, Association, union, movement andresidence throughout the countrypractice of any profession, occupation, trade orbusiness. But for protection of the interests of Schedules tribes clause (5) permits reasonable restrictions on the exercise of rights of free movement, residence and settlement in anypart of the territory of India, Article 23 prohibits traffic-in humanbeings.  Where is freedom of speech and expression for these people? Why aren’t these people given this right, there are special provisions for them to stay in certain areas but these areas are also not protected. Many people enter their territory and disturb their privacy.

The Constitution provides for special staff for the protection of the interest of scheduled tribes (Article 338) and also for a commission tolook in to the social educational conditions of these groups and toreport to the Parliament on measures needed to improve theseconditions. The Constitution 65th Amendments Act 1999 provides for the establishment of National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.Article 339(2) empowers the Centre to give directions to a State asking them to draw up and execute schemes for the welfare of Scheduled tribes.The fifth schedule [Clause (I) Article 244] contains provisions regarding administration and control of the Scheduledareas and Schedules tribes[ii].Even though there are these many provisions and even more for the welfare of the tribes in India only few are effective. To look at the Andaman tribes these provisions never work.


Of the four Andaman Island tribes, it is the Jarawa’s situation that is the most precarious. The Jarawa face many threats:

  1. The road that cuts through their territory and brings thousands of outsiders, including tourists into their land[iii]. The tourists treat the Jarawa like animals in a safari park. The tourists who enter treat them like animals. They throw stones, they feed them with biscuits or bananas etc. when Jarwas try to hit these people they are scared and throw stones on them. They look at them as an animal but the reality is Jarwas are also humans who have few feelings and ethnicity which should be given due respect.
  2. Outsiders, both local settlers and international poachers enter their rich forest reserve to steal the game the tribe needs to survive[iv]. There are many outside games played by the poachers and others who enter their rich forest. When someone grabs the food of one, the one raises against him and protect their products for them. But these Jarwa people are helpless. These people come invade, sell the products in the forest which are required for the Jarwas for their survival. This is one main reason for the reduction of the number of Jarwas in Andaman.
  3. They remain vulnerable to outside diseases to which they have little or no immunity. An epidemic could devastate them[v]. Jarwas doesn’t have specific hospitals or doctors as such, the government has arranged few doctors to check these Jarwas but few Jarwas doesn’t allow them. According to them their world is something else. They don’t want other to interfere. When the tourists enters, they get new diseases because of them. When the tourist enter with the cars and jeeps and vans, the pollution attack them very badly. They don’t have proper immune system to sustain the diseases which a normal human being can do in the society.
  4. Sexual abuse of Jarawa women by settlers, bus drivers and others. Earlier, tourists made them dance and pose for food; now poachers sexually assault them. Jarawas, whose population adds up to 420 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are being exploited by poachers who have introduced alcohol and ganja into the reserve forests, the Andaman Chronicle has reported.A Jarawa man told the paper-which it shared with The Guardian, London-that their women and girls are being forced to have sex with poachers and fishermen. An unidentified Jarawa man said poachers have established a barter system with a section of the community[vi]. They offer them alcohol and marijuana to poach resources in the tribal territories and sexually abuse the women and girls. There are many jarwa women who are sexually assaulted by the outsiders which result in many diseases. They people can’teven raise their voices. In an audio recording obtained by Survival International, the organisation campaigning for the rights of tribal people, and reported by the British newspaper. The Observer, a young Jarawa man reports that poachers regularly enter his tribe’s protected reserve and lure young Jarawa women with alcohol or drugs to sexually exploit them.
  1. In the name of modernization and development the government wanted to change their living and change them. This is not possible. They had to live their own life. They can’t adjust with the normal people. They have a different culture and tradition which should be respected.


The feelings of the tribes are to be respected. The tourists and other poachers should understand the culture and the inner feelings of these tribes. The special provisions of these tribal people should be upheld. The rights and freedom of the tribal people should be fully given to them.

Their territory should not be disturbed. Their livelihood should not be obstructed. The tribal women should be protected. The people who sexually assault them should be severely punished. The tribal people should be educated and a person from their own community should be in a higher position so as to understand their situation and work for them. A team of their members should be formed for administration so that they can understand their problems and work accordingly. Special schemes and provisions are to be formed for the development and welfare of these people. State and central should concentrate more on the welfare of the tribes.

 All the people in the country should understand that these people are also humans who have inner feelings, and they have a different culture and tradition which should be respected. They are not a product or tourist spots. If the Country is gaining profit with the tourism from this type of nature only then that type of profit is not at all required.  Tribals are usually desirous of being courteous. Therefore they do not normally indulge in deliberate discourtesy. But a tribal when he is hurt about something and his feelings are ruffled, it isextremely insulting for them.

Proper education should be given to these people. If proper education can’t be given then awareness campaign should be given to these people in the way they understand. Their health should be taken care. Their problems should also be herd. They should be given privacy and allow them to live like how they want to live.

In a strongly worded speech the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, said at the inauguration of the ‘Andaman & Nicobar Tribal Research and Training Institute’ (ANTRI) that attempts to assimilate tribes into the mainstream had failed and were wrong. According to him, there has been a disappearance of these whole people. This was felt particularly in the Andamans where Boa Sr, the last of the Bo tribe, died four years ago[vii]. The knowledge and language of her people died with her. The Jarawa tribe in the Andaman Islands needs to be protected in their own ways, in their own environment and in their own circumstances, adding that he was against disturbing them in any way for so-called development.


Tribals are “easy to win but are still easier to lose”. In a democratic State like ours it is essential that the common people andthe administration should go hand in hand and this is the very essence true democracy. The Jarwas have been showing a drastic development in their culture too. They can talk Hindi language now. The main change in the life of them is because of Andaman Trunk Road which results always in problems. Even though the government has banned the direct contact of the public with the Jarwas, still in an illegal way people exploit them. The Government and the Supreme Court has done their best by restricting the tourists to enter but then too there are many illegal things which happen to these tribes. The people also should think about this. There are also human beings. Everyone should have the respect towards him.

These are few solutions for this issue. India is epic for many things. One main thing are these tribal people. They are our hereditary, they are our history. They are the people who have the same skin blood etc. but are totally different in culture, tradition etc. there are different culture and tradition in India, like how other culture is respected the same way the tribal tradition and culture should be followed. Due industrialization and modernization the population of the tribes are reducing. One fine day if this continues the tribal population becomes extinct. To stop this the tribal people should be given privacy. Their territory should not be disturbed. The Hereditary of these people should be protected. They should not become extinct. There shouldn’t be a sentence later like the Jarwas in Andaman had a dignified livelihood in India, rather it should be the Jarwas in Andaman have a dignified livelihood in India.

Edited by Hariharan Kumar

[i]Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar,

[ii]Survival Jarwa,(8th Feb, 2014),

[iii] Survival Jarwa,(8th Feb, 2014),

[iv] Survival Jarwa,(8th Feb, 2014),

[v] Survival Jarwa,(8th Feb, 2014),

[vi]ArunJanardana ( the Times of India),Andaman Jarawas say they are sexually exploited by poachers,

[vii]Indian President’s passionate plea against assimilating tribes(Survival), (16th  Jan, 2014),

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