One of the world's most ancient societies has been given a legal buffer zone to guard it from the modern world. India's Supreme Court has banned all commercial and tourism activity near their habitat in the country's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean.
The ruling bars hotels and resorts from operating
within a three-mile buffer zone around the Jarawa reserve, which is home
to the Jarawa tribal people. The order means resorts that had opened
nearby will have to close.
The Jarawas are among the world's most
ancient people, with many still hunting with bows and arrows and rubbing
stones together to make fire. Scientists believe they were among the
first people to migrate from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago.
did not have any contact with government authorities until 1996 and did
not begin leaving their habitat until a few years ago, when they began
moving out of the reserve in small groups for a brief while before
returning. Scientists say there are around 320 Jarawa tribespeople
living in the southern and middle Andaman islands.
government has come under increasing criticism from rights activists for
failing to protect the Jarawas. Critics say the local government has
allowed unscrupulous tour operators to promote "human safaris."
2002, the Supreme Court ordered that a road passing through the reserve
be closed, but the local government still has not barred the Andaman
Trunk Road, enabling tourist buses and vehicles to enter Jarawa habitats
deep in the jungle.
India's cabinet recently authorised stiff
penalties for those trying to organise tours to Jarawa habitats or
photographing the tribespeople.
Last year, activists were outraged
when media reports and videos surfaced of local policemen forcing
bare-chested Jarawa women to dance for tourists in exchange for food.
International, a London-based international rights group for indigenous
people, welcomed the new order, but said the Indian government has
"missed" an opportunity by allowing the road to remain open to tourists.
Source: Associated Press