PORT BLAIR The government ordered the arrest on Thursday of a tour operator for running a "human safari" in the Andaman islands after a video emerged showing police making half-naked women from the Jarawa tribe dance in return for food.
The video, first released by Britain's Observer newspaper last week, showed women of the Jarawa tribe dancing and singing on a jungle road. An off-camera policeman tells them: "dance for me....dance now".
The authorities were trying to ascertain the identity of the person who had shot the video, but no substantial action had yet been taken, said a police official in Port Blair, the capital of the tropical archipelago.
The case has sparked outrage from the Indian media and rights groups that say such practices are common on the islands despite laws to protect the Jarawa from contact with the outside world.
"I've instructed the Andaman and Nicobar administration to quickly apprehend the videographer and the tour operator concerned and interrogate them," Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters.
He also added that the video had been sent for analysis but appeared to be three to four years old.
The cluster of about 570 Andaman and Nicobar islands belong to India and are home to tribes who have lived there for thousands of years.
"This has been happening for a long time. The administration has taken steps to curb such human safaris but enough has not been done. The main issue is the Andaman Trunk road which passes right through Jarawa territory," said Sophie Grig of Survival International, a group defending tribal peoples' rights.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ordered the island chain's administration to close the road to vehicular traffic as Indian law prohibited close contact with them.
Grig, however, told Reuters that the road remained open.
The Jarawa number barely 400 individuals who largely shun interaction with outsiders.
The Observer report said it was unknown when the footage had been recorded but the author had witnessed similar activities on a recent trip to the islands.
(Additional reporting by Arup Roychoudhury and Annie Banerji; Editing by Ron Popeski)