NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A video showing women of the Jarawa, an endangered tribe in the Andaman islands, dancing half-naked as tourists threw biscuits and bananas, created a media furore in India on Wednesday.
The UK-based Observer newspaper released the video over the weekend showing a policeman asking the tribe’s women to dance for food, after allegedly taking nearly 16,000 rupees as bribe from tourists.
“This story reeks of colonialism and the disgusting and degrading ‘human zoos’ of the past,” Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, a global group for the rights of tribes, said in a statement.
The cluster of about 570 Andaman and Nicobar islands, of which only about three dozen are inhabited, belong to India and are home to tribes who have lived there for thousands of years.
The Jarawa is one such indigenous tribe, barely 400 in numbers, in the Andaman islands which largely shuns interaction with outsiders. Indian law prohibits close contact with the Jarawas or photographing them but the newspaper said they were being taught to beg and take money for tobacco and food.
Local police said the controversial video footage was “irresponsible and old”.
“At the time this video was recorded, most of the Jarawas did not wear clothes. Even today those in the jungle are not clothed. It is also obvious that it is videographer (who is breaking the law of the land) and who is inciting them to dance,” Andaman and Nicobar police said in a statement quoted by the Indian Express newspaper.
The Observer reporter who visited the Andaman islands said he did not know when the controversial footage was recorded but said local tour operators have more such videos.
“The video itself is clearly an evidence of abuse, I mean that’s the whole point of doing the report,” reporter Gethin Chamberlain told the CNN-IBN news network.
The video was picked up by many Indian news channels on Wednesday and the government was quick to react, with Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo saying the clips were “disgusting”.
The minister promised to take action and has asked for a report from the local administration.
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