Katya Samokisha

​People from the past: The Jarawas of the Andaman Islands

​People from the past: The Jarawas of the Andaman Islands
Categories: Asia , India

A black woman in a yellow dress was standing on the side of the road with three naked boys. A bit further a man stood wearing only a piece of cloth around his waist, watching our bus passing by. This is how we first saw them - the mysterious aborigines of the Andamans, one of the most isolated tribes on Earth.

Were they expecting gifts from the people in the bus, or just being curious? Who knows. But this short encounter left us feeling like we glimpsed into prehistoric times, touched world’s deepest secrets.

In 1950s Jarawa`s settlements were bombed to clear the territory for construction of the Trunk road. Forest clearance further decreased the population and led to Jarawa’s armed resistance. Not surprisingly, there are less than 400 of them left.

For decades, Andaman islands were known as a destination for so-called human safaris. Tourists came to snap photos of aborigines dance and pose, offering them food, clothes, alcohol and tobacco in exchange. Finally, in 2013 Indian government adopted strict punishments for any attempts to contact Jarawa people.

Now, strict armed convoys accompany all buses and cars crossing Jarawa's territory. Occupying around 600 square kilometers of jungle reserve, it takes around 1.5 hours to cross on the Trunk road and stops are forbidden.

Some Jarawas come in touch with the world outside their jungle, showing up at hospitals and even sending their children to schools. Some come out of the jungle to the road to look at rare vehicles. Many want nothing to do with the so-called civilization.

Sometimes they appear outside of the reserve in large groups. We met such a group one day. Naked, with only eye whites and teeth shining on their black bodies, they seemed happy to see us. But our driver got nervous – the jeep went faster leaving behind the group smiling and waving hands.