World’s oldest hunter-gatherers are being forced into civilization and treated like animals in a zoo
Like the Hadza of East Africa, the Jarawa hunter-gatherers of the Andaman Islands also face extinction, thanks to the ever-expanding nature of agriculture and civilization.
To add insult to injury, a highway has been built right through the heart of their ancestral lands to accommodate “human safaris” – in which tourists toss food at and snap photos of the Jarawa like animals in a zoo.
“On a remote island off the Indian coast, the first humans are still living in a forgotten world,” begins the trailer of a new documentary about the Jarawa titled Organic. “They left Africa 70,000 years ago. They are [among] the most ancient people in the world. There are no more than 400 of them. Up til now, they had managed to shelter themselves from the madness of our world.”
The Jarawa have been living with almost no contact from our world for at least 35,000 years, the documentary claims. But they now face extinction.
Although the Indian government promised to close a road cuts through the middle of their jungle, where a military convoy accompanies dozens of vehicles loaded with tourists twice a day, the road is now being widened, hastening the disappearance of the Jarawa, the filmmakers say. “Poachers steal their game with the complicity of Indian forest rangers. Soon, the Jarawa will have nothing left to eat.”
“For the first time, the Jarawas are speaking to us,” the film’s narrator says. “They want to alert us.”
“We live really quietly in the forest, and we are happy,” a Jarawa man says in the film. “Here, there is everything we need. The trees are full of fruits, and the flowers are magnificent … We can find everything we need in the jungle.”
“We don’t like people from the outside,” another tribesman adds. “They are bad. These people have only bad things to bring us … They give us tobacco [and alcohol] and they teach us how to chew, and it’s not good for us.”
“This is where we want to live,” a Jarawa woman says. “Our life is here, nowhere else. We cannot love your world … Your world is bad for us. We don’t like it. There are too many people. Too much noise. No peace. In the other world, it smells bad … Here it is more beautiful. Living here is more peaceful.”
According to Survival International, the Indian government is attempting to force the Jarawa to assimilate into mainstream society, dictating details down to the style of clothing they think they should wear. In an effort to “wean” Jarawa children from the tribe, members of parliament are suggesting sending them to government schools. Many government officials see themselves as helping a “backwards” culture “stuck in a primitive stage of development.”