Appeal: Under threat: an ancient tribe emerging from the forests
By Paul Vallely
04 December 2003
"The woman came out from the forest at the side of the road. She was stark naked, apart from a thong of braided red around her loins. She waved to stop the bus. As it slowed the passengers could see that delicately drawn patterns in white clay adorned her face and body. Those in the bus were fascinated, and wary. For tens of thousands of years the Jarawa people have lived in isolation in the rainforest of the Andaman Islands, remote in the Indian Ocean. Their reputation is of a hostile tribe ready to keep strangers at bay with bows and arrows. But now, for the first time, they have started to emerge from their forests....
It is only in the past 150 years that the islands have been settled, first by the British, who set up a penal colony, and then by the Indians. Slowly the settlers have cleared the forest. The Indian government set aside an area of rainforest for the Jarawa but it saw them as 'primitive'. Its officials took gifts of food and cloth to the edge of the forest: the Jarawa accepted them, but mocked the officials by urinating on their feet and squirting breast milk at them...."