Infant killed: Police, local administration in dilemma
A five-month-old baby was allegedly killed by a Jarawa tribesman in South Andaman Islands in November 2015. The police and local administration were caught in a dilemma over the constitutional perspective and protection of the Jarawa tribe. The confusion was whether to take action against the tribesman according to the law or to protect the Jarawa tribe, the last remnant of Paleolithic-era civilization.
The Jarawa tribe is one of the aboriginal populations of the Andaman Islands, India. The Jarawas had always avoided interaction with outsiders, due to which their culture and traditions weren't clearly understood. Before the 18th century, the tribe was supposedly largely populated but, after the British establishment, their numbers decreased gradually. The current population of this 'Scheduled Tribe' is around 400.
Jarawa in Aka-Bea language means 'hostile people' or 'people of the Earth'. The Jarawas have inhabited the Andaman Islands for thousands of years; they are one of the oldest tribes. The now-extinct Jangil tribe is the parent tribe of Jarawa.
The dead body of a five-month-old mixed race baby was found buried deep in the sand in the Jarawa tribal reserve. According to witnesses, Tatehane, a Jarawa had allegedly taken the child away from his mother's hut at night when she was asleep. The baby had lighter skin tone for the very dark-skinned tribe, and was born to an unmarried Jarawa woman.
After a criminal complaint had been filed by a tribal welfare officer, police had arrested two non-Jarawa men who were involved in the murder. It was believed that one of the arrested was accused of abetting murder and interfered with aboriginal tribes by supplying liquor to Tatehane. The other, a 25-year-old, who had allegedly fathered the baby, was accused of raping the Jarawa woman.
The police had stated that they did not arrest Tatehane because of their strict policy to interfere as little as possible with the Jarawas. The police said that they had sought advice from the 'Department of Tribal Welfare' to deal further with Tatehane, the Jarawa murder suspect. It was the first time in 200 years that a Jarawa tribesman was named a crime suspect.
The Jarawas who were believed to have migrated from Africa around 60,000 years ago used to attack outsiders and live in complete isolation until 1998. The Indian Government had taken measures to protect the endangered tribe by minimizing outside interference.
Dr. Ratan Chandra Kar, a physician who had worked with Jarawas for 12 years, stated that Jarawas carry out ritual-killings of babies born to widows or fathered by non-Jarawas. Savuriyammal, the tribal-welfare officer in charge of the reserve, said that the Jarawas didn't want the baby to grow-up since its birth and despite measures taken by her staff, Tatehane managed to kill the baby.