In Britain a ‘boycott Andaman and Nicobar islands’ campaign has begun in order to stop tourists from visiting India’s pristine islands. The campaign has seen 12,300 people from around the world join the cause to protest the ill treatment of the native Jarawa tribe in the region.
An expose showed tourism companies were conducting “human safaris” that were found to treat these ancient tribes like “animals in a zoo”, according to a Times of India report.
The Andaman Trunk road which runs through the Jarawa reserve, was temporarily shut down by the Supreme Court. In 2013 the Andaman authorities appealed to the court stating they will construct another road by March 2015. However, new information has revealed that construction of this road has not yet begun.
UK based not-for-profit organisation, Survival International, has put together a massive signature boycott campaign that asks people not to visit the islands until human safaris have stopped.
The Jarawa are an indigenous tribe in the Andamans that have inhabited the area for several thousand years. They are said to be part of the first human migration from Africa. Their present numbers are estimated between 250-400 individuals. They have largely shunned interactions with outsiders, resulting in their culture and traditions to be highly misunderstood.
The Jarawa tribe have reached out and made contact with settled Indian society since 1998, this means they are still highly vulnerable to common diseases, for which they have little to no immunity.
They are also vulnerable to exploitation by tourists and poachers. Evidence has been brought to light of police officers and tour operators encouraging Jarawa girls to dance for food. In 2014 Survival International received worrying reports that poachers were entering the reserve to sexually exploit Jarawa women.
Due to the campaign, travel agencies from around the world have started to withdraw from offering tours to the Andamans. Travelpickr, a global company based in Canada and India and Spanish company Orixa Viatges have become the first operators to withdraw from tours to the island.
Rene Trescases, the head of Travelpickr said, ” we were appalled to learn about the human safaris and have now withdrawn over 40 tours to the Andaman Islands”, as per the TOI report.
Viatges also added, “w e have removed the Andaman Islands from our list of tourist destinations. We don’t understand this kind of tourism – we believe that people and cultures should be treated with respect, rather than used by unscrupulous people making a profit”.
The ‘human safaris’ have been condemned by the United Nations and thousands of letters have been sent to the Indian government asking for the tours to be stopped.