16November2018

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Exploitation of Jarawa Girls

Is the Law Helpless?

Are the poachers exploiting the vulnerable Jarawas taking cover of the law and roaming free after blatant violation of the PAT Regulations in force?

By Zubair Ahmed

The latest incident of exploitation of Jarawa girls by two groups of local poachers from Tirur did not come as a shock, as such repulsive acts by poachers have become a regular occurrence making mockery of the system.

The guts shown by the poachers to lure unmarried Jarawa girls to accompany them on hunting expeditions further exposes the intricate relationship the poachers have forged with the vulnerable tribe, leaving no scope for any kind of 'stringent' action as desired by the activists or the Administrator.

In this instant case, on the basis of complaint by Dr Pronob Kr. Sircar, Tribal Welfare Officer, AAJVS Tirur two cases have been registered, under section 365 IPC,  r.w.s 7/8 (2) (5) (6) of A&N Island (PAT) Regulation 1956 and r.w.s 3(1) (XII) of SC/ST (POA) Act 1989.

Although, the poachers have been charged under section 365 IPC for kidnapping or abducting Jarawa girls, it would be a Herculean task for the prosecution to defend the charges. At least, its heartening that police acted quickly without budging to any external pressure and registered cases.

But, the harmful influence that the poachers have on the Jarawas would become an impediment in taking the case to a logical conclusion. The Jarawas in most cases pertaining to Tirur sector are hands in glove with the poachers and are unlikely to testify against them. Even though, blaming the past is not going to undo the damage, the situation has worsened to such an extent that its high time there is a paradigmatic change in the approach towards Jarawas especially in Tirur. In fact, everyone accepts the vulnerability of the Jarawa tribe and their susceptibility to the negative affects of such interactions. But, its a blind alley for the police and prosecution to nail the criminals.

The Jarawa girls, who accompanied the poachers, are exploited in every sense. Similarly, sexual exploitation under the influence of liquor cannot be ruled out. However, its an improbability that the girls will testify against them. And, even if its consensual, the legal constraints needs re-examination. Whether the Jarawa girls were minor or adult should not be the subject of debate. If truth be told, their naivety is exploited to the hilt. Whether they testify or not, the issue needs to be dealt in a way that poachers do not use the protection of loopholes in the legal system to come out.

Last month one Ashush Samaddar was arrested by Police on a tip off about a group of Jarawas being sheltered by him and for serving them liquor in exchange of 20 kg of venison.  Jarawa youth Kunu along with two members were found at the poacher's residence. He was later released on bail as it was the Jarawas who visited the poacher's house and not vice versa. A senior police officer had expressed their helplessness as how to book someone in such cases.

In fact, in the last one decade, a strong illicit relationship had already been forged between the Jarawas and the poachers while the concerned authorities looked the other way, and now, when there is a realization with a major reshuffle in the AAJVS, they are finding it difficult to arrest the tide.

But, there are cases like the one in which a local poacher Nitai Mondal, resident of Guptapara had reached Chotagoja Jarawa Camp, a Jarawa Reserve on the West Coast on 3rd November with ration articles - rice, vegetable oil, sugar and tea and camped along with a group of Jarawas and the next day took two Jarawas - Dawa and Lekhte to Bambu Nallah, where other Jarawas were camping. He stayed with them for a day and later took 5 Jarawas - Anijamu (43), Illy (25), Anjale (27), Achehane(25), and Tahe (22) to Tarmugli Island. With such blatant violation of the regulations in force, how did Nitai Mondal manage a bail is very much intriguing.

If such instances keep occurring, where under political influence, cases are weakened by the authorities, conscientious ground staff who wants a meaningful change, will be demoralized and disheartened.

According to an expert, "these local poachers and sexual offenders are the worst influence that have been happening to the Jarawa for the past decade and more- often silently, with a lot of blame being conveniently directed to 'foreign poachers' while these fellows get away with the most dirty, exploitative acts - to the Jarawa, their wildlife and forests (timber)."

 

The only silver lining in the otherwise dark horizon is the change in the attitude of a section of Jarawas, who have become conscious about the exploitation meted to them by the poachers. It was a group of young Jarawas, who had sounded caution about the missing girls. The way the poachers were manhandled by Jarawas sends a clear signal what is in store if the situation worsens further. Nobody can rule out the possibility of a section of Jarawas getting back to their old ways, if the settlers especially the poachers living on the fringes of the Reserve doesn't take the cue.