Embarrassed officials in the Andaman Islands are desperately attempting to deal with the fallout from reported abuse of tribal women, after revelations in the Observer that they were being exploited for the benefit of paying tourists.
Video footage capturing the daily “human safaris” through the forest home of the islands’ recently contacted Jarawa tribe has provoked worldwide outrage. The footage, in which an off-camera police officer orders partly naked Jarawa women to dance for tourists in return for food, was described in India as a “national disgrace”.
The video has been viewed by more than half a million people on the Observer website alone ”“ and millions more in India, where excerpts prompted a national debate over the treatment of the tribe. Some Indian television news channels were warned they would face legal action from the Andaman administration if they continued to show the video. The notices were widely ignored.
India’s home minister, P Chidambaram, ordered the Andaman administration to arrest whoever had filmed the video and the tour operator involved. The Indian government had earlier demanded a swift explanation from the authorities in Port Blair, the Andaman capital.