Sentinelese Tribe

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    29th Nov, 2018

Context

Recently, the Sentinelese, an aboriginal tribe of hunter-gatherers killed an American man who landed on the Sentinel Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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  • As per government officials, American national did not get the permission of Indian government and got killed due to misplaced adventure in highly restricted area.
  • Survival International, a global movement for tribal people’s rights has blamed Indian government for excluding the Island from Restricted Area Permit (RAP)
  • Government in the recent past has excluded the North Sentinel Island and 28 others in the union territory Andaman and Nicobar from the RAP regime till December 31, 2022.

    Restricted Area Permit

    • It requires foreigners to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP) for visiting certain areas in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Andaman and Nicobar. This requirement is in addition to getting visa for visiting India.
    • Restrictions for protected/restricted areas are in place for security reasons and to protect the culture of native people from outside influence.

Who are Sentineleses?

  • They belong to Negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman (50 km west of Port Blair). They are assumed to be direct descendants of the earliest humans who emerged from Africa.
  • Their language is incomprehensible to even other tribes in the region.
  • They have made little to no advancement in the last 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.
  • They are very vulnerable to germs since they have not had contact with the outside (their isolation from) world. Even a common flu virus carried by a visitor could wipe out the entire tribe.
  • They have not faced incursions and remain hostile to outsiders.
  • They are connected the Jarawas, another tribe in the Andamans on the basis of physical, as well as linguistic similarities.
  • Anthropological research reveals that the tribe inhabits the island at least for the past 200 years.
  • Genome studies indicate that the Andaman tribes could have been on the islands even 30,000 years ago.

Contact with outside world

  • They have been fiercely hostile to outside contact. All efforts to reach out to Sentinelese since 1960s have largely failed.
  • They have been left alone even from the colonial times as the land occupied by them has little commercial value.
  • In 2006, the tribe killed two fishermen who strayed on to island. They even rejected outside help after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, throwing spears and arrows at a rescue helicopter that flew above.

Demography 

  • From 1901 to 2001, the population of Sentinelese has come down from 117 to 39 persons as per the census of Government of India.

Safeguards provided by the government

  • The Government of India issued the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aborignal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 to declare the traditional areas occupied by the tribes as reserves, and prohibited entry of all persons except those with authorisation.
  • Photographing or filming the tribe members has been an offense and penalties for entering into the reserved areas were made more severe through later amendments to the regulations.

Other tribes of Andaman and Nicobar

Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar can be split into two broad tribal groups mainly based on their place of origin.

  • The Andaman Islands are home to four ‘Negrito’ tribes namely the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese.
  • Nicobar Islands are home to two ‘Mongoloid’ tribes – the Shompen and Nicobarese.

                                                             Andaman and Nicobar

    Geography

    • Both the Andaman and Nicobar groups are part of a great island arc, formed by the above-sea extensions of submarine ridges of the Rakhine Mountains and the Patkai Range to the north and the Mentawai Ridge (the peaks of which form the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia) to the south.
    • The highest elevation is 2,418 feet (737 metres) at Saddle Peak on North Andaman, followed by Mount Thullier at 2,106 feet (642 metres) on Great Nicobar and Mount Harriet at 1,197 feet (365 metres) on South Andaman.
    • In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there were volcanic eruptions on Barren Island in the northern Andamans.
    • The islands, comprising only 25% of India’s geographical area, but has 11,009 species, according to a publication by the Zoological Survey of India
    • The presence of a large number of species in such a small area makes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots in India
    • Among the 46 terrestrial mammalian species found, three species have been categorised as Critically Endangered — Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis), Jenkin’s shrew (C. jenkinsi) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica).
    • In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act.

    History

    • Genetic and cultural studies suggest that the indigenous Andaman people may have been isolated from other populations since the middle Paleolithic (Old Stone Age).
    • Rajendra Chola one of the Chola dynasty kings, conquered the islands to use it as its strategical navy base against the Sriwijaya Empire (located in Indonesia). They called the islands Tinmaittivu or the impure islands.
    • The first empire to list the islands under its territory was the Maratha Empire.
    • Danish settlers of the Danish east India Company arrived at the Nicobar Islands on 12 December 1755. On 1 January 1756, the Nicobar Islands were made a Danish colony, first named New Denmark.
    • Battle of Aberdeen in 1859 consolidated the British rule in Andaman and Nicobar. The battle resulted in the defeat of major tribes of the region.
    • British established cellular jails in Andaman and Nicobar and named the region Kalapani.
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