of the Indian Period from 1947
Dr. Anstice Justin (*1954)
Dr. Anstice Justin (himself a Nicobari) chats with an
Onge man on Little Andaman.
Dr. Anstice Justin (himself a Nicobari) chats with an Onge man on Little Andaman.
For most Indian-born anthropologists with an interest in the Andamans and Nicobars, the islands are just two of many other possible fields of scientific interest of which India has thousands. The best of these researchers do become emotionally attached to the islands and their inhabitants during their tour of duty. Those less ideally suited to the task of Andamanese or Nicobarese studies too often regard a posting to the islands as just a necessary and not entirely desirable stepping stone in their career. The islands' remoteness from the Indian mainland, their bad reputation as a former penal colony, their often violent, hot and humid weather and their always unpredictable and difficult aboriginal inhabitants, do make some less hardy souls regard their posting as a necessary evil - if not actually as punishment.
How very different the position of Dr. Anstice Justin! He is the only pioneer in the field of Andamanese and Nicobarese studies to have been born and brought up in the islands. He has lived and done research there longer and has a more intimate and detailed knowledge of all the groups and tribes alive today second only to that of the doyen of Andamanese studies, T.N. Pandit. Dr. Justin regards the Andaman and Nicobarese islands not just with a detached academic researcher's eye, he has a deep love and understanding for the islands and all their unusual aboriginal inhabitants. After being in charge of the Survey's Andaman and Nicobar office at Port Blair for many years, he was asked in 1998 to take up a post at the Survey's headquarters at Calcutta. Dr. Justin is not a natural office wallah but a superbly gifted field researcher; looking after and advising visiting teams of documentary film crews in the Andamans and Nicobars makes the burden of working within four walls and living in a huge and crowded city a little easier to bear.
Dr. Justin has sent notes about his life to this author that are so characteristic of his generous scientific personality and his humanity, that there is nothing better and more appropriate than to let him speak for himself. Born into a remote and very traditional society, his way to education and the scientific position he holds today not only must have involved many a crisis and much effort, it is also much longer than most of us can even imagine.
Dr. Justin, you have the word:
"I was born on July 29, 1954 at Perka Village in Car Nicobar island. My native name has been derived from the name of a soft tree called Aseno Ta-aunj, which has thin green leaves and flowers of yellow color. My parents names are Teerah Leacock and Margaret, whose native names are Litei and Minai respectively. I was christened Anstice Justin as my baptismal name. My father had studied up to the first standards at Mus Village in Car Nicobar and was a student of the first Nicobarese Bishop, the Rt.Rev. John Richardson, popularly known as Hachevka.
I was about four years old when my parents took me to the residence of my father's sister, Margaret Leengin. She had no son but three daughters. Her longing for a son came true when she could adopt me, telling her husband Ephraim Makku that I was not adopted but her real offspring.
In those days, parents were reluctant to send their children to school. Neither Margaret Leengin nor her husband favored the modern idea of sending me there. To them, schooling or education was thought and viewed as an external force for deculturation in terms of Nicobarese culture and tradition. I was supposed to come along with them wherever they went, especially on festive occasions. I was treated as the apple of their eyes, fulfilling the traditional role in their social life as only son for which schooling was very much against their will and tradition. In 1962 Ephraim Makku breathed his last.
One day, on our return from plucking coconuts, I noticed a sizable number of boys and girls playing, dancing and singing in chorus in English within the premises of the Rev. Watchful Taujee's residence. On seeing them, keenness developed within me instinctively. I told my adopted mother that I was keen to join these boys and girls at the residence of the Rev. Watchful Taujee the next day. On hearing this, she replied that those boys and girls were not simply playing, dancing and singing but were sent to school to learn the art of writing, reading and to be given other alien knowledge. She stressed repeatedly that "I don't want you to be sent to school because you shall have to go outside the island and I'll miss you greatly." However, after strong persuasion, she yielded and gave the nod.
As destiny would have it, I did my early schooling in the vernacular School of Saint Paul's Church at Perka. 1963 is indeed a red-letter year inasmuch as I was sent to school during this period. I studied up to form 4 standard in the vernacular school. In July 1965 I was admitted to Primary School at Tamaloo Village. Conventionally, Hindi as a subject was not taught at the vernacular school which caused me to revert to form 2 standard instead of being admitted to form 5. In 1969 I joined the Government Senior Secondary School, Lapati, Car Nicobar, and came out with flying colors in 1975. I received my graduation in 1978 from the Government Degree College, Port Blair, which was affiliated with Punjab University in those days. I graduated in English, geography and political science.
During my final year pursuing the BA I came across a team of post-graduate students of anthropology from Calcutta University. They had come to Port Blair to conduct anthropological studies. A documentary film entitled "Man in Search of Man" was screened in the auditorium of the Government Degree College, Port Blair. I witnessed the documentary film; it touched my inner being and made me stunned to accept the barest facts about foragers and their levels of culture as was shown in the film. Thus came the deviation which paved the academic path to philanthropy and finally embarked the discipline and anchored myself in the deepest depth of anthropology.
Initially I had developed an aversion to go to Ranchiin 1978. Although the University Grant Commission had awarded to me monthly stipends and other incidental expenditures, for instance to and fro traveling expenses, cost of books, etc. It irked me to pursue my post-graduation studies in a place like Ranchi. However, my elder brother Herbert forced me to go to Ranchi. He not only forced me but also escorted me all the way from Car Nicobar to Ranchi. I took admission at Ranchi in the year 1979. During my post-graduation I did anthropological investigation in Rishikesh, Hardwar, Bombay, Goa and other cities in India and gathered findings on the western travelers with reference to the hippies and their terminology which is the field dissertation submitted to Ranchi University, anthropology department.
In 1983 I was selected as Junior Research Fellow attached to the Anthropological Survey of India at Port Blair. Soon after joining, I prepared a synopsis entitled "The Authority Structure in Nicobarese Society."Field work was carried out in two different islands in the Nicobar group. I served as a Junior Research Fellow for 18 months only. In April 1985 I joined as Senior Technical Assistant (Cultural) in the Survey and was assigned to conduct field investigation on three different communities under the prestigious national project "People of India." In 1988 I appeared before the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) interview and in January 1989 I got the appointment order and joined immediately as an anthropologist."
Thank you, Dr. Justin!
In the Andamans, the Jarawa gave Dr. Justin most cause for worry. He was present when in February 1974 first contact was made with northern Jarawa groups and then again in January 1989 when southern groups around Port Campbell gave up their hostility and accepted the visitors' gifts. They would probably have been better advised not to. The work of the undeclared genocidal British punitive expeditions against the Jarawa of the first three decades of this century had not finished, "friendship" was now about to completed.
Dr. Justin's resistance towards such ethnocidal policies led to his "punishment transfer" to Calcutta in 1998. In the totally unsuitable environment of the huge city he had to do "pretend work" such as sorting stacks of ancient bureaucratic paper. It was only after the leadership of the Anthropological Survey of India was changed in 2003 and 2004 that Dr. Justin was allowed to work again in his profession.
Today, Dr. Justin is again in charge of the Port Blair office of the Anthropological Survey of India - a very much happier man in a job that he is suited and qualified to do.
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