Who are the Jarawa?
by Dr. Anstice Justin
Table of Contents
11. Pathan Jarawa
In 2004 Dr Justin was appointed Head of the Port Blair Office, Anthropological Survey of India
Copyright©2000, Anstice Justin
The purpose of this article is to bring to light the real identity or proper nomenclature of one of the Negrito tribes - wrongly referred to as Jarawa - of Andamans. These small endangered foragers of modern times are inhabiting marginalized pockets of the Reserved Forest of south and middle Andaman island. Conspicuously, the most appropriate common name of the so-called Jarawa by which they refer to themselves was not known until very recently.
1. Origin of the Negrito
The Negrito tribes of Andamans have been known to ancient mariners, voyagers, geographers, traders, pilgrims, and scholars and so on from time immemorial. Thereby they can not be refuted as aboriginal people of these islands, who have long been distinguished for their close resemblance to African pygmies. It is believed that they owe their origin to a few cast away slaves (Roepstroff, 1875:26). According to this age-old and frequently repeated school of thought those negrito slaves were carried by the Portuguese in a ship which wrecked on the shores of the Andamans leaving the unfortunate slaves stranded on these isolated islands in the Bay of Bengal. Nevertheless, this theory does not hold strong opinion in so far the Portuguese had first arrived in the Indian Ocean in the first half of the fifteenth century (Mathur, 1968:13). Whereas the existence of the Negrito population in the Andamans is reported from the second century onwards as is evidenced from sporadic literatures. They bear close affinity with the Semang and Aetas of Malay Peninsula and Philipines respectively. And the latter two belong to the Negrito stock (Bonington, 1931:8).
Since this paper focuses itself on the real identity of a forager community which has aptly been titled "Who are the Jarawa". However, it would deserve anthropological significance here to identify the other Negrito populations of the Andaman in comparison to the so-called Jarawa.
2. Dubious Nomenclatures
In the second century Cladius Ptolemaeus, popularly known as Ptolemy, referred to the inhabitants of Andaman islands "as a race of cannibals, formidable not only to their enemies, but to all who approached their coasts - a sort of dreaded "anthropophagi" whose heads do not grow beneath their shoulders" (Mouat, 1863:7). Marco Polo (A.D.1292), Friar Odoric (A.D.1322), Nicolo Conti, I'Tsing (A.D.671), the Arabs (A.D.673) and the Mohammedan wanderers (ninth century) so on and so forth gave an absurd description of the Negrito populations of Andamans and labelled them in many a dubious name.
In 1931 Bonington made attempts to differentiate the Negrito of Andamans which according to him are of two types viz., (a) the coast tribe of south Andaman and all the tribes of south and middle Andaman, (b) the Onge of Little Andaman including the Jarawa of south Andaman and the Sentinelese of north Sentinel island. He not only distinguished them but also pointed out the striking differences between these two types, both in features, mode of dress, structure of bows and languages. While Sir R Temple (1901) had distinguished the first two group into two sections namely the Yerewa or northern section comprising the Chariar, Kora, Yere and Kede tribes. In his report Temple further pointed out clearly that the first group is, however, no longer in existence. The few surviving members then got married irrespective of group. Evidently they kept their band members "aloof from the Onge - Jarawa group" (Census of India, 1931:8). Obviously he talks about the so-called Great Andamanese as they are referred to these days.
During the British period some Andamanese were taken to Little Andaman island for a short time, who had identified a clan by the name 'Eramtaga' among the Onge. According to the former the latter inhabits the southern areas of Little Andaman, their bows are larger than the Onge and of similar length to the Jarawa's bow. In order to locate the Eramtaga Bonington made tremendous efforts to investigate the entire area of north and south of Little Andaman. But in sharp contrast to the information gained from the Andamanese he could found no existence of such a separate clan by the name Eramtaga (Census of India, 1931:10).
4. Jarawa or Jingil and the other Negrito People
Maurice Vidal Portman had done extraordinary work in the Andaman islands. Like other pioneers of the British period he made untiring efforts to differentiate the Negrito of Andamans. According to him there were three main group viz., (a) the north Andaman group tribes containing the Chariar tribe, Jeru and Kede tribes. The adjacent islands and half of the north Andaman was homeland of Chariar tribe, while the interior and the southern half of the coast of the north Andaman and northern extreme of the middle Andaman belonged to the Jeru tribe. The Kede tribe were found concentrated on the northern half of the middle Andaman and Interview island, (b) the southern group of tribes comprising the Aka-Bea-da tribe, Akar-Bale, Puchikwar, Aukau-Juwoi and Kol tribes who were mainly found on Rutland island, interior of south Andaman i.e., from Port Mout to Port Blair, Tamugli and Labyrinth group, Archipelago islands, Homfray Strait, Colebrooke, Strait island etc respectively, (c) the Onge group of tribes comprising the Onge, who inhabit the whole of Little Andaman and the tribe on the north Sentinel island (Portman, Vol.1, 1899:21-22). Thus it is evident that Portman could identified some sub-groups of the Great Andamanese and the Onge of Little Andaman island. On analysing his findings one would conclude that he had referred the people in the interior of south Andaman and the tribe on the north Sentinel island as the Onge. Interestingly, he had also referred to the Jarawa as belonging to the Onge group tribes whose headquarters is undoubtedly the Little Andaman island. While the Andamane's - the Great Andamanese - identity were already established and they were used as key informants who identified a small tribe called 'Jarawa' or 'Jingil' which were in existence at Rutland (Portman, Vol.1, 1899:701). Actually it is the Aka-Bea (one of the sub-groups of the Great Andamanese) who had coined the term 'Jarawa' - the other people or strangers.
Besides making rigorous efforts in deciphering the languages of the northern Great Andamanese Radcliffe-Brown had classified the Negrito of Andaman into three group viz., the Great Andaman or the northern group, the southern group and the Little Andaman group. Under the first group are the Aka-Cari, Aka-Kora, Akabo and Aka-Jeru tribes while the Aka-Kede, Aka-Kol, Oko-Juwoi, A-Pubikwar, Akar-Bale and Aka-Bea belonging to the second group. The inhabitants of Little Andaman called the Onge, the Jarawa of south Andaman and the inhabitants of the north Sentinel island comes under the third category. They are spread over different pockets of the Andaman including the Little Andaman (Radcliffe-Brown, 1922:12-13).
As pointed out earlier Jarawa itself is an alien nomenclature, has generally been admitted to be a derivative of a term coined by the Aka-Bea. But according to Mc Carthy this term was used for many of the 'Eramtage' (jungle dwellers). He says that caution must be maintained in accepting all persons belonging to the same tribe. He pointed out that the term 'Jarawa' is taken to refer to the tribe who calls themselves 'Ya-eng-gna'. This terminology composed forms of the particle 'Ya' and the word 'Ongna' meaning a man. These vocabularies were obtained in 1938 when some Jarawa were captured and detained under the care of Brigadier and Mrs.Francis of the Salvation Army at Ferar Gunj. It was during this period Mc Carthy, Ms Wiborg, Mrs Chandri and Mrs Chengappa made efforts not only to decipher their language but also to identify the tribesmen (Mc Carthy 1940 unpublished).
6. Mincopie and M'ongebi
In 1790 Colebrooke come across a Jarawa in and around Port Blair and obtained a word 'Mincopie' from him which means a native of the Andaman Island. 'M'ongebi' is a phrase in vogue among the Onge of Little Andaman and means 'I am an Onge' or 'I am a man' (Radcliffe-Brown, 1922:12). Erroneously the term 'Mincopie' was in vogue at one time to refer the Andaman islanders (Mouat, 1863:327). While according to Radcliffe-Brown the so-called Jarawa probably call themselves 'Onge' whereas the Onge of Little Andaman are called 'Jarawa' by the native of the friendly tribes of the Great Andaman (Radcliffe-Brown, 1922:12).
This is yet another interesting label, notoriously given to the Jarawa. The term in Jeru language means the people who spared pains and times to kill another people i.e., any intruder in their homeland territory. Evidently Jeru is the only current surviving dialect of the present day Great Andamanese which is spoken at home not to speak of 'Hindi' which they converse with the outsiders. It is worth mentioning here that the present surviving souls of the Great Andamanese are the remnants of the first two groups of Negrito population of the Andaman while the rest are no longer in existence.
The aborigine of Little Andaman Island refer to themselves as the 'Onge' and is established as the most appropriate common name of this community meaning 'man'. Thus there is no doubt about the term 'Onge'. Like other dominant heterogeneous communities the Onge call the Jarawa as 'cannibal' who attack the other culture people during night only.
This label coined by the Nicobarese of Car Nicobar Island and means the Negrito people of Andaman in general and the Onge of Little Andaman in particular.
10. Misconception and Notoriety
For most people Jarawa is synonymous with the identity of the Andaman as 'Kala Pani' (Black Waters). Actually, their bad reputation as a former penal settlement coupled with the unpredictable behaviours of the Sentinelese or the Jarawa as the case may be and the 'deadly poisonous arrows' of these people which are greatly feared. Thus the memories of the penal settlement are too difficult to stamp out and may continue to linger on. So is the school of thought vis-à-vis cannibalism, which is associated with the identity of the aboriginal people of these islands. Even at a much later date still people carry the notion of cannibalism in their minds vis-à-vis the so-called Jarawa or Sentinelese.
11. Pathan Jarawa
The Local born and descendant of convicts and political prisoners have also coined a term 'Pathan Jarawa' for the inhabitants of north Sentinel Island - the Sentinelese. According to these people they are of fair complexion and are taller in comparison to other Negrito of the Andaman islands. Sadly enough, there are no fair complexion Negrito people in the Andaman. Neither on the two different north and south Sentinel island. There are yet many people such as the immigrants and the later settlers of multifarious communities who used uncomplimentary and derogatory terms of expression to look down on the Negrito of Andaman in general and the Jarawa in particular. For instance, unfriendly or hostile, anthropophagi, ignoramus, savage, barbarian, junglee (forest dwellers) and so on. Of course, they are human beings very much like us. They are neither an object of mockery nor treated as cultural pornography.
12. Jarawa - a Misnomer
Over the years the most appropriate common name of the Jarawa has conspicuously been a very pertinent topic of anthropological debate. Thereby the incessant endeavour was made to unearth their suitable common identity as to how they actually refer to themselves. This look-in opportunity came when Enmei, a Jarawa lad was hospitalized in a special ward of the G.B.Pant Hospital at Port Blair for six months or so (from middle of April 1996 to first week of October 1996). In order to uncover the referential term of address as commonly pervasive among the so-called Jarawa some photographs were shown to Enmei viz., the Great Andamanese, Onge, Sentinelese and the dominant Negroid people besides photographs of Mongoloid people and other racial strains. It was astounding to observe him distinguishing the Great Andamanese, Onge, Sentinelese and the dominant Negroid people as 'Yohno'. Whereas the people of other racial stocks were labeled as 'I-ne'. For instance, Local born, settlers, Nicobarese, Shompen and so on.
In order to confuse Enmei some Jarawa photographs were mixed with that of the Great Andamanese, Onge, Sentinelese and Negroid people in general. They were shown to him too. It was not only intriguing to observe Enmei identifying his own fellowmen photographs as 'Ung' but also in recognizing different individuals by their respective names, in fact his reaction was amazingly seen reflected on his luminous countenance. Thus with the advent of the Pilot Project Study (PPS), launched by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration on September 2, 1996 and its findings coupled with the hospitalization of Enmei as stated earlier a mile stone has been added in the history of intermittent friendly contact mission in unraveling the most apposite, befitting and real common name of a small and endangered forager of Andaman who refer to themselves 'Ung'. The word 'Ung' in their language means 'man'. It is pronounced with nasal sound prolonging its accent as 'Ung'. As far as those referential terms of addresses viz., Ung, Yohno, and I-ne are concerned they can be spelt orthographically according to their approximate pronunciation. It took more than six months to use and tested those referential terms of addresses with Enmei besides taking him to different important places like the Zonal Anthropological Museum, Zoological Museum, Aquarium, Emporium and so on.
The referential terms of addresses gathered from Enmei were applied, testified, cross-examined and proven correct and appropriate during another intermittent contact expedition conducted from September 2-4, 1996 under the PPS. It may be noted here that Enmei was still in hospital. The authenticity of Ung was analysed and cross-examined with different individual tribesmen. Their reaction was found very sharp discernibly when being referred to either as 'Yohno' or 'I-ne' and indicate to themselves as 'Ung' simultaneously. Usually the forager are contacted at various western coasts of south and middle Andaman such as Port Cambell, Spike island, Bluff island and Port Anson Creek, Lakra Lungta, Foul Bay, Yadita Point, Chotaling Bay etc. respectively.
Under the PPS another intermittent contact mission was held from October 3-5, 1996. This was the time when Enmei was brought back home at Foul Bay. This time also tremendous efforts were made to check, cross-examine and analyze those referential terms of addresses with different tribesmen besides Enmei who not only explicated the purpose but also introduced some contact members by names. It has been observed that their reactions was actually same when being referred to as 'Yohno' or 'I-ne' as pointed out before.
13. Ung - a Proper Nomenclature
In view of above findings and facts the term Jarawa - the "other people" or "strangers" - is a misnomer. Undoubtedly there can be no further conflicting viewpoints on the question of their identity. That Ung is the identity their ancestors got them since time immemorial and that it is not only wrong to call them 'Jarawa' or 'Yerewa', 'Ya-eng-na', 'Mincopie', 'Jingil', 'Eramtaga', 'Nauv-ter-tok' and other dubious uncomplimentary names but also very absurd inasmuch as they have a common name which is of indigenous origin and not a referential term of address given from outside the community. Anthropological data gained during field-based investigation on different occasions and further analysis of its veracity successfully proved and established 'Ung' as the real common identity of the aborigines and not 'Jarawa' or any other 'notorious labels' any more please.
That Enmei, the Ung lad is viewed as a stepping-stone of success anthropologically in unveiling their identity. It can be concluded here that further linguistic analysis of 'Ung' and its etymology with that of the 'Onge' could unveil their past plausible link with each other as far as the linguistic affinity of the spoken dialect is concerned between the former and the latter, would more intriguingly self-revealing in itself. Of late, the Ung have started to frequent the settlement areas of both south and middle Andaman hankering for gifts, food and sympathy which ironically made them a welfare dependant people.
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