Another prehistoric population residing in Great Andaman is Jarawa, the name given by the speakers of one of the Great Andamanese languages Aka Bea for those people one should be afraid of. The Aka-Bea community was traditionally an enemy of the Jarawas. They never missed an opportunity to kill the Jarawas or plunder their camps (Mukhopadhyay 2002:33). This seems to be one of the reasons why the peaceful Jarawas were hostile to
outsiders. Jarawas were known for their fighting skills, poisonous arrows and valour, and had constant fights with the southern Great Andamanese. They call themselves ang ‘we people’ the same word as Onge use. Post-independent India saw usurping the rights of Jarawa to their land, forest resources and poaching of their hunt by outsiders, mainly the settlers. In order to feed the migrants from mainland India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the Indian govt. demarcated the tribal reserve area by creating villages of settlers very close to the Jarawa Forest which was seen as an encroachment of land and habitat by the Jarawas. The Andaman Trunk Road was built which pushed the Jarawa of the Middle Andaman to the western coast losing a big area of forest that had been their home for living and survival for thousands of years.
The peace-loving tribe was forced to turn violent to protect their land and food. Timber factories were set up that humiliated Jarawas further. However, the govt on its part wanted friendly relations with the tribe and thus formed a contact party to win their trust by offering gifts of bananas and coconuts to the Jarawas. By the end of 1997, the situation changed dramatically as Jarawas came out on their own in a group to explore the island and the other world with plenty of food and transportation. However, the contact with the outside world infected the tribe with various diseases which prompted the administration to send them back to their habitat and stop any contact with the tribes. Since then, it has been a tussle between the Jarawas and the settlers as to who will protect its territory. Jarawas are seen now frequenting the nearby villages for food as their forest and their reserve of honey is constantly attacked by the outsiders and they have no option left but to invade the villages.
My recent visit to the Middle Andaman exposed me to a school run by the administration for Jarawa children to give literacy in their language.
Human safaris in large convoys frequent the Andaman Trunk Road every day jeopardizing the life of Jarawa and their way of living, Jarawa youth can be seen loitering the road to enjoy moving buses, cars and people.
A Jarawa boy with his catch
Jarawa children surrounded me when I showed them my Bird book of Great Andamanese
We got the opportunity to work on this language in 2001 but for a very short period. Two young Jarawa boys were brought to Port Blair for medical examination which gave us a rare opportunity to interview them. Subsequently, Shailendra Mohan and Pramod obtained permission to visit the Jarawa jungles which gave us preliminary data to work on. Despite the best of my efforts, the administration refused me to enter the jungle, as they were not sure how Jarawa will respond, I guess the administration was overprotective of me. However, whatever data was collected paved way for a comparative account of the Great Andamanese, Jarawa and Onge languages.
Later, Pramod Kumar who accompanied me initially on the project decided to work on the language of Jarawa in 2005. He completed his Ph.D. in 2012 on the Jarawa language. This is the very first detailed account of Jarawa grammar.