Port Blair/New Delhi, Jan 11: A controversy erupted today over a video footage showing semi-naked Jarawa tribal women in Andaman and Nicobar Islands allegedly being ordered to dance before tourists prompting the Centre to seek a report from the Union Territory administration.
In its preliminary report, the administration said it will initiate prosecution against the videographer involved in the coverage for a British newspaper for “inciting” the tribals to dance in front of tourists.
The footage that surfaced apparently to bring to fore the exploitation of Jarawa tribals, who were allegedly forced to dance before tourists in return for food, was condemned as “obnoxious and disgusting” by Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo.
According to reports, there are just 403 surviving members of the Jarawa tribe who live in reserve forests on south Andaman.
The Home Ministry directed the local administration to find out when the video was photographed, how the primitive tribals living in seclusion came in contact with outsiders and to find out the people responsible for their exploitation.
The Home Ministry may take punitive action against people responsible for the alleged act and if the reports are found to be genuine, an official said.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration, which reports to the Union Home Ministry, termed the footage as “highly irresponsible” and said it was not clear in which year the video clip was recorded.
The Andaman police downplayed the video, calling it an ‘old one' and blamed the British journalist who took the footage for forcing the Jarawas to dance for the tourists.
Andaman DGP SB Deol claimed the video that has been released is perhaps a 10-year-old video taken in 2002.
He also said that whoever shot the video violated the rules and will have to face action.
“It is obvious that it is the videographer who is breaking the law of the land and who is inciting the tribals to dance,” Deol said.
“It is clarified that at the time this video was recorded, most of the Jarawas did not wear clothes. Even today those in the jungle are not clothed. It is also obvious that it is videographer (who is breaking the law of the land) and who is inciting them to dance,” the preliminary report to the Home Ministry said.
An Andaman police statement also said it is amply evident that the person, who allegedly ordered the tribals to dance for the tourists taken to the reserve after reportedly taking a 200 pound bribe, is not a policeman as has been “widely and erroneously reported.”
The police said it was digging records to ascertain the year when the video was shot.
The statement said the police had asked London-based daily “The Observer”, which claimed in its report that a policeman had taken bribe to make the tribals, especially women, dance naked, has also been asked to apologise to the local police.
The newspaper, the statement said, was also asked to name the videographer so that legal action could be initiated against him for recording and releasing the video thereby lowering the dignity of the members of Jarawa tribe.
The Andaman police was also seeking help of the defence forces located in the island in order to identify the man present in uniform.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is due to travel to the Island as planned on January 21 and is likely to discuss the Jarawa issue with the administration.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo told PTI that the Government has ordered an inquiry by the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) of A & N islands.
“This video-clipping, it is not fresh and not of recent time. Apparently, people have seen it on the internet for last four or five years. So that is yet to be established. But the fact is that it is not something which has happened in the last few weeks or months,” he said.