[op-ed snap] Leave them alone: on the Sentinelese
Mains Paper 1: Arts & Culture | All syllabus
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Sentinelese and other tribes of Andaman
Mains level: Need of special safeguards for isolated tribes
Killing of a US citizen by Sentinelese tribe
- The death of a young American man at the hands of the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has led to dangerous lines of debate
- Some have called for the Sentinelese to be convicted and punished and others have urged that they be integrated into modern society
- Both these demands are misguided, and can only result in the extinction of a people
- The Sentinelese are perhaps the most reclusive community in the world today
- Their language is so far understood by no other group and they have traditionally guarded their island fiercely, attacking most intruders with spears and arrows
Special safeguards for the Sentinelese
- There is a reason why no one — whether missionary, scholar, adventurer, U.S. citizen or Indian — is allowed to venture near North Sentinel Island without permission, which is given only in the rarest of circumstances and with meticulous precautions in place to ensure that the Sentinelese are not disturbed
- Having lived in isolation in an island in the Bay of Bengal for thousands of years, the Sentinelese have no immunity or resistance to even the commonest of infections
- Various degrees of protection are in place for the indigenous people of A&N Islands, but it is complete in the case of the Sentinelese
- The administration enforces “an ‘eyes-on and hands-off’ policy to ensure that no poachers enter the island”
- A protocol of circumnavigation of the island is in place, and the buffer maintained around the island is enforced under various laws
Need of restraint
- At the heart of the issue is the survival of the Sentinelese
- According to the 2011 Census, their population was just 15 — though anthropologists like T.N. Pandit, who made contact with them in the 1960s, put the figure at 80-90
- This degree of ignorance about the Sentinelese often sparks an Orientalist public discourse, instead of understanding the dangers of trying to physically overpower them
- A foreigner’s death is a cautionary incident — for the danger of adventurism, and for the administration to step up oversight
- But it is also an occasion for the country to embrace its human heritage in all its diversity and to empathetically try to see the world from the eyes of it’s most vulnerable inhabitants
Nuakhai celebrated across western Odisha
- Nuakhai is an agricultural festival mainly observed by people of Western Odisha in India.
- The word nua means new and khai means food, so the name means the farmers are in possession of the newly harvested rice.
- It is observed to welcome the new rice of the season.
- During the festival, the head of the family worships the household deity, offering rice and other food items. He then distributes the prashad among the family members.
- Apart from the rituals of offering the new crop to the deity, the ‘Nuakhai Juhar’ is a major ritual of the festival, which is an exchange of greetings with friends, relatives and well-wishers.
The Apatani tribe from Arunachal Pradesh
- A small tribe in Arunachal Pradesh has been able to defeat modern technological advancements in terms of environment conservation.
- The Apatanis from Ziro have a unique lifestyle that focuses on living in harmony with nature.
- Ziro is home to the tribal group called the Apatanis which is one amongst the very few tribes in the world that worship nature (Sun & Moon).
- In April 2014, Apatani Cultural Landscape has also been added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for “extremely high productivity” and “unique” ways of preserving ecology.
Why do you think women have those nose plugs?
How to Manage the Food-Forest Nexus: Lessons from Dongria Kondh
Scattered across 240 sq km on the remote Niyamgiri hill range in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, an ancient tribal group known as the Dongria Kondh have earned themselves a reputation as trailblazers. Why?
The Dongria Kondh set an example in 2013 to millions of tribal people around the world when they fought and won a case with a British mining giant that invested close to a billion dollars in a bauxite extraction operation in this mineral-rich area.
What next? The twin issues of hunger and deforestation
- Their varied and nutritious diet, which includes over 25 species of plants, comes directly from the forests.
- But rampant deforestation for large-scale infrastructure projects, coupled with monoculture plantations of fast-growing trees to supply timber and paper industries with raw materials, have reduced food availability.
- But fikr not! Look up to Niyamgiri hills for a lesson on an alternative economic model, one based on community management and control of land and resources.
Traditional fervour marks Nongkrem Dance
- Nongkrem Dance Festival is performed to appease the all- powerful Goddess, ‘Ka Blei Synshar’ for a rich bumper harvest & general prosperity.
- The festival is celebrated during autumn at Smit, the cultural centre of the Khasi Hills.
- The Khasis are a tribe of Meghalaya, who also celebrate the ripening of paddy for threshing, by dances and songs.
- The folk dances capture the movements of everyday life as well as animals and birds.
The first National Tribal Festival - Vanaj
- Organised by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and was inaugurated by the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Jual Oram.
- The aim was to bridge the gaps of social divide and promote tribal culture in India.
- More than 900 folk and tribal artists participated.
Tip: In 2014, India held the biodiversity express and some questions in the Prelims were sitters from the brochure itself.