[Editorial Analysis] Why isolation of indigenous groups is crucial today

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: Indigenous Group

Mains level: Welfare schemes to the vulnerable sections of the society


• The Sentinelese people targeted by the slain evangelist John Allen Chau are probably the most isolated of the world’s remaining remote tribes, and they are keen to stay that way.

• They shoot arrows to warn off anyone who approaches their island, and attack those, like Chau, who ignore their warnings.

Historical context

• British colonial excesses whittled down the aboriginal population of the Andaman Islands, which includes North Sentinel Island, from more than two dozen tribes 150 years ago to just four today.

• The tribes that escaped genocide at the hands of the colonizers did so largely by fleeing to the most inaccessible parts of jungles.

• That was the story in North Sentinel, which Portman and his forces raided, abducting the children and elderly who failed to flee into the forest.

• As a 2009 book by Satadru Sen notes, Portman used members of Andaman tribes as subjects in his supposed anthropometry research, measuring and photographing their bodies.

• The research, according to Sen, reflected a perverted “fascination” with “male genitalia.”

• This policy is anchored in laws that protect indigenous people’s rights to ancestral lands and to live in seclusion, and reinforced by an international convention obligating governments to protect these communities’ lands, identities, penal customs, and ways of life.

Safeguarding to the indigenous group

• It is illegal for outsiders to enter India’s tribal reserves.

• Yet Chau dodged local laws and security, according to his own diary accounts, to make forays into North Sentinel over three days.

• The Sentinelese killed him only after he ignored repeated warnings.

• The threat to the Sentinelese people and, indeed, all isolated tribes is far from neutralized, as some have taken Chau’s death as an opportunity to argue that we should reverse the policies protecting isolated tribes.

• And while some have good intentions to provide access to modern technology, education, and health care others do not.

• Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to repeal constitutional safeguards for aboriginal lands in order to expand developers’ access to the Amazon rainforest.

Way forward

• These tribes might be isolated, but their demise will have serious consequences. With their reverence for and understanding of nature, such groups serve as the world’s environmental sentinels.

• Safeguarding 80% of global diversity and playing a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

• When the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, more than a quarter-million people died across 14 countries, but the two isolated Andaman tribes, which rely on traditional warning systems, suffered no known casualties.

• Indigenous people are an essential element of cultural diversity and ecological harmony, not to mention a biological treasure for scientists seeking to reconstruct evolutionary and migratory histories.

• The least the world can do is to let them live in peace in the ancestral lands that they have honoured and preserved for centuries.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) In the context of National Disaster Response Force, consider the following statements.

A. The Disaster Management Act has statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to both the natural and man-made disasters.

B. It covers all the natural disasters except chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.

Choose the correct option:

A. A only

B. B only

C. Both A and B

D. None of the above

Correct Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Why isolation of indigenous groups is crucial today?

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