The Coast Guard has found an unexpected ally in naked tribesmen carrying bows with poison-tipped arrows in the Andamans.
The last of the Jarawas, a Negrito tribe that travelled to the Andamans from Africa around 60,000 years ago, are providing vital tip-offs to help Coast Guard bust Myanmarese poachers.
Andamans’ Coast Guard Chief Kripa Nautiyal said, “Jarawas give us leads on poachers from Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River entering reserve tribal areas. We have made more than 40 arrests and nabbed several boats in separate operations.” Only 270 Jarawas inhabit the Andamans.
The tribals pass on inputs through Jarawas who have integrated into the mainstream, Nautiyal said. The poachers invade Indian waters looking for sea cucumber, corals and expensive aquatic species.
“The narrow waterways bordering Jarawa reserves serve as an ideal hunting ground for the poachers as bigger vessels cannot patrol there. So tip-offs from Jarawas come in handy. Efforts to tighten coastal security have brought unlikely bedfellows together,” said Maj Gen AK Chaturvedi, Chief of Staff, Andaman and Nicobar Command. Jarawas recently beat up some Myanmarese poachers and handed them to the police.
Jarawas don’t like outsiders venturing into their territory. But the Coast Guard began wooing them in the mid-1980s. Sailors would land on their beaches and strip themselves down to the underwear. Nautiyal recalled, “Our heads would be covered in red cloth to attract the Jarawas. We would all dance together and then the Jarawas would run off with the red bandanas.”
The Jarawas are perhaps repaying an old debt.