A London-based campaign group that helped expose 'human safaris' in the Andaman Islands in 2012 has criticised what it calls "dangerous" and "regressive" election pledges made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress that affect the Jarawa tribe.
Noting that in January, President Pranab Mukherjee had termed attempts to forcibly assimilate the tribe into the mainstream as wrong, Survival International said both the BJP and Congress candidates had promised to remove the protective buffer zone around the Jarawa reserve.
The pledges include bringing the Jarawa tribe into the mainstream and building two bridges along the controversial Andaman Trunk Road. This could be "devastating" to the welfare of the Jarawa, the organisation said.
Current Andamans MP and BJP candidate, Bishnu Pada Ray, had also reportedly promised to bring the Jarawa into the mainstream should he get re-elected, a policy viewed as entirely unacceptable by the international community.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said: "Bishnu Pada Ray's scandalous proposals show utter contempt for the Jarawa's survival – attempts to force the tribe to integrate will destroy them. The very notion of mainstreaming is rooted in a colonialist attitude and the outmoded conviction that governments know best. In fact, this approach is always disastrous."
Survival said that the Jarawa tribe already faced degrading intrusions into their forest home by hundreds of tourists traveling along the Andaman Trunk Road each day, intent on spotting members of the tribe.
The current administration had promised an alternative route to the Andaman Trunk Road by March 2015, which would remove tourists from the road.
"But new pledges by both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates to build two new bridges along the existing route inside the Jarawa reserve make the opening of an alternative route increasingly unlikely," it said.
Currently, no commercial or tourist establishments are allowed within a buffer zone around the Jarawa reserve.