Two French filmmakers have been booked on the charge of trespassing into the protected Jarawa tribal reserve in the Andaman islands and filming a documentary on the threatened aboriginal tribe. "We have filed an FIR against French director Alexandre Dereims and producer Claire Beilvert for violating the law of the land. Entering the Jarawa area is banned and so are making any contact with them or shooting any photo or video," the union territory's Tribal Welfare Secretary Theva Neethi Dhas said.
"The police are investigating the matter and gathering evidences against them. If the charges are proved, it could lead to three years of imprisonment, besides a fine," the Secretary said. He said two local inhabitants have been arrested for allegedly helping the filmmakers to enter the Jarawa area.
The case was registered on October 19 while the incident is said to have happened during March-April. The matter came to light only when the Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS) reported the matter to the administration.
Dhas said they had already sent notices to the filmmakers, who have returned to their homeland, asking them to restrain from releasing any visual related to the Jarawas. The administration will also ask the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the matter with the French government, he said.
Charges against the two French filmakers include violation of Protection of the Aboriginal Tribes (Amendment) Act 2012, Foreigners Amendment Act 2004, and Information Technology Act.
Under post-production stage now, the film Organic Jarawa is about Utchu, a two-year-old Jarawa boy, his family and friends.
In a Facebook post, the filmmakers defended their action, saying they took the permission of the Jarawa tribe and will show people their reality, beauty, smartness, kindness, happiness to be free and happy in spite of poachers, despite of police and tourists.
"We did not meet the Jarawas to take some pictures on the fly, we made a documentary where the Jarawa speak for the first time," they wrote.
Declining in number, the 400-strong Jarawa tribe is extremely vulnerable to diseases. Till 1998, the nomadic hunter-gatherers had hardly any contact with the outside world. Dhas said the filmmakers gave the tribals rice, cooking oil and biscuits to make them cooperate during the shooting.
"We have spoken with the Jarawas who have confirmed all this. They are very vulnerable to infections from the outside world and this can be dangerous for their health," he said. Jarawas, among the four major tribes including Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese, are believed to have lived in their Indian Ocean home for up to 55,000 years.