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Taming Andaman, the Ludhiana way

It is a tribute to his work of 68 years that Ludhiana-born Bakhtawar Singh is today a name even among the Jarawa tribesmen of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
PTI | By Shailesh Shekhar
UPDATED ON APR 09, 2004 12:35 PM IST

It is a tribute to his work of 68 years that Ludhiana-born Bakhtawar Singh is today a name even among the Jarawa tribesmen of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

For his understanding of the tribals and their customs, acquired during his long posting with the Andaman Police, he had been handpicked by the government in 1973 to befriend and tame the feared and hostile Jarawas.

Today, at 87, Singh can recline in his chair and surround himself with memories of the days spent winning over the tribals. Bakhtawar was not yet 19 when he left Ludhiana for the Bay of Bengal archipelago in 1935. Since then, he has lived in Port Blair. "We decided to settle in Port Blair after retirement because the situation in Punjab during the '80s was not good, and being an 'old employee', the administration gave me free land to build a house."

"I came here as a constable," he recalls. He also served under the Japanese who occupied the islands in March, 1942. "The Japanese told us they were here to free India. Later Netaji (Subhas Chandra Bose) also came after assuming control of the Indian National Army (INA)."

After the British regained the A&N territory, "policemen like me were sent to the mainland and put through special screening. Later, they allowed me into service."

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