British newspaper The Guardian has released a video on its website that shows a man in uniform forcing tribal girls, who are bare-chested, to dance for tourists. The policeman is seen accepting a bribe of 200 pounds, before ordering three girls to perform.
The Guardian report says that the video has been shot in the Andaman Islands and that the girls belong to the endangered Jarawa tribe.
"I gave you food," the voice, purportedly of the policeman, is heard reminding the girls at the start of the video.
The report accompanying the video on the website says the role of the police in the area is to protect tribes from unwelcome and intrusive outsiders. But on this occasion, the report claims, the police officer had accepted a 200-pound bribe to get the girls to perform. A tourist's camera films the incident.
The video has caused much consternation back home. PTI says that the Home Ministry has sought a report from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration on the alleged exploitation of the Jarawa tribals.
Tribal Affairs Minister KC Deo said, "You cannot treat humans like beasts. I will go to the Andamans and see what is happening. I will take it up with the authorities there." The minister, however, said that the video was over 10 years old. Andaman Islands Chief Secretary Shakti Sinha too said it was an old video; "The footage is at least four or five years old," he said. Mr Sinha said that it was difficult to identify the "culprits" now, though "no doubt the people in question have broken the law."
And Bishunu Pada Ray, the MP from BJP for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, too said it was "an old clip and things aren't this way now," and promised "strict action will be taken against those involved."
The Guardian reports says, "This kind of video is the trophy tourists dream of when they set off into the jungles of the Andaman Islands 'on safari'. The beauty of the forest functions merely as a backdrop. The goal of the trip is to seek out the Jarawa... which is taking the first tentative steps towards a relationship with the outside world.
"The Jarawa tribe is 403-strong. Its members are trusting, innocent and hugely vulnerable to exploitation, living in a jungle reserve on South Andaman," explains the Guardian report.
The reporter, Gethin Chamberlain, says that despite signs that ask tourists not to take photos or disturb the tribe members, he saw visitors throwing bananas and biscuits to the tribespeople, "as they would to animals in a safari park."
Mr Sinha, the chief secretary, says the administration is committed to the protection of the Jarawas. "Their population has gone up by 40 per cent in 10 years, so we are doing something right," he said.