New Delhi: The Andaman and Nicobar administration is looking to take legal action against two French filmmakers who entered the protected Jarawa reserve to film a documentary on the ancient and highly vulnerable tribe.
The film producer, Alexandre Dereims, allegedly entered the 300-kilometre-long reserve by boat after paying off members of the sea-faring Karen community, many of who reside in Mayabunder, near the Jarawa reserve. It is still not clear whether they entered the Jarawa reserve late last year or early this year. A case has been filed in Mayabunder and at least two Karen members have been arrested. The Andaman Administration, which has served a legal notice to the documentary filmmaker, will seek the assistance of Interpol through the Intelligence Bureau or the Ministry of External Affairs to pursue this case legally, since Mr Dereims and his associate have now left the country. Mr Dereims has not responded to the email notice of the administration.
The film, called Organic Jarawa, has been promoted on a Facebook page where several photos of the Jarawa have been uploaded. According to Indian law, it is entirely illegal to film the Jarawa in any way. Those who break the Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Act, which seeks to protect the tribe from outside influences, can be sentenced for up to seven years in prison.
The Jarawa tribe shot into national prominence a few years ago when semi-naked members of the 400-strong community were filmed by tourists dancing, evidently in exchange for food. Since then, the government has cracked down against so called "human safaris." Mr Dereims reportedly won the support of the Jarawa community in exchange for sacks of rice which he provided them.
Ironically, it is impossible to segregate the Jarawa completely. The controversial Andaman trunk road, a life line for those who live to the north of Port Blair runs right through the reserve and many of those who use the road are indeed tourists with no intention other than to catch a glimpse of the Jarawa tribals who are often visible on either side of the road. However, private vehicles are not allowed and convoys with buses and trucks are accompanied by guards and ply only a few times a day. Photography is strictly prohibited and people travelling on buses are warned of legal consequences if they film the Jarawa.