A bare-chested woman with ebony skin stands in the middle of the road. A male voice commands her to dance in exchange for treats. The scene could have been lifted from a book on the shameful history of 19th century colonialism, but it was filmed sometime in the present day on India’s Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES
The Andaman archipelago is home to the Jarawa people, a tribe thought to have been among the first to successfully migrate out of Africa. In the video, several members of the tribe are seen dressed in traditional grass skirts, dancing in the foreground. The camera then homes in on a young, naked woman, holding a bag of food in her hands. She is hanging back from the others near the edge of the road. A voice barks out, “Dance! Go on, dance for me!” The young woman appears to refuse. After several seconds, the vehicle carrying the cameraperson drives away.
The voice in the video comes from a group of tourists, who have travelled to gawk at the Jarawa people as part of a paid tour. The Jarawa are a nomadic tribe who survive off of the land and have lived largely cut off from the outside world until 1998. Survival International
, an organisation that fights for the rights of indigenous populations, has dubbed the degrading practice of shuttling tourists out to ogle, film, and photograph the Jarawa people as a “human safari”.
The footage, which was posted in early January 2012, is not dated and could have been filmed at any point over the last three or four years. The images have caused extreme embarassment for authorities in the Andaman Islands, who are struggling to deal with the situation. The Indian government has demanded an explanation from local authorities, and Andaman police have issued an arrest warrant
for the guide who led the tour group.