Beyond the Settler-Colonial Paradigm

Thinking Futures conference, Port Blair, 4-5 December 2014
Satadru Sen (City University of New York)

In Munich last year, I attended a conference on the Andamans. Several of you were there also. There were, of course, no Andamanese present. So we ended up in a rather old-fashioned ritual of talking about so-called primitive people who are acknowledged to be alive, but for whom self-representation would be unnatural.
The situation is not too different here in Port Blair. I don’t mean that the organizers should have brought a couple of Jarawas or an Onge to make a token appearance. But nearly seventy years after independence, we should have been able to have a Jarawa or an Onge appear at a conference like this on their own initiative, to speak as their own agents. That these expectations seem unrealistic is not too different from Victorians scoffing at the prospect of natives with Ph.Ds. It is a sign that something is not right.
Since I’m critiquing the very concept of the primitive tribe, let me bore you for a minute with the history of primitiveness. Primitivism refers broadly to the Western fascination with the idea of ‘the primitive,’ manifested primarily in non-Western societies but also secondarily within the West itself. As a ‘movement’ that emerged in Europe in the eighteenth century, it developed a particularly close relationship with the politics of imperialism. It reflected, on the one hand, the confident new realities of racism and colonialism, and on the other hand, a growing disenchantment with the Enlightenment, an affected rejection of modernity, and a pessimism about the permanence of ‘civilization’ and its racial order.
At the most readily apparent level, this was an oppositional relationship: the primitiveness ascribed to newly discovered people underscored the modernity to which the civilized were attached. At the same time, primitivism became part of a complex relationship of objectification. To be modern and civilized was also to consume the primitive aesthetically, scientifically and economically.
Nineteenth-century primitivism was simultaneously appreciative, contemptuous and ‘objective’ in its outlook on what it consumed. It was appreciative in the sense that it was closely intertwined with Romanticism, in which the alien, primitive and dying became desirable counterparts to the competitive, utilitarian and thriving West. This desire marks the growing appetite in Western markets for ‘primitive’ arts and artifacts, either collected in colonial locations or fashioned in the West itself. By the end of the century, the Andamans had been integrated into this pattern, with the aggressive collection of artifacts and photographs that showcased pacified savages producing what Europeans perceived as an authentic pre-industrial harmony, beauty and genius.
Yet primitivism was contemptuous in the assumption that modernity possessed a higher value than what was appreciated as primitive. And it was objective in the sense that it bestowed its aficionados with the equanimity of the scientist or the curator rather than the zeal of the conquistador. Primitive people existed to be studied, as clues to the nature of humanity and living fossils that would not long survive the triumph of a civilization equipped with battleships and capitalism. For evolutionist anthropologists in particular, the savage or primitive contemporary, once a menacing proposition, now became synonymous with frailty, death and extinction – a discourse which has dominated the narrative of the Andamanese since the 1880s.
M.V. Portman explicitly described the Andamanese as a chemistry experiment in its final stages, and the islands as a laboratory of natural history: a substance that had long existed in the vacuum of insulation, he argued, was violently dematerializing at the touch of air. It was sad but exciting, an insight into the primordial nature of mortality. The death-by-demoralization hypothesis has never gone away: much of our present-day idea of the Andamanese as a doomed people flows from the notion that primitive people confronted by modernity become so demoralized that they die.
In turn-of-the-century Europe, the morbid savage had an important variation: in anthropology-inspired popular literature like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the primitive threatened to infiltrate Europe itself, or to show itself as having been there all along. This valorization of a primitive mode within whiteness was not benign. Most straightforwardly, it encouraged casual violence against native people. In settler colonies like Australia, the historian Patrick Wolfe has pointed out, the indigenous population was superfluous to the social, political and economic order. And even in colonies where indigenous labor was a rational requirement, Michael Taussig has suggested, primitivism generated irrational excesses of violence and terror. Colonizers appropriated the apparent primitiveness of aborigines and deployed it against them, killing them without constraints. I don’t need to remind anybody here about the violence visited on the Andamanese tribes from the moment the HMS Viper sailed into these waters: the shootings, kidnappings, flogging, forced labor, exhibitions, etc. The primitiveness ascribed to the native justified ‘uncivilized’ conduct by the civilized: not only had the native invited the violence visited upon him, his ‘obsolete’ condition suggested that he was already extinct, and killing him not especially damning.
How much of this history can be applied to independent India – a nation of natives with natives, so to speak? The answers are a mixed bag. An interest in the primitive is certainly discernible within Indian nationalist narratives, but much of the time, the primitive was identified with the roots of the Self, but not placed in direct opposition to the modern Self. It was neither valorized nor denigrated for its primitiveness: the Indian-nationalist tendency has been to highlight how modern its ancestors were, but at the same time, to assign to it a higher moral value than the colonized and degraded present.
The Adivasi model of aboriginality was invented to fit this frame, but it was an uneasy fit, because quite early on, the nationally-oriented class conceived them partly through the lens of European primitivism. And certainly, within a nationalism articulated by upper-caste Hindus, the Adivasi was racialized to some extent. But for a couple of reasons, this was a limited Othering. One is that Indian nationalist discourse quickly found a niche for the non-Aryan within the national geography and the national Self: by the early twentieth century, the liberal wing of Indian nationalism – the Tagore family, for instance – had decisively adopted the Adivasi as a pristine repository of Indian culture, and even Hindu-nationalist ideologues like Savarkar were emphasizing an Indian race from which Adivasis were not separate. And certainly if we were to look below the layer of elite nationalism, to the lower-caste world of mofussil towns and villages, the Adivasi was only semi-distinct, with no sharp line between the world of the tribal and that of the peasant.
The other is that by the time the Tagores were patronizing the incorporation of Santals and Mundas into the national body as art, folklore and even history, there already existed a politics of Adivasi self-assertion. I don’t mean the hools and rebellions beloved of Subalternist historians. I mean the work of politicians like Jaipal Singh, which brought Adivasis into active and participatory roles in the national mainstream. They entered wearing primitiveness like a contextual badge of identity that was not essentially different from other modern identities. It was, however imperfectly, a self-directed, negotiated and modern union with Indianness, premised more on similarity and equality than on difference and inferiority. It provides, in fact, a model of self-representation that could be quite useful to projects like a tribal museum in the Andamans.
            But these maneuvers were premised on the near-total absence of a discourse of superfluity. The absence was, on the one hand, part and parcel of exploitation in Indian society: as with blacks in apartheid South Africa, there was space for tribal people because there was a need for their labor. But on the other hand, it remained possible for those designated as Adivasis to contest oppression politically, socially and even culturally. In other words, there was space for them as living people even when there was no obvious need for them as Santals or Gonds.
The South African parallel is actually quite instructive. Wolfe pointed out recently that apartheid was not based on a fantasy that entire groups of people would cease to exist. It was oppressive and appropriative, but there is something worse, which we see in settler-colonial situations where there is no conceptual, political or actual space for the aborigine.
We have come close to that in the Andamans. After independence, several things have happened in tandem to make the situation more settler-colonial than before. One is, of course, the accelerated migration from the Indian mainland. Unlike convicts, the migrants have become a politically mobilized demographic, able to approach the state with their claims on local resources. The peculiar status of the tribal population, in which they are normatively limited to a shrinking patch of jungle instead of being located in a wider society and geography, has only encouraged settlers to regard them as superfluous people taking up space. The other is that the administration has remained in the hands of people invested in the primitive. This investment is itself partly an inheritance of colonial discourses of race, and partly an organic response to the peculiar political and professional opportunities present in the combination of managerialism and democracy, in which some people are managed and others demand representation.
The continuing primitive status of the Andamanese has thus become a fundamental aspect of the insular quality of the Andamans: these are islands in India, and the Andamanese are islands within Indianness. I cannot emphasize this enough: insulation produces primitivism, and primitivism is for the dead, not the living. The Andamanese have become progressively insular, as growing numbers of Indians have become infected by the primitivist vision of the state-affiliated managers of the tribal population. So whereas tribals on the mainland have lost their status as objects of ethnography, the Andamanese have become reified in their ethnographic condition. Middle-class, urban Indians no longer fantasize about going into the jungle to see Santals, although there was a historical and cultural moment when they did – I’m thinking of Satyajit Ray’s film Aranyer Din Ratri. I don’t think it’s stretching it too far to say that this is partly because eastern Bihar, where modern Bengalis used to go to see tribals, is now a tribal state, with a tribal chief minister. It’s become a part of the prosaic mainland of Indian politics. Instead, Indians now want to go on safaris in the Jarawa reserve, to see the last primitives in the national zoo.
Obviously, the Adivasi politics of the mainland did not take hold in the Andamans, and this failure has come at great cost to the Andamanese, who have been consigned to a protected innocence – life without politics – that deprives them of agency, representation and life itself. And enforced primitiveness will continue to fail as a policy, because the modern genie cannot be put back in the bottle: we cannot undo the history of the past two hundred and twenty years. We cannot even close the Andaman Trunk Road. And frankly, I am not convinced that the ATR should be closed. It is the historical norm that people will move about and interact, even if the interaction is not on equal terms. It is segregation that is coercive and extraordinary, and it doesn’t work.
So the question is, what would work? To begin to answer that question, we have to decide what ‘work’ means in this context. If it means clinging to a romantic preservationism, i.e., fetishizing an inflexible, anti-historical idea of what it means to be an aborigine, then that work will amount to little more than liberal hand-wringing. It will be an extended funeral, not only for people, but for an unsustainable ideal of racial and cultural purity. It will mean making films about the dying in anticipation of their death, and I think film-makers who work on the Andamanese must think very carefully about why they are making their films. Are they documenting a way of life, or a way of death?
For the answer to be ‘life,’ ‘work’ will have to mean a form of assimilationism. You cannot live in a modern state and reject assimilation altogether without placing yourself at a terrible disadvantage. It is only the assimilated who can resist effectively, and who can re-articulate their identity. But assimilationism can mean many things. It can mean, for instance, the total deregulation of contact. I don’t think we can really predict what would happen under those circumstances: it is possible that the Andamanese would quickly lose their land and be absorbed into a laboring underclass. Would this be a bad thing? Well, yes, in the sense that economic exploitation is a bad thing, but the exploitation of the Jarawa would not be a worse thing than the exploitation of the Santal, or of the non-tribal poor, for that matter. If we assume that it would be a bigger tragedy, we fall into the primitivist trap, and take the Andamanese with us.
But total deregulation is not the only available form of assimilationism. The most reasonable approach, I think, would be a minimalist one that protects the tribal reserve, guaranteeing the exclusive ownership of its land to the tribal group. But what the members of the tribe do on that land should be absolutely up to them. If they want to meet tourists or filmmakers, that should be their business. If they want to leave, return, start a business, marry a Tamil, or download pornography on their phones, that should be their business. Beyond ensuring their ownership of the reserve, the state and civil society organizations should make certain options available to them: schools, dispensaries, access to the economy in the form of jobs and micro-finance, access to the courts, access to information, voting rights, the ability to travel, the ability to become unrecognizable to those who are invested in the primitive. Information must be a two-way flow, not only must we learn about the tribes, but the tribes must know what options are available to them through the Indian state and society.
            By way of an ideological framework, I want to mention something Partha Chatterjee once wrote about the Muslim Civil Code. The individual member of the minority group, he wrote, must have the option of functioning as a generic rights-bearing citizen, without giving up his or her minority identity. The state must protect both options: the generic as well as the particular. It might be argued that the Jarawa and Onge are not like Muslims or even Adivasis, that they are extraordinarily vulnerable. But this perception of extraordinariness is the problem. The so-called primitive groups have to be allowed to be ordinary. It is ordinariness that must be facilitated by well-wishers of the Andamanese: ordinary resources, ordinary identities, ordinary constitutional status.
This facilitation need not be an abstract or exotic concept. It can follow the standard model of Indian federalism, in which there is no contradiction between a particular identity (like being Bengali) and the generic identity (being Indian). The state can take unremarkable, practical steps to make this possible, such as teaching Andamanese languages in the local schools in addition to Hindi and English, teaching the history of the islands in addition to Indian history, employing the Andamanese as teachers, and ensuring ST quotas in employment and education.
            Whether we like it or not, primitives – by definition – live in the modern world, subject to relations of unequal power. Whether we like it or not, our perceptions and policies impact upon them, and have already impacted upon them. The urge to insulate them from the world, or to place them under the guardianship of a few wise brown parents who are entirely fallible, is a part of that unequal power, and as much a form of objectification as any colonial art, scholarship or governance. It prevents them from responding to the impact of modernity, and perpetuates the injustices of their situation. The only effective defense of the primitives we wish to protect lies in giving them the means of understanding our understanding of primitiveness, giving them access to our means of power.

A Savage Among the Anthropologists

Jarawa dolls sold in Port Blair shops

Last week I participated in one of the more fascinating conferences that I have attended: exhilarating as well as profoundly demoralizing. It was held in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The picturesque former penal colony in the Bay of Bengal is now a terrain contested between the remnants of aboriginal tribes like the Jarawa and the Onge, and a growing population of settlers from the Indian mainland. The point of the gathering was to discuss the future of the aborigines.

I have studied the history of the Andamans for many years, but this was my first conference on the Andamans in the Andamans. So there we were for two days, packed into a crowded hall, a motley collection of anthropologists, historians, activists, local politicians, bureaucrats and even a general (the Lieutenant Governor of the islands). There was the kindly, cigar-smoking former director of the Anthropological Survey of India. There was Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson, albeit in his capacity as an anthropologist convinced that capitalism will soon collapse. There was a retired IAS officer, also a trained anthropologist, with the look and manner of a mad Tantrik. There was an activist who, in the spirit of full disclosure, had written about her excitement when a naked Jarawa man felt her breasts in the jungle (supposedly it’s the Jarawa way of confirming that clothed women are in fact female, but it could also be that most men are fourteen-year-old boys at heart), but who wanted to complain about the new Jarawa habit of downloading pornography on their cell phones. There were journalists and television cameras. There were, of course, no Andamanese present at this meeting about their future, except for a Great Andamanese woman who silently served tea to the participants before disappearing. (There was a Nicobarese activist and an anthropologist, but the Nicobarese are not black-skinned and are excused from having to be ‘primitive’ all the time.)

Such a gathering would have been unthinkable at a conference in America, where the divide between the academic and non-academic worlds is rarely breached in practice, and academic gatherings are staid, polite and ritualistic. But in Port Blair, there were sharp clashes of actual interests and not just veiled egos: the bureaucrats resented the activists, the academic anthropologists resented the government types, the settler-politicians resented the bleeding-heart defenders of the aborigines, the general resented the civilians, and nobody liked the historians. People shouted angrily, interrupted speakers in mid-presentation, tried to grab the microphone, burst into tears, refused to leave the podium, inserted themselves into panels without warning (one panel ended up having eleven presentations), and stormed out. Terrible drivel was punctuated by informative presentations. And although I too stormed out at one point (only to be placated and return like a prima donna), there was something politically alive about the whole thing: a sense of real stakes.

By the end of the conference, intensity had turned into disgust. The absence of the Andamanese from the conference, except to serve tea to middle-class citizens who loved hunter-gatherers but had no intention of doing much hunting or gathering, had become both literal and a metaphor of Indian democracy. In the place of aborigines and their views, was the verbiage of the civilized: administrators of ‘primitive tribes’ who wanted to deflect criticism, settlers who wanted access to the tribal reserve, activists who were thoroughly invested in their self-appointed guardianship of the primitives. The Tantrik administrator-anthropologist declared without embarrassment or irony that Onges and Jarawas should be encouraged by their government-affiliated minders to work for provisions, but only to preserve their self-esteem; they must not be paid monetary wages under any circumstances. Money, like politics, porn and self-representation, would be the apple in paradise.

The administrators and settlers were easy to understand, even when they suggested that aborigines be removed from Great Andaman and concentrated on one small island. The settlers, in particular, were straightforwardly and rationally self-interested, and there was a logic to their argument that the concerns of more than a hundred thousand tax-paying, vote-casting members of the public outweighed those of six hundred aborigines. It was the activists who were the revelation and the source of the disgust, because they did not appear to be reactionary. They were, for the most part, English-speaking, college-educated and middle-class, and they included that famous archetype of the Indian leftie: JNU faculty. Yet the prospect of aborigines as fellow-citizens sat poorly with them. They were far more comfortable with the idea of ‘primitive tribes’ as children, whose lives would be simultaneously ‘protected’ and controlled by their enlightened well-wishers.

It was as if the Protectors of Aborigines in nineteenth-century Australia had been reborn as a less exalted horde of Indian journalists, novelists and professors. Or rather, it was as if the debates on race, rights and citizenship that have driven the politics of aboriginality in other democracies – Australia, the United States – since the Second World War had never happened. And indeed, because they had not happened in India, we were left with an activist posture that was inseparable from racist and colonialist imaginations, in which race is biologically inherent, identity is beyond politics, some people are trustees, and others are held in trust. In this perspective, the ‘primitiveness’ and ‘vulnerability’ of  some people so defines who they are that if they were no longer primitive and vulnerable, they would no longer be people at all. So they must be ‘protected’ from change at all costs, protected from contact with outsiders, protected from information and pornography, and protected also from adaptation to the modern world of politics, money and rights, because adaptation suggests agency, which children cannot possess. They must be insulated in a bubble of jungle as a middle-class fantasy of pre-capitalist purity and innocence, cocooned in somebody else’s hope that capitalist society would not find them out. And because that hope is known to be false, and the insulated are a sort of living dead, the whole enterprise is shrouded in a vocabulary of imminent extinction and a sentimental, masochistic anguish that allows activists to weep at the podium.

I gave a mildly acidic talk that was greeted with consternation, archly disapproving remarks about ‘provocative’ ideas, and one woman announcing that she disagreed so comprehensively that she didn’t know where to begin objecting. The administrators and settlers were less disapproving, which I found more disturbing. But with progressives like these activists, reactionaries are redundant. Near the end of the conference, the principal organizer of the conference asked me to make some closing remarks that included policy recommendations. I was surprised, but obscure historians rarely get the chance to talk policy before a panel of senior administrators and I was happy to accept the invitation. So I hurriedly wrote a few words and went back to the podium. The audience this time was more openly hostile, and in the middle of my talk a few of them (including the activist who had been groped by the Jarawa) sprang to their feet and began objecting vehemently, having taken issue, no doubt, with my suggestion that the Jarawa be allowed to watch porn. The Lieutenant Governor had to intervene before I could continue. He also remarked that he would have preferred a conference organized ‘along Army lines.’

Small animated huddles developed when it was over. The English and Germans in the audience stood sympathetically over me, expressing their shock at what had happened: they had never seen anything like it. One of the JNU professors overheard them and offered, ‘People were outraged.’ For a moment I thought she meant that people had been outraged by the disruption; then I realized that she meant the disrupters had been justifiably outraged by my remarks. At that moment, I realized how profoundly out of step I was with both the left and the right wings of Indian democracy, and I needed very badly to skip the formal dinner and go drinking with the white folks.

The funny part of the episode is that nothing I said would be controversial in, say, North America or Australia. Here is the text of my recommendations to the Lieutenant Governor.

“Thinking Futures: The PVTGs of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands”
(Conference in Port Blair, December 4-5, 2014)
Policy Recommendations for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Satadru Sen

In the Constituent Assembly of India, Pandit Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar and their colleagues took the remarkable step of establishing suffrage without qualifications in a nation made up largely of illiterate, impoverished peasants and tribals. In doing so, they rejected the common colonial claim that most Indians were ‘not yet fit’ for democracy, and declared that all human adults are capable of functioning as citizens. They made no exception for hunter-gatherers or nomads. They assumed, liberally and boldly, that all citizens – even the most humble and ‘backward’ – can recognize their political interests, deal with the state on their own behalf, and participate in the functioning of the state. That assumption has not always worked perfectly, but it is nevertheless the ideological and moral basis of the Indian state.

Nehru and Ambedkar also understood that not all sections of society are equally strong, and that the state must assist and defend the weaker sections. But they saw no inconsistency between the protective state and the democratic state of universal adult suffrage. They suggested that the two concepts were mutually dependent: democracy must protect the weak, but the weak must have all the rights of citizenship in order for democracy to exist. This too is a foundation of the Republic of India.

Organized into the categories of "Rights, Representation and Information," "Education" and "Economy," the proposals put forward here are aimed at reconciling the ‘vulnerable’ condition of the Andamanese tribes with their status as Indian citizens, and to ensure that citizenship provides them with the same benefits and protections that other Indians expect for themselves.


Goals: To ensure to tribals their democratic and legal rights, and to provide them with information that would enable them to function as full citizens, while ensuring their dignity and protecting their identities as members of small tribal groups. The objective is neither to segregate the tribes from the mainstream, nor to deny the facts of their disadvantage and suddenly remove all protections. Accordingly, the objective of specific proposals I am making is to facilitate the tribals’ interaction with the mainstream on terms over which they – the tribals – have substantial control. Also, it is to revise the legal basis of tribal identity in a way that makes it possible for the tribes to grow and thrive. Most importantly, it is to create an administrative posture that treats the tribals as adults, not children.


1.      Exclusive tribal rights to the land of the tribal reserve must be protected.

2.      Within the reserve, there should be no special interference by the administration or AAJVS in the day-to-day lives of tribals: no attempts to regulate their moral lives or contacts with outsiders, no externally imposed restrictions on drinking, smoking, watching pornography, and so on.

3.      Tribal councils should be formed as soon as possible for the Jarawa and Onge. These councils (drawing upon tribal traditions of self-government whenever these are available), should be elected by members of the tribe to represent the tribes. These councils should be trained by the administration to gradually take over the management of tribal finances, and to conduct basic intra-tribal governance in a way that is consistent with the Indian Constitution. A similar council should be formed for the Great Andamanese when their population reaches 100, and for the Sentinelese if and when they give up their isolation.

4.      The issue of the ATR should be determined by the Jarawa themselves, either through the tribal council or through a referendum. We must not assume that the Jarawa want the road to be closed; nor should we make that determination for them. For all we know, they might want to keep the road open and collect a toll. Giving them the final say over the road would be consistent with the principle of tribal control over the territory of the reserve.

5.      A broader legal framework of tribal identity should be created, either nationally or locally. Women who marry non-tribal men should retain their tribal status. Children born of such unions (and all unions, marital or extra-marital) between tribal women and non-tribal men, as well as between tribal men and non-tribal women, should have tribal status, as should the children of those who are of ‘mixed’ race. There must be no insistence on ‘purity.’ This would bring administration in the islands in line with aboriginal policy in other democracies, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

6.      The administration should ensure that there is no barrier or discouragement (formal or informal) to marriage between tribals and non-tribals, or between people from different tribal groups.

7.      Social workers affiliated with the administration, ANTRI or AAJVS should be trained to provide tribals with information about their legal rights, constitutional rights, and the functioning of the court system. Social workers should also provide tribals with information about basic money-management, banking and access to credit.

8.      There should be no restrictions on the employment of tribals outside the reserve, anywhere in the A&N islands. Tribal employees who believe that they are being subjected to exploitative, abusive or illegal working conditions should have a readily accessible forum where they can file a complaint. That forum can be provided by the administration, ANTRI or AAJVS. It should be able to intervene quickly to resolve the situation, and to initiate police action if necessary.

9.      A similar forum should be maintained for complaints against abuse by the police.

10.  There should be no restrictions on the movement of tribals, within the islands and beyond.

11.  The right to vote must be ensured for members of tribal groups. The administration should take steps to provide voting cards, and to educate tribals about voting.

12.  The status and rights of Scheduled Tribes should be ensured for the Andamanese tribes, in education, employment and political representation.


Goals: To create in the islands a cultural and educational climate that is inclusive rather than exclusive, which is attractive and meaningful to tribal children and parents, and in which tribals and non-tribals can all participate and benefit. The objective is to give shape to tribal identities that fit comfortably with Indian society and produce genuine opportunities for economic mobility, and at the same time, to ensure that non-tribal Indians living in the islands are familiar and comfortable with the culture of the tribes.


1.      Andamanese languages such as Jarawa and Onge should be taught in the schools of the A&N Islands, in addition to Hindi and English. All children, tribal as well as non-tribal, should learn one tribal language. The administration need not insist that Jarawa children will learn Jarawa, Onge children will learn Onge, and so on. Any child should be free to learn any tribal language that is offered at his or her school. The objective should be to make all children in the islands familiar with a broadly conceived tribal culture, rather than lock them into closed and rigid identities. This will also allow for the protection of tribal languages within the established national policy of the Three Language Formula.

2.      Tribals should be employed in the schools as language teachers, on the same salary scale and with the same benefits as other teachers.

3.      The history of the islands, with an emphasis on the history of the tribes, should be taught to all children (tribal and non-tribal) in the schools, in addition to the standard curriculum of Indian history.

4.      The curriculum of the island schools should be broadly revised in a way that is sensitive to tribal culture, and that makes education directly relevant to the lives of the children. It is not that tribal children should not learn about Helen Keller and the American space program, but that this material should be balanced by topics closer to their home.  Teachers should be trained to teach this revised curriculum, and tribals recruited as teachers whenever possible. New textbooks should be created in consultation with ANTRI and made available to the schools. This restructured curriculum should be taught to all students, and not just tribal children.

5.      In teacher training as well as curricular development, ANTRI should liaise with institutions on the mainland, and initiate exchange programs for visiting instructors and trainees, so that experience and innovations can be shared widely and effectively.

6.      There should be no segregation of tribal and non-tribal children in the schools outside the reserve. Tribal children should be able to attend the same schools that non-tribal children attend.

7.      School enrollment should be mandatory. A special school should be established within the Jarawa reserve, and administered in close coordination with the Jarawa community. The curriculum should cover what is important to the Jarawa, without ignoring the general curriculum. Here as well as in schools outside the reserve, promising tribal students should be identified early, advised about further educational opportunities, and provided with the guidance of mentors affiliated with ANTRI.

8.      Computer literacy for tribal children should be a priority of the schools. Children should be given easy access to computers at the schools, and loans of tablet PCs if that is found practical. The Internet should be easily accessible from the reserve.


Goals: To equip tribals to engage the market on their own terms as far as possible, to minimize their disadvantages, and to allow them to benefit from their existing and potential resources. Economic policy should begin with an acknowledgment that tribal societies are unlikely to remain unaffected by the wider economy and media. ‘Traditional’ pursuits like hunting and gathering and subsistence fishing may become inadequate and unappealing to tribals themselves; there are signs that this has already happened to some extent. Economic alternatives should be structured in ways that allow the tribes to maintain control of their resources.


1.      Individual tribals who wish to set up business ventures, both within the reserve and outside, should be able to do so, subject to regulations and restrictions drawn up by the tribes themselves.

2.      Tribes should be encouraged and assisted in collective initiatives for selling reserve products and services to outsiders, subject to regulations and restrictions drawn up by the tribes themselves. Fish and crabs, which are currently harvested and sold illicitly and cheaply by tribals to non-tribal buyers, should be brought into a legal, regulated system of prices and transactions.

3.      Tribes should receive a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of merchandise directly related to tribal culture (such as dolls, masks, performances, etc.).

4.      A financial institution should be established for the tribes, to coordinate small savings, the investment of tribal funds and the provision of credit.