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Andaman Islands (Aborigines)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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asked the UnderSecretary of State for India whether any estimates have been made at any time of the numbers of the aboriginal tribes of the Andaman Islands such as the Jarawas, Onges and Sentineles, in view of the fact that it is known that there are 30 Chinese and 35 Europeans; and what steps he will take to obtain such estimates if they are not available.

According to the Administration Report for the year ending March, 1940, there were then 63 Andaman aborigines living on North Andaman. There were also some Onges living on Little Andaman and Rutland Islands, and two parties of Jarawas living on South and Middle Andaman. The numbers of these two communities were not, however, reported. I have no information about the Sentineles or as to the number of these communities subsequent to the Japanese occupation, but I am asking the Government of India for the latest detailed information available. I should like this answer to be taken as correcting the statement made in reply to a supplementary by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) on 10th March, that there are 5,000 aboriginals in these Islands.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, during the time the Andaman Islands were used as a penal settlement, they were almost entirely denuded of their aboriginal inhabitants, whereas those of the Nicobar Islands, a neighbouring group, have retained their identity? Is it too late to take active steps to preserve the aboriginal tribes, who have been there a long time?

That is an entirely different question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put it down.

Is it proposed to have any sort of plebiscite, to see if those people want to be handed over to India?