Few in number, little-known, barely understood, unpredictable and extinct or difficult to approach, why should the Andamanese tribes be of more than passing interest in a world where tribes on the verge of cultural and physical extinction number in their thousands. Here is why.
The Andamanese Negrito are a people of the strangest genetic, cultural, linguistic and social connections and characteristics. No other living human population has experienced such long-lasting isolation from contact with other groups. It is as certain as such a thing can be at the present state of our knowledge that they represent the least changed survivors of the first migration of homo sapiens into
The Andaman archipelago today is part of the Indian Union and the Andamanese Negrito are Indian citizens, even if they do not know. The Indian government is their guardian and it is one that has not taken its responsibility very seriously until now (apart from ringing statements to the contrary). Many reasonable Indians and including judges of the Supreme Court of India are beginning to see that this point of view is not "anti-Indian" (as indeed it is not). With recent very positive Supreme Court decisions (see Appendix N), it may still be time to save some Andamanese groups from being brought into the nationalist dream of a "mainstream Indian civilization". The fulfilment of that dream would not only be a nightmare for the Andamanese, it would be cultural and physical death to these tiny groups. There are less than 500 Andamanese Negrito today while the total population of
The tiny, jet-black Andamanese Negrito pygmies were known and feared from the earliest recorded times. Their neighbours called them "monkeys," or "Hanuman people" after the Hindu monkey god. Another common name for them was "Rakshasas," demons or goblins from Hindu mythology. It is interesting to note that Andamanese brought to
The Andamanese Negrito represent a period of Indian prehistory so ancient that it makes even the earliest Indian epics look recent by comparison. They and their way of life are as much part of
Whatever the exact role the Andamanese played in the history of the human race, they deserve our greatest respect, sympathy and unobtrusive interest.