"It's deplorable. You cannot treat human beings like beasts for the sake of money." That is the statement made by India's Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo on Wednesday after an investigation was launched into a depraved tourist-attraction promoting "human zoos."
"Whatever kind of tourism is that, I totally disapprove of that and it is being banned also," the minister added.
As The Guardian explains, the Jarawa tribe have inhabited the Andaman Islands for thousands of years. Now tourism companies are operating daily "safaris" through natives' jungle and wealthy tourists are allegedly paying police to make the women -- typically naked -- dance for their amusement.
The following footage, filmed by a tourist, shows Jarawa women being told to dance by an off-camera police officer:
AFP via Yahoo! adds:
Under Indian laws designed to protect ancient tribal groups susceptible to outside influence and disease, photographing or coming into contact with the Jarawa and some of the Andaman aborigines is banned. [...]
"An inquiry has been ordered and it is being headed by the chief secretary and director-general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," Deo told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Survival International, which lobbies on behalf of tribal groups worldwide, said the video showed tourists apparently enjoying "human zoos."
"Quite clearly, some people's attitudes towards tribal peoples haven't moved on a jot. The Jarawa are not circus ponies bound to dance at anyone's bidding," said Stephen Corry, the group's director, in a press release.
But questions have since surfaced as to whether the video taken was in fact recent. State anthropologist A. Justin, who reportedly works on the islands, stated:
"Before the 2004 tsunami, people might have forced them to dance and there may have been some much smaller violations since then...Since the tsunami, a policy of maximum autonomy with minimum intervention has been put in place. Things are being taken care of these days. There is a lot of (security) coverage there now."
Justin told AFP that the video appeared to be several years old, while police in Port Blair also suggested it was likely taken years ago.
"The video appears to be six to seven years old when Jarawas remained unclothed but now they wear dresses in public," Director-General of Police Samsher Deol said.
"Nonetheless we have launched a probe because we want to know who is the videographer who has committed an offence and we also want to know who bribed and who has been bribed," Deol said.