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Thousands join travel boycott of India's Andaman Islands news
23 May 2013

Just weeks after non-profit tribal rights campaigner Survival International launched a tourism boycott of India's Andaman Islands in June 2011 with, renewd in April this year to stop the degrading 'human safaris' to the Jarawa tribe, the campaign has been gaining momentum as travel companies join the boycott and thousands of people pledge not to visit the islands (See: Survival launches tourism boycott of Andaman Islands).

 
Survival's call to stop tourists traveling through the Jarawa's land has been backed by thousands. © Ariberto De Blasoni/Survival

Following worldwide media coverage, with articles appearing in The Hindu and this website in India, The Telegraph in the UK, International Business Times and the activism site Take Part in America, amongst many others, over thousands have pledged not to visit the islands until the tours are stopped (See: UK newspaper reports tourists still 'flock' to Andamans for 'human safaris').

Travelpickr, a global company based in Canada with op0erations in India, and Spanish company Orixà Viatges became the first tour operators to withdraw from offering tours to the Andamans.

René Trescases, the head of Travelpickr, said, "At Travelpickr we were appalled to learn about the 'human safaris' to the Jarawa and have now withdrawn over 40 tours to the Andaman Islands. We hope that the local administration will act quickly to stop this disgraceful practice, or it risks damaging the islands' reputation as a popular travel destination.'

Spanish travel agency Orixà Viatges said, 'We have removed the Andaman Islands from our list of tourist destinations. At Orixà Viatges we don't understand this kind of tourism – we believe that people and cultures should be treated with respect, rather than used by unscrupulous people making a profit out of 'human safaris'.'

 
 The Jarawa's way of life is severely disrupted by hundreds of ogling tourists passing through their land every day. © Survival

Hundreds of tourists, the majority from India, Israel, America and Britain, travel along a road which runs through the Jarawa reserve on a daily basis. Many hope to spot a member of the 400-strong Jarawa tribe, whose ancestors are thought to have been part of the first human migration out of Africa, treating them like animals in a zoo.

The 'human safaris' have been condemned by the United Nations and even India's government minister, who called them 'disgraceful' and 'an embarrassment', and thousands of letters have been sent to the Indian government asking for the tours to be stopped.

But despite the Supreme Court of India in an interimorder in January 2013 temporarily stopped tourists from traveling along the road (See: 'Human safari' row goes to India's Supreme Court) , the Andaman administration has done everything in its means to keep the road open to tourists – even changing its own rules on a buffer zone to enable the 'human safaris' to continue.

Alarm bells rang when the Court reportedly asked the Andaman authorities 'whether they wanted the Jarawa to be kept in isolation or to be assimilated in the mainstream'. Forcing tribal peoples into the mainstream has disastrous consequences, as rates of disease, depression, addiction and suicide soar.

The government's official Jarawa policy states that, "No attempts to bring them (the Jarawa) to the mainstream society against their conscious will … will be made." But Indian politicians have repeatedly called for their mainstreaming.

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'In travelers' eyes, the Andamans are increasingly becoming synonymous with 'human safaris'. The islands' reputation has undoubtedly been severely damaged by the scandal. It's surprising that the local government is so reluctant to provide tourists and locals with an alternative sea route, given that it's far quicker and cheaper to travel by boat.'

Survival says it will continue to call for a full boycott of tourism to the Andaman Islands until its demands of removing tourists from the road through the Jarawa reserve are met.





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Thousands join travel boycott of India's Andaman Islands