Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Andaman and Nicobar

People & Lifestyle

The original tribal people who lived here are the great Andamanese, Jarawas, Sentinelese and Onges in the Andaman group, and the Nicobarese and Shompens in the Nicobar group. Along with them, the present-day Andaman and Nicobar Islands is home to descendants of hundreds of prisoners from all parts of India who were constituted the penal settlement during the British Raj. They are the offspring's of the Moplas of Malabar deported during the Mopla Rebellion, the Kilafat movement and refugees from east Pakistan who settled over thirty years ago with hope for a new life; or ex-servicemen of the Indian Army; of jobseekers and adventurers from every corner of India. 


In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, more than 50 percent of the population is made up of settlers from the mainland India. That is why many describe Andamans as Little India or mini-India. Everyone speaks Hindi no matter which part of the mainland he comes from. The settlers or ancestors of these settlers came either prior to 1947 or after 1947.

In the course of seven or eight decades, till about the thirties, thousands of prisoners form north, south, east and west and central Indian regions were brought in. Many women came there as prisoners or as relations to liberated prisoners.  Majority of prisoners after serving their term chose to stay on. There was a lot of social mixing without any inhabitation of traditional social restraints. There were inter-caste and inter-creed marriages. Thus a new social order and culture evolved, discarding the values of traditional society and culture of the mainland.

In the early twenties several hundred Moplas or Mappillas were deported following the Malabar revolt. Many of them later brought their families and relatives to settle down in the Andamans. Many villages in South Andamans are inhabited by them forming a big chunk of Malayalam speaking population there. In the case of Moplas their traditional life style has not changed much. They still maintain their separate identity. 

Karens migrated in 1925 to work as forest Labourers. Later they settled down on agricultural land in Middle Andamans. At present some of them live in separate settlements doing fisherman's job and hunting in Maimyo and Herbertabad. Many Burmans in Maimyo and Burma after 1966. They too had come as convicts. The few who remain have preserved their distinct identity. The Karens are concentrated in webi, Base and Letaw.

Bhantus are a tribe which robbed people in North and Central India in the early 20th century. In 1926 a gang of them were sent to Andaman's from Indian Jails.  They had volunteered for the migration. These people and their descendants now inhabit some villages in South Andaman's and are now leading a peaceful life as respectable citizens. Growth of such homogeneous communities in respective pockets were encouraged by the British administration. Special schools were run for their sake. These helped in their healthy rehabilitation and survival as such homogeneous group

After the partition of the country and Independence i.e. after 1947, the influx has been mainly of Bengalese-refugees from the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Such Bengalese now form the largest single linguistic group in the territory. These Bengalese refugees are settled in villages in South, Middle, North and Little Andaman's .Most of them were landless Labourers and of low caste status. Now as landowners they are doing well. Each family has been given five acres of cleared land on plains for paddy cultivation and five acres more of un-cleared land for homestead and horticultural purposes together with ex-gratia grant of Rs.1050 to each family. The money was for house building, animals and the rest for seeds. They have brought the customs and folk culture of their original habitat. Other Moplas and Malayalis both Hindus and Christians also came after 1947 in search of office jobs. They are working in offices.

Some tribal people from Chota Nagpur Region have also migrated here in search of jobs. They are working in Forest, Public works Department, etc. In the past, during British regime people from Chota Nagpur Tribal belt were brought to work as forest Labourers. They are hardly and good workers and are in great demand. Their main settlement is at Baratang in Middle Andamans .

They originally had belonged to various places and groups like Oraon, Kharia, Munda, Mahli Turi Ghasi, Cheek and Dom etc. But in Andamans they are labeled as Ranchis as Ranchi was their recruiting centre. They are a heterogeneous group but the common factor of tribal life than strings them is their addiction to traditional Tribal drink called Handia. 

The second largest linguistic group are the people settled from Tamil Nadu. They are elites from the mainland manning senior positions in Government offices, enterprises and tourist organizations etc. Various social, cultural and economic factors are at work to create co-existence of various ethnic groups in a composite culture.