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"Change is the law of nature. In life,

every particle and substance, be it
electron-small or mountain -big, is
continuously changing. Every change
leases life to it and every decay gives it
a new birth. Society is no exception.
The changes we witness today are
bound to give way to some new
changes hidden in the womb of time"
(Bukhari: 2006)
A war to many was salvation for some. So was the case of the cargo cults of Vanuatu, a remote
island in the South Pacific of Australia, during the Second World War. After the planes dropped
food and supplies to the islanders, the group began to believe that cargo would be brought to them
by a Messiah. Consequently, whenever they saw a plane fly overhead, they would build a replica
- in the hope of more bounty. The islanders prospered from the flood of food and supplies. For
them, the plane is still a “deity more powerful than Jesus”.

The Vanuatu Cargo sect

But why did this accidental intervention bring life to the generally sleepy and isolated island of
The answer lies in gradual and altruistic integration.
Before I elaborate, I would like to state a few points as to why John Allen Chau’s demise by the
hands of the Sentinelese tribe was more of an inevitable occurrence and why these isolated tribes
are hostile towards external forces.
Fear factor
It is almost always fear that motivates such hostilities and keeps isolated groups from making
contact. In past centuries and even decades, isolated tribes were often murdered and enslaved by
outsiders. From the time white Europeans first arrived in the Americas, indigenous peoples learned
to fear them, and passed that message down generations through oral histories.
“People have this romanticized view that isolated tribes have chosen to keep away from the
modern, evil world,” says Kim Hill, an anthropologist at Arizona State University. But when Hill
and others interview people who recently came out of isolation, the same story emerges time and
time again: they were interested in making contact with the outside world, but they were too afraid
to do so. The same was the case with The Sentinelese. The British colonial occupation of the
Andaman Islands decimated the tribes living there, wiping out thousands of tribespeople, rendering

only a fraction of the original population to now survive. So, the Sentinelese fear of outsiders is
very understandable and the fact that they have shown again and again that they want to be left
alone, is only understandable in this scenario.
I would like to further discuss about the various approaches to Tribal settlements and the
philosophy behind them.
How did this ideology come out to be?
The British government, described the tribals as a distinct group, isolated people. During the
British period the tribal settlements were brought nearer and closer to the non-tribal society
because of the expansion of transport and communication. This led to creating of many
administrative problems for the British regime which led to the framing of laws. The colonial rule,
in fact, was forced to come out with a policy resulting from the consequences of the tribal
interaction with the non-tribals due to administrative concerns.
Isolationism emerged out of the British view of the tribals. It was oriented towards keeping the
tribals in their areas untouched by outside civilization. O'Malley (1908) clearly pointed out the
evils imported upon the tribals by the British rule. He opined that history of the tribal people during
their British contact was a somewhat distressing record of the effects of an alien civilization
impinging on simple and backward people.
Isolationism argument
Isolationism advocates like V. Elwin (1900) strongly put forward the point that the opening of the
tribal areas can spoil in the long run tribal religion, art, and organization. Nothing sort of absolute
isolation would solve the problems of the tribals.
My issue with Isolationism
Not only does it stem from a school of thought that was designed purely on internal differentiation
by the British but to keep these people confined to and isolated in their inaccessible hills and
jungles is just like keeping them in glass cases of a museum for the curiosity of purely academic
persons. This policy of treating the tribals just like 'domestic cattle' is disgraceful and a middle
ground has to be met.
Whatever may be the approach towards the tribal problem, one thing must be taken into account
that statements of romantic nature of preserving the tribal rich cultural legacy are a far cry today.
Expansion of transport, communication and media networks, different government projects to
improve the lot of tribals, process of modernization have created awareness among the tribals

A Better Approach
A better approach would be better if we initiated contact but slowly building up a long-distance
friendship, and then carrying out a controlled contact meeting with provision of better facilities
and amenities. After that initial contact is made, anthropologists should be prepared to go back
into the forest with the group and stay on site to monitor the situation for several months, as well
as build up trust and communication. Incentivize them slowly and remove the threat perception
they have.
Integration – The larger picture
While tribal identity should be preserved, tribals should develop in their own way without let or
hindrance. Each group must be able to uphold its cultural heritage with dignity and sense of
achievement. Integration is a dynamic and continuing process which necessarily involves give-
and-take by the various sections of the national community this process could never be complete.
This statement is very much relevant today and it will remain in the days to come because it has a
ring of eternal truth in it which is based on humanitarian outlook and humanism.
Thus, integration with periodic and planned contact with isolated tribal communities can be used
to converge divergent cultures without loss of identity and individuality.


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