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Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands (Hindi: अण्डमान द्वीप समूह, Tamil: அந்தமான் தீவுகள்) are a group of archipelagic islands in the Bay of Bengalmarker, and are part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker Union Territory of Indiamarker. The Andaman Archipelago is an oceanic continuation of the Burmese Arakan Yoma rangemarker in the North and of the Indonesian Archipelago in the South. It includes some two hundred islands.

Port Blairmarker is the chief community on the islands, and the administrative centre of the Union Territory. The Andaman Islands form a single administrative district within the Union Territory, the Andaman district (the Nicobar district was separated and established as a new district in 1974). The population of the Andamans was 314,084 in 2001.

Climate

The climate is typical of tropical islands of similar latitude. It is always warm, but with sea-breezes. Rainfall is irregular, but usually dry during the north-east, and very wet during the south-west, monsoons.

People

For information on the indigenous languages, see Andamanese languages


Of the slightly more than 300,000 people that live in the Andaman Islands, a small minority of about 1,000 are indigenous Adivasis of the Andamans. The rest are mainly divided between Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi speaking people from the mainland.

The Andamanese is a collective term to describe the peoples who are the aboriginal inhabitants of the Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islandsmarker, located in the Bay of Bengalmarker. The term includes the Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge, Shompen, Sentinelese and the extinct Jangil. Anthropologically they are usually classified as Negritos, represented also by the Semang of Malaysiamarker and the Aeta of the Philippinesmarker.

The Andamans are theorized to be a key stepping stone in a great coastal migration of humans from Africa via the Arabian peninsula, along the coastal regions of the Indian mainland and towards Southeast Asia, Japanmarker and Oceania. Genetic analysis indicates that male Onges and Jarawas almost exclusively belong to Haplotype D, which is also found in Tibet and Japanmarker, but is rare on the Indian mainland and elsewhere in Asia. However, this is a subclade of the D haplogroup which has not been seen outside of the Andamans, marking the insularity of these tribes. The only other group that is known to predominantly belong to haplogroup D are the Ainu aboriginal people of Japan. Male Great Andamanese, unlike the Onge and the Jarawa, have a mixed presence of Y-chromosome halpgroups O, L, K and P, which places them between mainland Indian and Asian populations.

The mtDNA distribution, which indicates maternal descent, describes all the Onge and a heavy majority of the Great Andamanese as belonging to haplogroup M, found ubiquitously in India, where it represents 60% of all maternal lineages. Given the insularity of the Andamanese, this has led geneticists to believe that this haplogroup originated with the earliest settlers of India during the coastal migration that brought the ancestors of the Andamanese to the Indian mainland, the Andaman Islands and further afield to Southeast Asia. Some anthropologists postulate that Southern India and Southeast Asia was once populated largely by Negritos similar to those of the Andamans, and that some tribal populations in the south of India, such as the Irulas are remnants of that period.

History

comparative distributions of Andamanese indigenous peoples, pre-18C vs present-day
The name "Andaman" first appears in the work of Arab geographers of the ninth century, though it is uncertain whether ancient geographers like Ptolemy also knew of the Andamans but referred to them by a different name. They were also described as being inhabited by fierce cannibalistic tribes by the Persian navigator Buzurg ibn Shahriyar of Ramhormuz in his tenth century book Ajaib al-Hind (The wonders of India), in which he also mentioned an island he called Andaman al-Kabir (Great Andaman). During the Chola dynasty period in South India (800-1200CE), which ruled an empire encompassing southeastern peninsular India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Maldivesmarker, and large parts of current day Sri Lankamarker, Indonesiamarker and Malaysiamarker, the island group was referred to as Timaittivu (or impure islands). Marco Polo briefly mentions the Andamans (calling them by the name "Angamanain"), although it is doubtful that he visited the islands himself because he also claimed that the human inhabitants had dogs' heads. Another Italian traveler, Niccolò Da Conti (c. 1440), mentioned the islands and said that the name means "Island of Gold". A theory that became prevalent in the late nineteenth century, and has since gained momentum, is that the name of the islands derives from the Sanskrit language, by way of Malay, and refers to the deity, Hanuman. In the Age of Exploration, travelers often noted the "ferocious hostility" of the Andamanese.

The Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre used the Andamans as a base and "fought the British off these islands until his death in 1729."

British Occupation and Penal Colony

In 1789 the government of Bengalmarker established a penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman, now known as Port Blairmarker (after the British Army officer Col. Blair who founded it). After two years, the colony moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Cornwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.

In 1824 Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives, alarming the British government. In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishmentmarker, but the Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay in its construction. However, since the rebellion gave the British so many prisoners, it made the new Andaman settlement and prison an urgent necessity. Construction began in November 1857 at Port Blair using inmates' labor, avoiding the vicinity of a salt swamp which seemed to have been the source of many of the earlier problems at Port Cornwallis.

In 1867, the ship Nineveh wrecked on the reef of North Sentinel Island. The 86 survivors reached the beach in the ship's boats. On the 3rd day, they were attacked with iron-tipped spears by naked islanders. One person from the ship escaped in a boat. ( Goodheart)

For some time sickness and mortality were excessively high, but swamp reclamation and extensive forest clearance continued. The Andaman colony acquired notoriety following the murder of the Viceroy Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo on a visit to the settlement (8 February 1872) by a Muslim convict, a Pathan from Afghanistan, named Sher Ali. In the same year the two island groups, Andaman and Nicobar, were united under a chief commissioner residing at Port Blair.
The Ross Island Prison Headquarters, 1872


The above accounts, written while Britain still controlled India, may leave the impression that these settlements were a model of progressive penal reform. Indian accounts, however, paint a different picture. From the time of its development in 1858 under the direction of James Pattison Walker, and in response to the mutiny and rebellion of the previous year, the settlement was first and foremost a repository for political prisoners. The Cellular Jailmarker at Port Blair when completed in 1910 included 698 cells designed for solitary confinement; each cell measured by with a single ventilation window above the floor. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was one of the notable prisoners there.

This was the second concentration camp in the world, the first being in South Africa after the Boer War, and was founded by the British to suppress the Indian independence movement; the Indians imprisoned here referred to the Island and its prison as "Kala Pani" (Black water) (See also movie by the same name which deals with some of these events Kalapani). While the exact number of prisoners who died in this camp is not fully known, it is estimated they number in the thousands (some of the names of the political prisoners who perished can be found here - this list is predominantly of those from eastern India and is incomplete). Many more died of harsh treatment, as well as through the harsh living and working conditions, in this camp.

The Viper Chain Gang Jail on Viper Island was reserved for troublemakers, and was also the site of hangings. In the 20th century it became a convenient place to house prominent members of India's independence movement.

Japanese occupation

The Andaman islands were later occupied by Japanmarker during World War II. The islands were nominally put under the authority of the Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind (Provisional Government of Free India) headed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Netaji visited the islands during the war, and renamed them as Shaheed (Martyr) & Swaraj (Self-rule). On December 30, 1943 during the Japanese occupation, Subhas Chandra Bose, who was controversially allied with the Japanese, first raised the flag of Indian independence. General Loganathan, of the Indian National Army, was Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which had been annexed to the Provisional Government. After the end of the war they briefly returned to British control, before becoming part of the newly independent state of India.
Andaman Islands


At the close of the Second World War the British government announced its intention to abolish the penal settlement. The government proposed to employ former inmates in an initiative to develop the island's fisheries, timber, and agricultural resources. In exchange inmates would be granted return passage to the Indian mainland, or the right to settle on the islands. The penal colony was eventually closed on August 15, 1947 when India gained its independence. It has since served as a museum to the independence movement.

Recent history

In 1974, a film crew and anthropologist Mr. Trilokinath Pandit attempted friendly contact by leaving a tethered pig, some pots and pans, some fruit and toys on the beach at North Sentinel Island. One of the islanders shot the film director in the thigh with an arrow. The following year, European visitors were repulsed with arrows. ( Pandit, Goodheart, McGirk)

On August 2, 1981, the ship Primrose grounded on the North Sentinel Island reef. A few days later, crewmen on the immobile vessel observed small black men were carrying spears and arrows and building boats on the beach. The captain of the Primrose radioed for an urgent airdrop of firearms so the crew could defend themselves, but did not receive them. Heavy seas kept the islanders away from the ship. After a week, the crew were rescued by an Indian navy helicopter. ( Goodheart)

On January 4, 1991, Mr. Pandit had the first known friendly contact with the Sentinelese. ( McGirk)

Until 1996, the Jarawa met all visitors with flying arrows. From time to time they attacked and killed poachers on the lands reserved to them by the Indian government. They also killed some workers building the ATR Andaman Trunk Road, the route of which traverses Jarawa lands. The first peaceful contact with the Jarawa occurred in 1996. Settlers found a teenage Jarawa boy named Emmei near Kadamtala town. The boy was immobilized with a broken foot. They took Emmei to a hospital where he received good care. Over several weeks, Emmei learned a few words of Hindi before returning to his jungle home. The following year, Jarawa individuals and small groups began appearing along roadsides and occasionally venturing into settlements to steal food. The ATR may have interfered with traditional Jarawa food sources. ( Sekhsaria, Valelly, Survival)

On 26 December 2004 the coast of the Andaman Islands was devastated by a high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquakemarker.

On 11 August 2009 a magnitude 7 earthquake struck near the Andaman Islands, causing a tsunami warning to go into effect.

Air transport

The only airport in the islands is Vir Savarkar Airportmarker in Port Blair, which has scheduled services to Kolkatamarker and Chennaimarker. The airport is under control of the Indian Air Force, so night flights are not allowed.

Due to the length of these routes and the small number of airlines flying to the islands, fares have traditionally been relatively expensive, although cheaper for locals than visitors.

Fares are high during peak seasons of spring and winter, but fares have been decreased over the time due to large expansion of aviation industry in India. Now going to Andaman through air is almost equal to the fares given via ship route.

In popular culture

The islands are prominently featured in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Sign of the Four, as well as in M.M. Kaye's "Death in the Andamans." The magistrate in Lady Gregory's play Spreading the News had formerly served in the islands. A principal character in the book "Six Suspects" (ISBN 0385608152) by Vikas Swarup is from the Andaman Islands. Kala Pani, a 1996 Indian film by Priyadarshan on freedom struggle and the lives of prisoners in Andaman Islands.

See also



Notes

  1. Andaman & Nicobar Islands at a glance
  2. Y-DNA Haplogroup D and its Subclades - 2008
  3. Revathi Rajkumar et al., Phylogeny and antiquity of M macrohaplogroup inferred from complete mt DNA sequence of Indian specific lineages, BMC Evolutionary Biology 2005, 5:26 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-5-26
  4. History of Andaman Cellular Jail
  5. Kala Pani (1996)
  6. Andaman Islands Political Prisoners
  7. The Hindu : Opinion / News Analysis : Hundred years of the Andamans Cellular Jail


References

External links




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