ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a union territory
. Informally, the territory's name is often abbreviated to A & N Islands, or ANI. It is located in the Indian Ocean
, in the southern reaches of the Bay of Bengal
. It is comprised of two island groups -the Andaman Islands
and the Nicobar Islands
- which separate the Andaman Sea
to the east from the Indian Ocean. These two groups are separated by the 10° N parallel, the Andamans lying to the north of this latitude
, and the Nicobars to the south. The capital of this territory is the Andamanese town of Port Blair
The name Andaman presumably comes from Handuman, which is Malay
for the Hindu god Hanuman
. The name Nicobar is Malay
for land of the naked (people).
The Andaman and Nicobar islands have been inhabited for several thousand years, at the very least. The earliest archaeological
evidence yet documented goes back some 2,200 years
; however, the indications from genetic
isolation studies point to habitation going back 30,000 to 60,000 years, well into the Middle Paleolithic
For many years Malays have used these islands for piratical activities in the Strait of Malacca and trading in Andamanese slaves, most popular being the Shompens from Nicobar Islands of bigger and stronger stature compaired to other tribes. The slaves found their way to the courts of Siam, Cambodia and Indo-China accelerating the hostility on the part of the aborigines to all visitors to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Most accounts where the islands are mentioned - Hindu, Greek, Chinese, Italian and English - are indicating the tribes are being feared and avoided, and crews from wrecked ships or those coming for fresh water or seeking shelter from the storm were generally slain and their ships looted and destroyed by the natives.
In this way the use of iron for weapons and tools was learned, the metal being collected from many a shipwreck along the shores of the islands. As for the preparation of iron, local level of technology wasn't capable of producing fire, but only to reuse and preserve fire.
Among pirates the tribes appear to have earned them a reputation for cannibalism, a theory which has not been confirmed. Rather the practice of throwing the vivisected bodies of their enemies onto a fire according to their superstition may be the observations from where the theory had its origin.
In the Andaman Islands, the various Andamanese
peoples maintained their separated existence through the vast majority of this time, diversifying into distinct linguistic, cultural and territorial groups. By the 1850s
when they first came into sustained contact by outside groups, the indigenous peoples
of the Andamans were:
the Great Andamanese
, who collectively represented at least 10 distinct sub-groups and languages;
(or Rutland Jarawa);
(most isolate of all the groups).
In total, these peoples numbered somewhere around 7,000 at the time of these first encounters. As the numbers of settlers from the mainland increased (at first mostly prisoners and involuntary indentured labourers
, later purposefully recruited farmers), these indigenous peoples lost territory and numbers in the face of land encroachment and the effects of various epidemic diseases
. The Jangil and most of the Great Andamanese groups soon became extinct; presently there remain only approximately 400-450 indigenous Andamanese, the Jarawa and Sentinelese in particular maintaining a steadfast independence and refusing most attempts at contact.
The indigenous peoples of the Nicobars (unrelated to the Andamanese) have a similarly isolated and lengthy association with the islands. There are two main groups:
, or Nicobari, living throughout many of the islands; and
, restricted to the interior of Great Nicobar
After an initial attempt to set up a colony in the islands by the British was abandoned after only a few years (1789
), a second attempt from 1858
proved to be more permanent. The primary purpose was to set up a penal colony
for dissenters and independence fighters from the Indian subcontinent
To secure the sailing route from pirates as well as natives the British settled from 1789 onwards on Andaman Islands, initiated by Lord Cornwallis who sent Lt. Archibald Blair to survey the islands for the purpose of colonization. First on Chatham Island (Port Blair), later in the present Port Conwallis in the north-east. The fever forced the British to abolish the settlement in 1796, and not until 1857-58 the colonization finally succeeded by the founding of Port Blair and a penal settlement for Indian freedom fighters from the Mutiny against the British on the Indian subcontinent. Kalapani - the black waters - still have a mytic connotation for Indians, and the penalty island at the edge of the world is still considered an outpost for Indians pilgriming here to salute the national heroes in the setting of Cellular Jail.
The Andamanese fought and resisted the settlement for many years, living as they had been used to on these islands for ages. Their population at the time of the second British invasion in 1957-58 was estimated to be about 5000, compaired to a mere 400 in 1895.
Radcliffe-Brown did his fieldwork in the Andamans from 1906 to 1908. He was the first anthropologist to make a clear distinction between the Great Andaman Group (including all Great Andaman tribes except Jarawa) and the Little Andaman Group which includes: The Onge of Little Andaman, the Jarawa of South Andaman and the Sentinelese on North Sentinel Island.
On the adjoining Nicobar Islands the Danes were fighting the fever too, and colonization expeditions from Tranquebar settled on the islands from 1756-59 and again from 1768-87, until Denmark finally quitted the devastating conditions in 1869 and sold the Nicobar Islands to the British. The health condition was quite simple threatening for Europeans and the profit from the trade much too low.
Whereas the tribes on Andaman Islands are negritos, the Nicobares and Shompen tribes of Nicobar Islands are both mongoloid, signifying a quite different origin. The Andaman tribes are primary hunter-gathers, while the Nicobar tribes are farmers and herders. At present the Nicobar Islands are not open to foreign travellers, only Indians being allowed to visit the islands.
Around Mayabunder on North Andaman Island decendents from a Burmese tribe, the Karens, are found. They were brought in by the British as labourers in 1925 and has partly been assimilated, partly forced to return to Burma. On Interview Island the remnants frequently poach for spotted deer, wild pig and turtles.
During The second World War the Andaman Islands were occupied by Japanese forces. Much harresment took place also involving the Jarawa who were captured and their settlements in the jungle bombed from airfighters. When the islands were liberated by Mountbatten in 1945 thousands of aborigines and convicts were released from their Japanese custody. Two years later Andaman & Nicobar Islands joined the independent India, in fact Port Blair was the first place where the new Indian national flag was officially raised in 1947.
The British used the islands as an isolated prison for members of the Indian independence movement
. The mode of imprisonment was called Kalapani
. The Cellular Jail
in Port Blair was regarded as the "Siberia
" of British India
. The British
continued their occupancy until the Japanese
took over during World War II
The islands were nominally put under the authority of the Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind
of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
. Netaji visited the islands during the war, and renamed them as "Shaheed" (Martyr) & "Swaraj" (Self-rule). General Loganathan, of the Indian National Army
was Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
It became an Indian union territory (UT) along with the declaration of India
's independence in 1947
There are over 570 islands
in the territory, of which only some 38 are permanently inhabited. Most of the islands (about 550) are in the Andamans group, 26 of which are inhabited. The smaller Nicobars are comprised of some 22 main islands (12 inhabited). The Andmans and Nicobars are separated by a channel (the Ten Degree Channel
) some 150 km
The total area of the Andaman Islands is some 6,408 km2
; that of the Nicobar Islands approximately 1,841 km2.
As a Union Territory, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is nominally under the direct control of the Indian Head of State. In practice, the position of Lt. Governor is appointed to directly administer the territory.
The territory is divided into two districts
for administrative purposes. These are the Andaman district
and Nicobar district
, responsible for their respective island groups. Each district is headed by a Deputy Commissioner, in charge of the various local administrative service departments, assisted by several Assistant Commissioners and sundry other posts. the districts also have Indian Administrative Service
-appointed post of district collector
, responsible for overseeing revenue collection and some other related services. In both cases, this post forms part of the Deputy Commissioners' portfolios, rather than being held by a separate individual.
In turn, these two districts are further sub-divided into administrative entities known locally as tehsils
, which are roughly equivalent to local councils or counties
. The tehsils are also grouped into local Sub-Divisions, another administrative level which primarily serves as a basis for the combining of local resources. In the case of the Nicobars, the Sub-Divisions and the tehsils are effectively one and the same.
By district, these Sub-Divisions and tehsils are:
South Andaman subdivision:Port Blair tehsilFerrargunj
Nancowry subdivision:Nancowry tehsil
Car Nicobar subdivision:Car Nicobar tehsil
Nancowry tehsil covers all of the Nicobars except for Car Nicobar
; it has two administrative centres, one on Kamorta
and the other at Campbell Bay
, each directed by a Deputy Commissioner.
On 26 December 2004
the coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were devastated by a 10 metre
following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
. At least 7,000 people (possibly a conservative estimate) were believed to have been killed on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands during the disaster.
While newer settlers of the islands suffered the greatest casualties from the tsunami, most of the aboriginal people survived because oral traditions passed down from generations ago warned them to evacuate from large waves that follow large earthquakes.