Millennium Post

In a first, govt plans book for Anandaman tribals

A konyune onorange-tanka move has been made by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for the Onge tribe of Andamans & Nicobar Islands. This might sound weird for most of us, but not exactly for the people who are working exhaustively to come out with a textbook meant exclusively for the aboriginal tribe of the archipelago — Onge — who are very aka-bea kuk-l-ar-beringa with the move.

In their language ‘konyune onorange-tanka’ means ‘welcome’ and aka-bea kuk-l-ar-beringa means happy.

Considering the need of basic education among the Onge tribes, the Tribal Welfare Department in Port Blair has started working on first of its kind — a pictorial book in ‘Ongan’ (language of Onge tribe). Although it’s a difficult and challenging job, but the officials have already engaged researchers and professors who are having expertise in tribal languages and worked in this field for several years.

Presently, all the Onge tribes are confined to Dugong Creek and not considered as ‘un-contacted’ like Sentinelese who lives in North Sentinel Island. Onges are semi-nomadic and used to be fully dependent on hunting and gathering for food but now the local administration provides them ration and clothes. Though they are not used to wearing clothes but slowly they are developing a liking towards covering their body.

Speaking to the Millennium Post Arun Gupta, Assistant Commissioner of the Tribal Welfare-Port Blair, said, ‘We have already started working on the book, which will be Ongan to English. Though it is in a preliminary stage but we are hopeful that soon it will be completed.’ On the context of its challenges, he said, ‘Onge is characterized by nineteen consonants and nine-vowel system and the problem is very few people are available in India who know about the subject. We are also taking help from the Onge and already roped in Professor Biswajit Pandya of Dhirubhai Institute of Technology (Gujarat) who is having an expertise in the language.’

‘We have a local body called Andaman Adim Janajati Vikash Samiti (AAJVS) and Tribal Research Institute which was set up for the welfare and research work on the tribal people. They have also asked to help us in making this dream a success,’ he said. The current population of Onge is 112 including 35 children. This book, which is expected to be published in coming months will be a gift for these Onge children. Initially, a fund of Rs 50 lakhs has been allocated for the project but demand is there to increase the allocation considering additional expenses in taking researchers from mainland.
Some of the words, which will be incorporated in the ‘pictorial book’ will be giyangejebey (Tsunami), ejale (face), oticule (head), ine (water), inene (foreigner), dage (coconut), uthire (child), aao (bow) etc.

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