COVID-19 Threat to Andaman and Nicobar

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is presenting a threat not only to the indigenous people of Andaman but also to the endangered languages of the island.

People of Andaman

The indigenous people of Andaman are reported to have descended from the founder populations of modern humans, who had migrated from Africa to Australia, New Guinea, South Asia and South-east Asia, some 70,000 years ago. They were isolated from the mainstream diseases and cultural influence for a long time till the British invasion. Introduction of new disease had greatly reduced their numbers in the 1960s. The Onge and Jarawa are some of the remaining few vulnerable tribes of Andaman.

Great Andamanese Languages

The Great Andamanese languages is one of the 6 Indian language families- the others being Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic and Tai-Kadai. It is a nearly extinct language group. The Great Andamanese language spoken today is a mixture of Jero, Sare, Bo and Khora languages.

Endangered Languages in India

India is home to 197 endangered languages according to a UNESCO report. 156 of these languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people. 42 of these languages are critically endangered. Most of the critically endangered languages tend to die out with the elders who themselves speak it infrequently and rarely in its pure form.