The southernmost polling booth of India, situated at Shompen Hut in the Great Nicobar Island of the Andaman and Nicobar Lok Sabha constituency, did not see a single vote cast by the last surviving stone-age tribe living in the dense jungle there. The 31 inhabited islands of the constituency went to the polls on April 11.
The booth is around 20 km from the southernmost point of the Indian subcontinent, Indira Point. In 2014, two members of the aboriginal Shompen tribe had cast their votes — the first time people of the indigenous tribe of Great Nicobar Island are recorded as having voted.
‘Knots tied on cloth as a signal but tribals didn’t come to vote’
Not a single vote was cast in the southernmost polling booth of the country in Greater Nicobar Island.
“We have two booths with 66 and 22 voters each in Shompen Hut. Our polling party was present in the difficult terrain to facilitate voting. However, no vote was cast this year,” chief electoral officer (CEO) of Andaman and Nicobar, KR Meena, told.
He said the tribals come out from their dwellings deep inside the jungle on a weekly or fortnightly basis to take ration from Shompen Hut. “Locals had used knots tied on a cloth to signal tribals the number of days left to elections as a countdown to polls. They used sign language as well as the local dialect to communicate that the area goes to the polls on April 11. But none turned up. Perhaps, the communication by locals was not done effectively, or they just did not want to come,” Meena added.
When asked why polling parties did not go deep in the jungle to call upon voters, Meena spoke about the Supreme Court order that no person other than the member of the aboriginal tribes is allowed to enter the tribal reserve and the 5-km buffer area around it and the restrictions in place by the tribal affairs ministry. “It is only when the tribals approach us that we can interact with them and not vice-versa. We were ready to facilitate since they are on the electoral rolls, but we cannot force them.”
While two members from the Shompen community voted in 2014, the Jarawas and the Sentinelese, indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman group of islands, have never cast a single vote in the history of Indian elections. Living in dense jungles, their names find no mention in the electoral rolls.