Shompens vote for the first time
Port Blair: For the first time in the country’s history Shompens, considered one of the last surviving stone-age tribes and living in Great Nicobar, cast their votes today to elect the Lok Sabha candidate from the Bay Islands.
Election office sources here said about 60 Shompens cast their ballots at the exclusive polling station put up in the interior jungle in Great Nicobar Biosphere reserve.
The Shompens are one of the six tribes that inhabit the forest in the southern-most tip of the country.
They are classified as primitive tribal group along with the four other tribes – Jarawa, Andamanese, Onge and the Sentinelese. Their population is only 229 as per the 2011 census.
The Shompens have very limited contact with outsiders and live in about 12 habitations made of bamboo and leaf thatch.
Assistant Returning officer for Great Nicobar, Akhil Kumar said 27 polling teams were deployed to man 21 polling stations in Great Nicobar.
Conducting polls in the island is a challenging task as many polling stations can be reached only by boats and dinghies under rough sea conditions, while some are inside the dense forest where vehicles cannot go.
The Shompen’s are not as well known as the Jarawas of the Andaman islands. While the Jarwas are a negrito tribe, the Shompens are of Mongoloid stock.
Like the Jarawa they are skilled hunter-gatherers but unlike them raise plantations of various crops and subsist primarily on them, besides honey and fish.