FILE -In this Nov. 14, 2005 file photo, clouds hang over the North Sentinel Island, in India’s southeastern Andaman and Nicobar Islands. (AP Photo/Gautam Singh, File)

India urged to abandon plans to recover body of American

A rights group that works to protect tribal people has urged Indian authorities to abandon efforts to recover the body of the American man.

A rights group that works to protect tribal people has urged Indian authorities to abandon efforts to recover the body of an American who was killed by inhabitants of an island where outsiders are effectively forbidden by Indian law.

The group, Survival International, said the islanders could be exposed to deadly diseases if rescuers set foot on North Sentinel Island, where John Allen Chau was killed earlier this month. Chau travelled to the island by paying fishermen to smuggle him. The fishermen told authorities they saw the Sentinelese bury Chau’s body on the beach.

Notes that Chau left behind say he wanted to bring Christianity to the islanders. Indian officials have travelled repeatedly in recent days near the remote island but have not set foot on it.

Scholars believe the Sentinelese are descendants of Africans who migrated to the area about 50,000 years ago and survive on the small, forested island by hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants. Almost nothing is known of their lives, except that they attack outsiders with spears or bows and arrows.

Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said in a statement Monday that any efforts to recover the body would be “incredibly dangerous” for both Indian officials and the Sentinelese, who face being wiped out if any outside diseases are introduced.

“The risk of a deadly epidemic of flu, measles or other outside disease is very real, and increases with every such contact. Such efforts in similar cases in the past have ended with the Sentinelese attempting to defend their island by force,” Corry said.

He said the body of Chau “should be left alone as should be the Sentinelese.”

Read more: India cautious as it looks to recover American body

He was critical of Indian’s relaxation of controls over visitors to such islands.

“The weakening of the restrictions on visiting the islands must be revoked, and the exclusion zone around the island properly enforced,” he said.

He said the islanders should get the chance to determine their own fate.

“All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected,” he said.

An Indian police official earlier said they do not want to disturb the islanders’ existence.

“They are a treasure,” said Dependera Pathak, director-general of police on the Andaman and Nicobar island groups. “We cannot go and force our way in. We don’t want to harm them.”

There has been no significant contact with the Sentinelese for generations. Anthropologists used to occasionally drop off gifts of coconuts and bananas, but even those visits were stopped years ago.

Indian officials said earlier that they were consulting anthropologists to see how they can approach with a friendly gesture. They watched the Sentinelese from a distance in recent days. On Saturday the tribesmen were armed with spears and bows and arrows, but did not attempt to shoot them at the authorities.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Map locates North Sentinel Island, India, where an American was believed killed by isolated tribe.

Just Posted

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

North Island mayors say their voices should be heard by DFO before final decisions are made about fish farms. (Black Press file photo)
Mayors asking to be let in on fish farm consultations

DFO evaluating 18 Discovery Island fish farms and transitioning from open-net farms

“Scirocco” the unicorn, built collaboratively by CAP, Apex, Equinox, Gathering Place and Nexus program students under the guidance of artist Alex Witcombe of Drifted Creations, in its home in the middle of Robron Centre’s courtyard. SD72 photo
Building community at Campbell River’s Robron Centre one piece of driftwood at a time

Passing by the courtyard at Robron Centre one can’t help but stop… Continue reading

Windy conditions in Campbell River Nov. 27 made for some picturesque wave action at Ken Forde Park. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Campbell River region wakes up to windy day

The Campbell River area woke up to blustery conditions on Friday, Nov.… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MP to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MacGregor’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Most Read