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

City of Victoria expecting a 2020 deficit between $12.5 to $17.5 million

Victoria lost $1.2 million per month just from reduced parking fees during onset of pandemic

Saanich police search for potential victims, witnesses after series of unprovoked assaults

Police are looking for more information about two incidents from June 12

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer loaded onto barge

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

Greater Victoria Point-in-Time count finds over 1,500 people homeless

Capital Regional District says count should be treated as an underestimate

Newly appointed Resilient Saanich committee to weigh in on new environmental policy framework

Council selects nine members, First Nations representative position remains open

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Forests minister Doug Donaldson doesn’t support ‘moratorium’

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

Most Read