North Sentinel Island, part of the chain of Islands in Andaman and Nicobar received unprecedented news coverage due to the killing of US tourist by tribal members. After days of speculations, the Indian authorities have given up sending police to investigate North Sentinel Island, to protect the indigenous and isolated tribe living there from the consequences of contact with the modern world.
The Indian authorities have limited themselves to strengthening their observation from a distance on Friday, sending a boat off the island for the second time. “The necessary precautions have been taken to ensure that this particularly vulnerable tribal group is not disrupted or disrupted during the manoeuvre,” police said in a statement.
The fear of diseases as mild as a cold, which could decimate the tribe of hunter-gatherers, or the discovery of modernity that could annihilate his way of life, kept him in a bubble that John Chau, who saw himself in missionary, wanted to break by bringing a message of evangelization.
Aged 27, he was killed a week ago by the Sentinel people who shot him with arrows when he wanted to land to convert them to Christianity.
John Chau’s body could never be recovered, as tribal rights experts believe that no charges can be laid against the tribe’s members, which is probably the last pre-Neolithic. According to Pankaj Sekhsaria, a specialist in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it would be “futile” to try to recover Mr Chau’s body.
“I do not think it’s a good idea to get closer (the Sentinel Islands) as this could create a conflict with the local community,” he told AFP. The police indicated that they could not foresee any timetable for a possible recovery of the body.
The authorities must now find a way to return the body to Mr Chau’s family while preserving the isolation of the tribe that is a guarantee of his survival. In recent decades, attempts to contact the outside world have met with hostility and violent rejection from this estimated 150-strong community.
With an area equal to half of Paris, the North Sentinel Island is located about fifty km west of the city of Port Blair, the capital of the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
According to the NGO Survival International, the Sentinels descend from the first homo sapiens populations to have left Africa and lived in the Andaman for 60,000 years. The rare images of the Sentinels, taken from the sea, show inhabitants with black skin. They do not wear clothes but use leaves or string made of vegetable fibers for decorative accessories such as necklaces or headbands.