Police officers in India are facing difficulties as they attempt to recover the body of man reportedly killed by a tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Christian missionary John Allen Chau is said to have been killed by a flurry of arrows as he approached a tribe on North Sentinel Island on November 17.
On Saturday, November 24, a police boat attempted to approach the island but retreated when they were confronted by tribespeople.
The fishermen who escorted Chau to near the island, before he completed the rest of his journey alone in a canoe, said they saw tribesmen drag a body along the beach and bury it.
The fishermen have accompanied police back to the island, to point out the area in which they believe Chau is buried.
Police sailed to a spot around 400m off the shore of the island and, using binoculars, observed the tribespeople on the beach, armed with bows and arrows.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse, regional police chief Dependra Pathak said, via BBC:
They stared at us and we were looking at them.
We have mapped the area with the help of these fishermen. We have not spotted the body yet but we roughly know the area where he is believed to be buried.
The police boat then retreated before going any closer to the island.
The tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have always treated outsiders with hostility. In 2006, two fishermen were killed on North Sentinel Island, and their bodies were placed on bamboo stakes, according to police chief Pathak.
The bodies of the two fishermen were later recovered, but police are now worried they may never be able to retrieve the body of Chau.
Six fishermen and one other person have been arrested over the recent incident, as well as a murder charge registered against unknown persons. It has not been suggested the tribespeople will face any charges.
Chau’s family, however, have said they forgive the people reportedly responsible for his death.
In a statement on Instagram, they wrote:
We recently learned from an unconfirmed report that John Allen Chau was reported killed in India while reaching out to members of the Sentinelese Tribe in the Andaman Islands.
Words cannot express the sadness we have experienced about this report. He was a beloved son, brother, uncle, and best friend to us. To others he was a Christian Missionary, a wilderness EMT, an international soccer coach, and a mountaineer.
He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death. We also ask for the release of those friends he had in the Andaman Islands.
He ventured out on his own free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strictly protected, and it is forbidden for outsiders to approach the shore, let alone try to contact the tribes that live there.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.