A 27-year-old American man was shot dead with arrows by an isolated tribe living on a remote Indian island which does not allow visitors.
John Allen Chau paid local fishermen to take him to North Sentinel island, reportedly six days ago (November 15), hoping to encourage the endangered tribesmen to convert to Christianity.
When Chau arrived on the island – which is a part of India’s Andaman islands, and one of the most isolated regions in the world – he faced a flurry of arrows from the hostile tribes who live there.
His body was spotted by fishermen yesterday (November 20).
Andaman Sheekha, one of the leading daily news outlets for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, report unconfirmed sources state Chau was killed by Sentinelese tribes.
Contact with indigenous Andaman tribes living in isolation from the world is illegal. Estimates say the Sentinelese number is between only about 50 and 150, according to BBC News.
A senior police officer confirmed to Andaman Sheekha a murder case had been registered against unknown members of the tribal members of the Sentinelese tribes:
After getting relevant information a murder case has been registered.
Other sources told the publication how Chau had visited various Andaman and Nicobar sslands five times in the past, but had ‘a strong desire to meet Sentinelese Tribes for preaching Christianity’.
Journalist Subir Bhaumik, who’s been covering the islands for years, told the BBC:
Police said Chau had previously visited North Sentinel island about four or five times with the help of local fishermen.
The number of people belonging to the Sentinelese tribe is so low, they don’t even understand how to use money. It’s in fact illegal to have any sort of contact with them.
Chau is said to have made a failed attempt to reach the island on November 14 but when he came to an agreement with fishermen, they took him to a certain point before he travelled the rest of the distance in his own canoe, alone.
Police have arrested seven of the fishermen for illegally ferrying the man to the island.
Last year the Indian government also made it illegal to take photographs or videos of the tribes, with the act being punishable with imprisonment of up to three years.
Various global organisations, including Survival International, campaign to save the Sentinelese tribe, as well as the Jarawa, who are at risk of contracting disease if they have contact with the outside world.
The Sentinelese tribe in particular are vulnerable as they live in complete isolation, meaning they’re likely to have no immunity to common illnesses including flu.
— Shabbir Ahmed (@Ahmedshabbir20) November 21, 2018
In a statement addressing the killing of Chau, Survival International said:
This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen. The Indian authorities should have been enforcing the protection of the Sentinelese and their island for the safety of both the tribe, and outsiders.
Instead, a few months ago the authorities lifted one of the restrictions that had been protecting the Sentinelese tribe’s island from foreign tourists, which sent exactly the wrong message, and may have contributed to this terrible event.
It’s not impossible that the Sentinelese have just been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity, with the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.
The Sentinelese have shown again and again that they want to be left alone, and their wishes should be respected.
They added how this ‘tragedy’ should be ‘a wake up call’ to the Indian authorities to properly protect the island from ‘further invaders’.
Our thoughts are with Mr Chau’s friends and family at this difficult time.
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.