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.

 

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

Just Posted

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Nuslhiixwta – A Place of Treasures – celebrates new name

After months of thought and deliberation, Healthy Beginnings now has a new name.

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Rescued B.C. cat with misshapen legs in need of forever home – with carpet

Mirielle was born with misshapen back legs and after a tough life on the streets, is looking for a forever home.

Most Read