The American who was killed by an endangered tribe in Andaman’s North Sentinel Islands was reportedly a Christian missionary who ‘loved to explore’.
Associated Press reported that John Allen Chau always looked for adventure and his Instagram account proudly displays ‘snake bite survivor’ as part of his introduction. The report said that he was aware of that there were restrictions on visits to the island.
Chau also worked at the outreach department of the Oral Roberts University, the Christian liberal arts university where he studied.
Bobby Parks, the department’s former director, was quoted by Associated Press as saying, “I have never known a more courageous, selfless, compassionate man and friend. John lived and gave his life to share the love of Jesus with everyone.”
Reports say that the seven fishermen who took Chau to the islands have been arrested. His family, in an Instagram post, have asked for their release, saying that he went to the island on “free will and his local contacts need not be persecuted for his own actions”.
Some activists have pointed out that the Narendra Modi government in August eased the Restricted Areas Permit (RAP) for several islands, including the North Sentinel Islands, for foreigners.
The Sentinelese tribe have rejected outside contact for more than 60,000 years and are known to be aggressive to outsiders, which is why the RAP had protected them all this while.
Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle, toldNews18 that that the islands the government chose to take out from the RAP indicated that it was trying to encourage tribal tourism.
The report said that 29 inhabited islands in the Andaman and Nicobar chain had been removed from the RAP and 11 of those were also thrown open to foreigners.
Giles told News18, “The government has reversed its policy of non-interference. These are tribes that have chosen to remain isolated. So why did the government of India take this decision? Does it not mean that it is trying to advocate ‘tribal tourism’?”
PC Joshi, a professor at the Department of Anthropology at Delhi University, told PTI that the Sentinelese tribe had remained completely isolated from the outside world. He said that the Anthropological Society of India had tried to contact them indirectly by leaving bananas and coconuts for them, but failed.
“We have tried but the tribe has not shown any interest. They are the most private of the tribes in the Andamans. They are aggressive and are known to attack outsiders with arrows and stones. I do not know what made this American visit the island, but this tribe has stayed in isolation for so long that I do not blame them for what they saw as an intrusion and a threat,” Joshi said.
The Sentinelese people, PTI reports, survived the tsunami of 2004 without any help from the outside world. For the 2011 Census, enumerators could locate only 15 Sentinelese people—12 men and three women. However, experts say their numbers could be anything between 40 and 400.
(With PTI and Associated Press inputs)