Anthropologists and tribal welfare specialists say any mission to retrieve the physique of slain American missionary John Chau from a distant island off the east coast of India may pose an existential risk to the endangered tribe that killed him.
Indian authorities have been grappling with easy methods to retrieve the physique of Chau, a 26-year-old missionary and self-styled Instagram adventurer believed to have been killed by arrow-wielding tribesmen on North Sentinel, a part of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands territory.
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Police have carried out an aerial survey and two boat visits, and noticed from a distance as members of the tribe guarded the part of the seashore the place it’s believed the physique was buried, stated the islands’ director-general of police Dependra Pathak.
In a tweet, Pathak dubbed the case his “most difficult ever,” however stated he remained hopeful that authorities would give you a method to retrieve Chau’s physique with out confronting the tribe.
However many specialists say that authorities shouldn’t trouble.
Kanchan Mukhopadhyay, a authorities anthropologist who was beforehand stationed within the Andamans, informed the Guardian that Chau had already knowingly violated the tribe’s will by making repeated, unlawful visits to the island — “And this retrieval of the physique will once more violate the need of the individuals,” he stated.
Anup Kapoor, a New Delhi-based anthropology professor who has had contact with different tribes within the Andamans, informed AFP that the shortage of detailed information concerning the Sentinelese would hamper any try to retrieve Chau’s physique.
“We’ve no clue about their communication programs, their historical past and tradition — how can we go wherever close to them?” stated Kapoor. “Allow them to be the best way they’re. Go away them in peace within the ecosystem they’re in. Don’t disturb them as a result of that may solely make them extra aggressive.”
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An entry from Chau’s personal diary revealed that he was conscious of the perils that awaited him on the island.
“Please don’t be offended at them or at God if I get killed,” he wrote.
“Don’t retrieve my physique.”
Sophie Grig, a senior analysis and advocacy officer with Survival Worldwide, an NGO that campaigns for the safety of tribal teams, informed International Information that Chau’s determination to go to the island was a “foolhardy” one.
“It was extremely harmful for him and a foolhardy factor to have performed, however much more harmful for the Sentinelese themselves,” Grig stated. “They’re probably the most remoted tribe on earth, in order that they’re probably the most susceptible by way of a scarcity of immunity to frequent illnesses like flu and measles that may decimate the tribe.”
Grig told Indian news channel NDTV that makes an attempt to retrieve Chau’s physique may pose a risk to the Sentinelese in addition to authorities who attempt to set foot on the island.
“This unhappy scenario is clearly horrible for the person and his household, however may be probably completely devastating for the Sentinelese, who may nonetheless be worn out by illnesses he launched when he arrived there,” Grig stated.
“It’s extremely harmful for the Sentinelese to have anybody go there — and likewise for anybody making an attempt to go and retrieve the physique — so it appears to me an unwise transfer to be doing that.”
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In 2006, the Sentinelese killed two Indian crab fishermen who washed up on their shores.
A couple of week later, they dug up the our bodies and strung them up on bamboo poles going through the ocean.
Authorities determined to not retrieve their our bodies with a view to keep away from contact with the tribe.
“The Indian Coast Guard and police should be counseled on this case for resisting native strain to retrieve the lads’s our bodies, thereby avoiding additional contact with the Sentinelese,” Samir Acharya, an activist with native environmental organisation SANE, stated in 2006 within the wake of the fishermen’s deaths.
On Sunday, India’s Minister of State for Exterior Affairs condoled Chau’s dying however reiterated the Indian authorities’s longstanding stance towards any type of contact with the tribe.
“We’ve had such incidents earlier too, that’s why the federal government had a coverage that no one ought to go there,” V.Ok. Singh informed Indian information company ANI. “It’s a separate tribal group; they don’t want outsiders. It’s a very unhappy incident.”
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Chau’s diary revealed that he sought to convey Christianity to the tribe, who’ve lived on the island for tens of hundreds of years.
He went to “share the love of Jesus,” stated Mary Ho, worldwide government chief of All Nations, a Missouri-based group that skilled Chau and despatched him on the mission to assist him in his “life’s calling.”
“He needed to have a long-term relationship, and if doable, to be accepted by them and stay amongst them,” Ho stated.
All Nations contacted the U.S. Division of State, Ho stated, including that she doesn’t know whether or not it is going to be doable to get better Chau’s physique.
“We’re simply in grief and in shock about his dying,” she stated. “On the similar time, we contemplate it an actual honour to have labored with him, to have been part of his journey.”
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T.N. Pandit, an 83-year-old anthropologist who interacted with a number of the Sentinelese tribesmen again within the 1970s — when students and officers extra recurrently visited the islands — informed the Indian Categorical that tribes on the Andamans have resisted earlier makes an attempt at spiritual conversions.
He stated that any discuss of prosecuting the tribesmen, who’ve particular protected standing beneath Indian legislation, was mindless.
“These are usually not their legal guidelines. They have been defending what’s theirs, similar to we do,” Pandit informed the newspaper. “We overlook, the civilized man is the aggressor right here.”
— With information from the Related Press
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