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Forced conversion or spreading disease: What led to killing of an American in Andaman Island


New Delhi, Nov 22: An American identified as John Allen Chau was killed on an island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He was killed by the Sentinelese tribe which is known to resist outside contact.

John Allen Chau

The tribe according to officials must be left alone and anyone forcibly trying to contact them can put themselves in danger. Chau was murdered on the North Sentinel Island, which is part of the Andaman Islands. Seven persons have been arrested in connection with the murder.

The many motives:

While investigations are still on, the police are probing the several motives behind the murder. Many thought he was a missionary who was trying to forcibly convert people in the island. On the social media somewhere, he had mentioned that he was a believer and also spoken about his position on God. However the police are still ascertaining this angle.

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In a 2014 interview with Outbound Collective, Chau said he was working as a soccer coach and would travel from a very young age. He said that he was very inspired by the Victorian explorer and missionary David Livingston and Jesus.

The other aspect that the police are looking into is that Chau could have passed on some disease to the tribe. Chau may have passed along pathogens that have the potential to wipe out the entire tribe.

The tribe comprising some 50 to 100 people have lived in isolation for nearly 60,000 years. They have no immunities to common illness.

There is also a possibility that the islanders were angry that he had set foot on the island by bribing fishermen to ferry him through. He is said to have taken along with some gifts for the islanders.

The fishermen stayed away, but Chau decided to venture deep into the jungle. The fishermen said that they saw him being shot with an arrow. His body was later dragged with a rope and the islanders are also said to have buried him.

The police are unlikely to have an easy time to recover the body as the islanders are extremely touchy about outside contact.

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The Indian law protects the Sentinelese people. They cannot be prosecuted and any contact with them or entry into their area is illegal. The law also bars people from taking videos of these people.

It may be recalled that these people had shot arrows at the helicopters of the Coast Guard, when they were trying to assess the situation during the 2004 Tsunami.

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