Who is responsible for the murder of American tourist in North Sentinel Island?
New Delhi, Nov 22: The unfortunate incident of killing of American citizen John Allen Chau on Sentinelese island has aroused curiosity about the tribe inhabiting the island. Prima facie it looks like the tribe is a guilty in this episode, they should not be blamed for the crime.
Survival International, an organisation which works to prevent the annihilation of tribal peoples, issued a statement on the killing of an American citizen. The orgnisation blamed laxity on the part of the government for diluting the protection rules.
Survival International's Director Stephen Corry in an official statement, said, "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." The lifting of restriction is certainly the cause of the death of John Allen Chau.
"Tribes like the Sentinelese face catastrophe unless their land is protected. I hope this tragedy acts as a wake-up call to the Indian authorities to avert another disaster and properly protect the lands of both the Sentinelese and the other Andaman tribes, from further invaders," he added.
In a major step earlier this year, the Indian government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit or RAP regime till December 31, 2022, news agency PTI reported.
The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government. This order follows an earlier directive which allowed foreigners to visit 29 inhabited and 11 uninhabited islands in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were prohibited for visitors under the Foreigners (Restricted Area) Order, 1963, without any restrictions.
In fact, the government measure went against the expert opinion on the safety of Sentineles Tribes. In an interview to Down to Earth Magazine, a veteran anthropologist T N Pandit, had opined that we should not be in a great hurry to make contact with the Sentinelese.
T N Pandit said, " There is no gold, silver, oil and gas beneath their land. Their island does not have any strategic use. Unlike the Jarawa, who have much more resources to be able to withstand the pressures of civilisation, the Sentinelese are a highly vulnerable population and would disappear in an epidemic. The government's responsibility should be to keep a watch over them in the sense, no unauthorised people reach them and exploit them. Otherwise, just leave them alone."
In 1967, TN Pandit, in a partnership with the Indian government, left gifts on the beaches of North Sentinel Island in hopes that friendly contact could be established with them. However, the Sentinelese did not accept the gifts. Pandit made many more attempts over the years, all of them futile, and ultimately ceased his efforts to make contact in 1991.
It is said they have made little to no advancement in the over 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.
How does government approach Sentinelese?
India proclaimed North Sentinel Island as part of the Republic of India in 1970. Since then, it has controlled access to the island and kept it under watch with its coast guard. It even passed a law in 2017 that made it illegal to post photos or videos of the Sentinelese, as well as other Andamanese groups, on social media.
The Indian government doesn't include the Sentinelese in its census - in fact, it doesn't venture on to the island at all. It's counted its residents on the census based on photos taken from afar. In its first census on the island, taken in 1991, it estimated 117 people were living there. In 2011, it counted 15 people total.
Anthropological accounts haven't found any evidence of agriculture. Instead, the community seems to be hunter-gatherers, getting food through fishing, hunting, and collecting wild plants living on the island.