An American tourist has been allegedly killed by the protected Sentinelese tribe in the North Sentinel Island, a part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. While police said they had received information about the “body of a foreign national” being spotted on the island, the US consulate said he was missing and search efforts were on.
The tourist has been identified as John Allen Chau (27). According to police, Chau rented a boat and hired some local fishermen to take him to the North Sentinel Island. Seven people, including five fishermen, have been arrested.
Police sources said while a body had been spotted, it was yet to be recovered. “We have received information about a body of a foreign national at the remote Sentinel Island. The matter is under investigation,” said Udit Prakash Rai, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Andaman.
“On 19.11.2018, an email was received from the US Consulate General, Chennai, wherein it was stated that they have received a communication from the mother of one Mr John Allen Chau… about her son’s visit to North Sentinel Island and attack by the tribesmen… A missing report was immediately registered,” DGP, Andaman & Nicobar Police, Dependra Pathak, said in a press statement.
An enquiry revealed that Chau “allegedly got killed at North Sentinel Island during his misplaced adventure in the highly restricted area for trying to interact with the uncontacted people who have a history of vigorous rejection towards outsiders,” he said. He said Chau, who had visited the Andaman & Nicobar Islands a few times earlier, reached North Sentinel Island with the help of a local friend, a “local water sports help and five other fishermen”. He said Chau had paid “around Rs 25,000” to the fishermen to take him to the island.
“They started on 14.11.2018, around 8 pm… and reached there by midnight. On 15.11.2018 morning, John (Chau) moved to shore using his kayak which he got towed with the fishing boat,” he said. He said the fishermen were told to pick him up later. “In the morning of 17.11.2018, the fishermen saw a dead person being buried at the shore which, from the silhouette of the body, clothing and circumstances, appeared to be the body of John Allen Chau,” he said. The fishermen then returned to Port Blair and informed Chau’s friend, who then reached out to his friend, and subsequently his family, in the US. “They didn’t inform the police or any government authority,” said Pathak.
In a press statement issued on Tuesday, Deepak Yadav, Superintendent of Police (CID), Andaman & Nicobar Islands, said a case has been registered under IPC Section 302 (punishment for murder) and Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). The statement said another case at Humfrigunj police station had been registered under Sections 282 (conveying person by water for hire in unsafe or overloaded vessel), 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 34, in which seven persons had been arrested.
“We are aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the US Department of State. When a US citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” said a spokesperson of the US Consulate in Chennai.
The North Sentinel Island is home to the Sentinelese Tribe, who are known to resist contact with outsiders, often firing arrows at anyone who comes near. According to experts, their population is about 100.
Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry, in a statement, said: “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.”
But DGP Pathak, in his statement, said: “Access to North Sentinel Island and its buffer zone is strictly restricted under Protection of Aboriginal Tribe (Regulation), 1956 and Regulations under Indian Forest Act, 1927.”