Andaman: US man’s family ‘forgives’ tribe for killing him after he illegally visited their island

The family of John Allen Chau, who was allegedly murdered by the indigenous Sentinelese tribe after he illegally entered their island in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, on Thursday said they had “forgiven” his killers, BBC reported. Meanwhile, Indian authorities said they were still attempting to retrieve Chau’s body from the protected island.

The Sentinelese are a negrito tribe who live on the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans. The inhabitants are connected to the Jarawa on the basis of physical, as well as linguistic similarities. Their numbers are believed to be less than 150 and as low as 40.

Based on carbon dating of kitchen middens by the Anthropological Survey of India, Sentinelese presence was confirmed in the islands to 2,000 years ago. Genome studies indicate that the Andaman tribes could have been on the islands even 30,000 years ago.

The Govt. of India issued the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956 to declare the traditional areas occupied by the tribes as reserves. It prohibited entry of all persons except those with authorization. Photographing or filming the tribe members is also an offense. The rules were amended later to enhance penalties.

But restricted area permits were relaxed for some islands recently. 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. The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government.

Why are they said to be vulnerable?

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.

They are very vulnerable to germs since they have not had contact with the outside world. Even a common flu virus carried by a visitor could wipe out the entire tribe.

Since the 1960s, there have been a handful of efforts to reach out to the tribe but all have largely failed. They have repeatedly, aggressively made it clear that they want to be isolated.

What is a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime?

RAP regime was notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963.

Under it, foreign nationals are not normally allowed to visit protected or restricted area unless the Government is satisfied that there are extraordinary reasons to justify their visit.

Every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who desires to enter and stay in protected or restricted area, is required to obtain a special permit from the competent authority having the power to issue such permits to the foreigner, seeking it.

Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are the exception and are not allowed to enter such areas.

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