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Body of American Killed in Andaman May Never Be Found as Sentinelese Tribe Handles The Dead ‘Their Own Way’

Restriction on going to the island and the hostility of the Sentinelese tribe means that police have not yet made any direct approach to recover John Allen Chau’s mortal remains.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:November 23, 2018, 3:23 PM IST
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Body of American Killed in Andaman May Never Be Found as Sentinelese Tribe Handles The Dead ‘Their Own Way’
American missionary John Allen Chau was killed by arrows fired by the Sentinelese people after he illegally went ashore.
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Kolkata: The Andaman and Nicobar Police are keeping a close watch on the North Sentinel island as it attempts to retrieve the body of the American national who was killed by the isolated tribal hunter gatherers.

Restriction on going to the island and the hostility of the Sentinelese tribe means that police have not yet made any direct approach to recover John Allen Chau’s mortal remains, but cops fear that a delay could hamper efforts as the tribe disposes of the buried body after a few days - in their own way.

“Among various theories about the Sentinelese, one theory is they withdraw for a few days and subsequently dig the body out to handle it in their own way. This may be their way of vigorous rejection towards outsiders,” DGP Dependra Pathak told News18.

The officials have also sought the expertise of anthropologists and tribal welfare specialists to understand the worldview of the isolated tribespeople, hoping it would allow them to access the remains of Chau. “The biggest challenge is to initiate any connect.”

Chau was killed by arrows fired by the Sentinelese people last week after he illegally went ashore in an apparent attempt to convert the tribe to Christianity. Police have so far used a helicopter and a ship to get close to the protected island but failed to spot Chau's body or identify the place where he was killed.

“One team of officers already went there day before yesterday (Wednesday) and returned. Today, we are sending another team of 15-16 that includes policemen, anthropologists, academics with good knowledge of tribal rituals and the forest department officials in a Coast Guard ship,” he said.

The seven people, including six fishermen, who were arrested for leading Chau to North Sentinel are also accompanying the special team as police hope they can give more clues to the place where he was slain, and share details like the sequence of events and the sea route followed by Chau to reach the Islands,” he added.

“This is a very sensitive case, and therefore, we want to gather all possible evidences and learn about what exactly happened at Sentinel Island,” the DGP said, adding that they are also trying to find out whether Chau tried to visit the restricted island on a previous visit.

Foreigners and Indians are banned from going within five kilometres (three miles) of the island, to protect the Sentinelese, believed to number about 150, from outside disease.

Police said Chau paid the fishermen to take him as close to the island as possible in a motorised dinghy and then took his own kayak to the island. He chose to travel at night to skip past the air and sea surveillance by the Coast Guard and Navy.

He is believed to have reached near the North Sentinel Island along with the accompanying fishermen around midnight and later, around 4.30am on November 15, he landed at the western shore of North Sentinel.

After reaching the island, Chau tried to contact the local tribesmen and offered some gifts such as a small football, playing ring, fishing line, scissors, medical kit etc. to them.

Pathak said police will also take a new look at Chau's personal journal, in which he expressed fears that he might be killed. He said in a note he told the tribe after arriving: "My name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you...Here is some fish!"

During his attempts to befriend the Sentinelese, he was shot with an arrow by an unknown person. He was last seen alive by the accompanying fishermen on November 16, 2018.

On November 17, 2018, around 6.30 AM, the fishermen friends saw a dead body being dragged and getting buried by the unknown persons near the shore. From the silhouette of the body, clothing and circumstances, it appeared to be the body of the American to them.

Recovering the body could take days, if it happens at all, as Indian authorities insist they cannot disturb the tribe or their habitat in the highly sensitive zone.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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