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Call Off 'Incredibly Dangerous' Operation to Find US Missionary’s Body in Andamans, Say Activists

The police on Saturday took a boat 400 metres offshore and spotted men on the beach with bows and arrows, but they do not want to disrupt the tribe or provoke more violence.

AFP

Updated:November 27, 2018, 2:34 PM IST
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Call Off 'Incredibly Dangerous' Operation to Find US Missionary’s Body in Andamans, Say Activists
An American missionary, John Allen Chau, has been killed and buried by the Sentinelese tribe. (Reuters)
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New Delhi: Calls have mounted for Indian authorities to abandon efforts to recover the body of a young American killed apparently attempting to convert people belonging to the protected Sentinelese in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to Christianity.

John Chau was killed in a hail of arrows almost two weeks ago as he went ashore on North Sentinel island in the Indian Ocean, fisherman who dropped him off nearby told police.

The off-limits remote island, part of the Andaman Islands, is home to the Sentinelese, one of the world's last tribes "uncontacted" by civilisation.

The police on Saturday took a boat 400 metres offshore and spotted men on the beach with bows and arrows, but they do not want to disrupt the tribe or provoke more violence.

On Monday, Survival International, which seeks to protect the rights of tribal peoples, said authorities should call off an operation which is "incredibly dangerous" for both sides.

"The risk of a deadly epidemic of flu, measles or other outside disease is very real, and increases with every such contact," the group's director Stephen Corry said in a statement.

"Mr Chau's body should be left alone, as should the Sentinelese."

This was echoed in a joint statement by a group of Indian anthropologists, authors and activists including Pankaj Sekhsaria, Vishvajit Pandya and Madhusree Mukerjee.

"The rights and the desires of the Sentinelese need to be respected and nothing is to be achieved by escalating the conflict and tension, and worse, to creating a situation where more harm is caused," they said.

Chau, according to his purported Instagram account a "Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician" and an "ambassador" for a US brand of beef jerky, interacted with the Sentinelese before he died and returned to the fishermen's boat.

There he recorded in writings given to US media that he had shouted "My name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you", only to be shot at with arrows, one of them piercing his Bible, and beat a hasty retreat.

Chau went back to the island the next day, but never returned.

Police say that when two fishermen were killed by the tribe in 2006 after their boat drifted ashore, the tribe had hooked their bodies on bamboo stakes facing out to sea.

"It was a kind of scarecrow," the Andamans police chief Dependra Pathak told AFP.

The fishermen who took Chau to North Sentinel, some of whom have been detained by police, said they saw the tribe burying the body on the beach.
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