Sentinelese Tribe: Who Are They And Why Should We Leave Them Alone
| Onkareshwar Pandey - 22 Nov 2018

Sentinelese Tribe: Who Are They And Why Should We Leave Them Alone

Why, where and how the US Citizen John Allen Chau, a missionary and a social media adventurer, was killed by the members of the Sentinelese Tribe in India? 

By GB Mehta

New Delhi, Nov 22, 2018: The US Citizen John Allen Chau, a missionary and a social media adventurer, was killed by the members of the Sentinelese Tribe on the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman islands when he tried to meet the inhabitants and convert them to Christianity in November.

According to the latest information, "the total of seven people were arrested yesterday in connection with the case of American Tourist John Allen Chau killed in North Sentinel Island, Andaman. The other four have been sent to judicial custody," reports ANI. 

Deependra Pathak, DGP(Andaman&Nicober) says " Three accused sent to 7-day police custody. They'll be interrogated. Chau's journal will also be analysed. One police team is being sent to North Sentinal Island waters."

While the death of Chau is tragic and unfortunate, his intent was definitely questionable and objectionable. This also raises questions around how a foreign citizen finds means and modes to reach the prohibited realms of the islands, with an agenda that is totally against the guidelines, plans and laws laid down by the Indian government.   

The Sentinelese are indigenous people who belong to the pre-neolithic age and have inhabited the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal, which is part of the Andaman and Nicobar island groups, for more than 55,000 years.

This highly sensitive tribe consisting of 40 members is on the verge of extinction and hence laws are created to protect the Sentinelese from the outer world and also protect the tourists from the rage of these north islanders.

While many tried to contact this indigenous group, the worldin general came to know of the tribe during the 2004 Earthquake and the Tsunami that followed, which wreaked havoc in the countries situated in the Indian Ocean. While thousands died, this group of first people survived the natural disaster unscathed.


They live an extremely primitive life which means they are hunters and gatherers, speak their own language, do not wear clothes, do not practice agriculture, etc. Since the culture of the Sentinelese people is unexplored, there are questions if they even know how to make fire.


While the Indian government has the North Sentinel island under its protection, it too abandoned its programs to contact the islanders after multiple hostile retaliations and resistance form them to come in contact with the outer world.

John Allen Chau allegedly bribed local fishermen to take him to the off-limit North Sentinel island. He had made multiple visits to the Andaman islands in the past as well. According to some of the reports, Chau had taken fish and football as gifts for the Sentinelese. The islanders shot arrows at him while he kept walking towards them. His body has not be recovered and the chances look grim.


This incident also points towards bigger questions - Why we take it upon us to shape people who we consider as misfits into a certain mould? Why someone’s individuality has to be challenged by others beliefs? Each one of us are territorial in some way or the other, but should that give us the right to impose it on others?


The Sentinelese people are living their lives and fighting to survive extinction, without affecting our lives in any way. In return, all they want is to be left alone. And perhaps it’s time we learned to respect that not only for them but for everyone in general.

(The writer is a senior media professional having expertise in the digital media sphere.)

Photo - From the FB wall of John Allen Chau

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