Andaman and Nicobar Islands authorities have decided to suspend expeditions to retrieve the body of an American man from the isolated North Sentinel Island, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified senior police officer. Last week, a group of indigenous Sentinelese killed John Allen Chau after he ventured onto the restricted island.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police had on Saturday conducted their second expedition to retrieve Chau’s body from the island but were forced to retreat after encountering men armed with bows and arrows.
A series of meetings were held at the Secretariat and the police headquarters on Monday to decide on the course of action. According to unidentified officials, anthropologists, representatives of the Department of Tribal Welfare, Andaman and Nicobar Tribal Research Institute, and the Forest Department attended the meetings.
“It has been decided that we will suspend expeditions to North Sentinel Island to retrieve the body,” said a senior officer. “This is being done keeping in mind the sensitive situation involving the Sentinelese. We do not want to disturb them in any way.”
The central government has also reportedly recommended the suspension of search operations as they may disturb the indigenous people on the island, an unidentified senior administrative officer of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands told The Indian Express. “Such expeditions put the Sentinelese at risk, and it seemed futile since our team is yet to spot the body,” said the officer. “We should not disturb the tribe in any way. The Central government is also of the same opinion and has advised us to suspend fresh expeditions.”
Survival International, a movement for indigenous groups, on Monday asked the government to terminate efforts to recover Chau’s body. Any attempt to recover the body is dangerous for the Indian personnel and for the Sentinelese, who risk “being wiped out if any outside diseases are introduced”, said the organisation’s director Stephen Corry.
A group of anthropologists, researchers, authors and editors has also issued a joint statement urging the government and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration to call off efforts to retrieve Chau’s body.
It is forbidden by law for strangers to enter the North Sentinel Island. So far, the police have arrested several fishermen who helped ferry Chau to the island.