After several failed attempts to locate and retrieve the body of American John Allen Chau, a joint team of Andaman police, forest officials and tribal welfare department made a second expedition to the North Sentinel Island, this time along with two of the accused to identify the area where the body was spotted.
The team conducted the second expedition to the island on November 23, using the help of the Indian Coast Guard. Andaman DGP Dependra Pathak was himself part of the expedition that took place on Friday. However, they retreated after spotting armed Sentinelese tribesmen along the shoreline.
Vijay Singh, PRO Police said, “The fresh expedition to North Sentinel Island was undertaken, our DGP was present in the expedition. The team spotted the armed tribals. It is their island and we saw them.”
Another senior police official said, “Two accused were taken along to pinpoint the area along the shoreline where Chau landed in the morning of November 15 and the spot where they spotted his body in the morning of November 17.”
“We went in the morning and returned in the evening. While we approached the island, keeping a safe distance, we could spot some of the tribals with bows and arrows using our binoculars. They were looking right towards us. Our mission was not to disturb the tribes. Therefore we returned,” the officer added. Police took along Sau Jumpo and M Bhumi, two of the boatmen who took Chau to the Island.
Police is questioning the accused, trying to re-create the sequence of events and the route taken by Chau to North Sentinel Island. “We are interrogating the accused to re-create the sequence of events which led to the death of the American, the sea route followed and the location where they dropped Chau and where the body was spotted. Despite several recces, we are not able to spot the body as yet,” said a senior police officer.
Speaking with The Indian Express earlier, Pathak informed that he was in touch with anthropologists and experts to find a way to reach the island without disturbing the tribals. “Our priority is to make sure that the Sentinelese are not to be disturbed in any way,” Pathak said.
Earlier on November 20, a team of senior policemen along with forest department officials and members of Andaman Adim Janjati Bikas Samity did an air and sea recce of the island but failed to spot the body. According to police, the personal journal of Chau, 13 pages of which were handed over to the fishermen on November 16, will be freshly analysed.
Speaking with The Indian Express, Nand Kumar Sai, chairperson of the Commission said, “Two days back we have sent letters to both Andaman administration and the Union Home Ministry. We have sought a detailed report of what happened. How the American could reach the island and the Sentinelese tribes. This is of serious concern.”
According to NCST sources, on July 13 this year, after receiving a complaint, the Commission had sought information regarding relaxation of Restricted Area Permit (RAP) for foreign nationals and for development of tourism in 29 islands. However, the report from Union home department and the Andaman administration is yet to be received.
The Commission had also written to the Union government to be ultra sensitive towards Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups of Andaman and Nicobar after a two-day conference on 27 and 28 June in Delhi on this particular issue.
“We advised the government to be ultra sensitive towards such tribes and make sure that in the name of tourism development dramatic cultural changes do not take place among the tribals. I have written a letter on August 8 to the Home Ministry in this regard,” said Sai.
Chau, who went to North Sentinel Island to preach Christianity, was reportedly killed by the Sentinelese tribes, the fishermen who took him there spotted his body on November 17.