India gives up on idea of recovering US missionary’s body, finally bringing to a close the saga of John Allen Chau

  • Authorities do not want to cause further disruption to a community that official government policy says should be left alone
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 2:16am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 3:50am

Indian authorities say they have no plans to recover the body of John Allen Chau, an American missionary who was killed by members of an isolated tribe on a remote island earlier this month.

An anthropologist involved in the case said authorities had concluded that for now it was impossible to retrieve the remains of Chau without provoking further conflict with the Sentinelese, the small tribe who populate North Sentinel Island.

“We have decided not to disturb the Sentinelese,” said the anthropologist, who asked not to be named.

That is their message, saying don’t come on the island, and we respect this
Indian anthropologist

“We have not tried to contact them for the past many days, and have decided not to continue trying.”

He said it had been determined that any further efforts to retrieve Chau’s body carried an unacceptably high “possibility of clash between the outsiders and the Sentinelese”.

“We should not hamper their sentiments,” he said. “They shoot arrows on any invader. That is their message, saying don’t come on the island, and we respect this.”

He said there were concerns that continued surveys of the island could force the Sentinelese to disrupt their daily patterns to begin guarding the island more closely – further disrupting a community that Indian government policy says should be left alone.

He said the message had been relayed to the US embassy in Delhi. “They understand the situation and are not pressing us,” the source said.

Chau, 26, is believed to have been killed sometime between the afternoon of November 16 and the following morning, when fishermen who he had paid to smuggle him to the island say they saw his body being dragged across the sand and buried.

The Sentinelese, whose tribe is thought to be at least 30,000 years old, have aggressively resisted contact with outsiders for generations.

American’s killing prompts rights groups to call for greater protection of indigenous peoples

According to Chau’s diaries, which he gave to the fishermen before departing for the island a final time, the American wanted to “declare Jesus” to the Sentinelese, whose home forms part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian territory scattered across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

An investigation is understood to be officially continuing into the seven men accused of helping Chau reach the island, although the absence of a body will complicate efforts to issue a formal death certificate.

The US consulate in Chennai has said it cannot comment on the case for privacy reasons.

View this post on Instagram

So stoked to be an uncle to this future adventurer!

A post shared by John Chau (@johnachau) on Oct 31, 2017 at 8:16pm PDT