Beware, the Sentinelese! By Brian Simpson

     Did you hear about the guy who wanted to convert one of the last “primitive’ tribe on earth, but got killed by arrows? Obviously he had a good heart, but had not thought it through first. No, this was not in the Amazon jungle, but on an island off India, and the tribe is known as the Sentinelese, who live in the North Sentinel Island, India's remote cluster of Andaman and Nicobar. The Indian government forbids outsiders from going to the island. These people pretty much hate outsiders, and have thrown spears and fired arrows at “invaders.”

1.    “They live on an island 50 km west of Port Blair. Their numbers are believed to be less than 150 and as low as 40.
2.    It is said they have made little to no advancement in the over 60,000 years and still live very primitive lives, surviving mainly on fish and coconuts.
3.    They are very vulnerable to germs since they have not had contact with the outside world. Even a common flu virus carried by a visitor could wipe out the entire tribe.
4.    Since the 1960s, there have been a handful of efforts to reach out to the tribe but all have largely failed. They have repeatedly, aggressively made it clear that they want to be isolated.
5.    The only man believed to have succeeded in establishing friendly contact with the tribe was an Indian anthropologist Triloknath Pandit in 1991.
6.    In the 1981, a cargo ship MV Primrose grounded on the reef surrounding North Sentinel Island. The crew were rescued after a week by an Indian helicopter. The wreckage of the ship is still visible in satellite images.
7.    In 2006, the tribe killed two fishermen who strayed on to the island. They even rejected outside help after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, throwing spears and arrows at a rescue helicopter that flew above.
8.    The Indian government has had strict laws that ensure that they are isolated. These laws prohibited anyone from making any unauthorised contact with these isolated aboriginals.
9.    But in a major step earlier this year, the Indian government excluded this island and 28 others in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit or RAP regime till December 31, 2022, news agency Press Trust of India reported. The lifting of RAP means foreigners can go to the island without permission from the government, PTI reported.”

     Obviously, if the entire tribe could be wiped out by a simple sneeze, it would be a bit pointless trying to convert them, as they are likely to die first. But, no doubt they will see the way in due course, if we just give them time. After all, they now know that there is a wonderful bigger world out there just waiting for them to discover, with appropriate germ protection.



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Sunday, 25 October 2020
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