Millennium Post

Government mulls first contact with Andaman’s elusive Sentinelese tribe

Speaking to Millennium Post, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Jual Oram said that they were aware of the challenges as far as the welfare of tribal peoples, especially the Sentinelese living in the archipelago, is concerned. “We will do the needful for their betterment,” he added. “Other tribal people including Jarawa, Onge, Shompen beside others are under our welfare schemes and very much in contact with the concerned experts in this field. But we never succeeded in making contact with the Sentinelese,” he said.

It was learnt that the main concern was their declining population, which is estimated to be little more than 100 and emphasis is on engaging them to increase their population. In 2001, the Census official made an attempt to register their population but they could not reach the Island after they were attacked with javelins made of wood, bows and arrows. Later, an aerial survey was done for census but it could not portray the exact numbers of these tribals. Then they have found only 39 people including 21 males and 18 females.

The local administration has already launched several schemes for the welfare of other tribes and marriages were organised for the Onge tribe. On similar line, the Tribal welfare ministry is planning to go ahead with their proposal to save the most vulnerable tribe in the world. As per record, Sentinelese is the most isolated tribe on the earth. They are thought to be directly descended from the first human populations to emerge in Africa, and have probably lived in the Andaman Islands for past 55,000 years.

Known for their great hunting skills and the best predictor of natural disasters, this beautiful tribal people have often come under attack from poachers from Burma. “It is a fact that some incidents of poaching were reported. This could be a problem for the tribal people and we have already asked the local administration to intensify their vigil,” the minister said.

A senior official of the Port Blair based Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AJVS), however, expressed concern over government attempt to contact Sentinelese. “If we have to do it, then we have to go for an elaborate plan. Otherwise it would be disastrous because they don’t like outsider to intrude in their territory.”

He said, “There are advantages and disadvantages of the move. The advantage is we can treat their illness if we make a contact and also will be able to learn about their needs. The disadvantages are that they might attack us, which could lead to possible retaliation. Also, there are changes that they might get allergic to our clothes or cosmetics or shoes. We have to deal carefully.” In 2006, Sentinelese archers killed two fishermen who were fishing close to their Island. Later, local administration retrieved the bodies.

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