Andaman & Nicobar Island

After the recent killing of US Citizen John Allen Chau on the Sentinel Islands by the Sentinelese tribe, the home minister is considering reimposing the restrictions that need foreigners to obtain special permits to visit the protected parts of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The permission will only be granted after consulting the experts and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) that was the first to oppose relaxation of the permit regime for restricted area in August.

The recent killing incident that came to light was connected with the home ministry’s June decision to allow tourists to visit the protected 29 Andaman and Nicobar Islands in order to promote tourism. NCST, which was against this decision, had earlier written to the home ministry on August 18, 2018, seeking reimposition of Restricted Area Permit (RAP), to protect the primitive tribes from being endangered.

In a statement by NCST, the members have presented their concern with Chau’s death and said that “any aggressive step to recover the body will disturb the peace and tranquility of the island”. The commission has also asked the government to take all the necessary steps to maintain the “Inviolability of North Sentinel Islands”.

Home ministry said that the decision to abolish permits to visit the restricted areas in the North Sentinel islands has nothing to do with the murder of Chau. The killing, according to the ministry happened because he flouted the restrictions under the Protection of Aboriginal Tribes (Protection) Law and the Indian Forests Act. He also didn’t inform the local FRRO of his stay in the Andaman & Nicobar. “So it would have made no difference even if RAP had been in place,” an officer was quoted as saying.

The ministry also revealed that the number of violations by foreign tourists was recorded as 44 in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. However, none of them were related to the RAP regime. “It was also recalled that two people were killed in a similar way in 2016 when RAP restrictions were in place,” said an officer.

However, the NCST has now increased the pressure on the home ministry to reconsider RAP relaxations in islands housing primitive tribes. An NCST delegation led by Chairman Nand Kumar Sai is set to visit the islands from December 4 to check the circumstances of Chau’s killing and the repercussions of relaxing RAP regime for the aboriginal tribes dwelling in these islands.

The NCST delegation will have the presence of MHA officials, commandment coast guard and the director of the Anthropological Survey of India. This will enable them to conduct a ground assessment and review of the Union Territory.

A report will be submitted to the home ministry after the survey is done. Though RAP was lifted to send out a general message of opening up the islands to foreigners in the interest of promoting tourism and development, if necessary, we may reimpose RAP regime in North Sentinel Islands,” said an official from home ministry.


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