For Safety of Restricted Sentinelese Tribe, Andaman Govt Asks Civil Aviation Ministry to Reroute Flights

Kolkata:The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration for the welfare of Sentinelese tribe requested the civil aviation ministry to change the flight path of the aircraft which fly over the North Sentinel Islands.

The request came given the lack of government policy addressing incidences when an aircraft crashes into the North Sentinel Island since it falls under a highly restricted area.

The Sentinelese are designated as a Scheduled Tribe. According to studies and reports, there is no community of people that is as isolated as the Sentinelese. They are among the last people to remain untouched and aloof from modern civilization.

“It is true that we have recently sent a request to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to change the flight path of aircraft which passes through the North Sentinel Islands,” Sanjeev Kumar Mittal, Principal Secretary, Tribal Welfare Department, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, told News18.

When asked about the reason behind the request, he said, “Sentinelese remain untouched and uncontacted for thousands of years. They want to live the way they are. That Island is exclusively for them and it has been their home for ages. In one of the meetings, the issue of their safety was raised and it was discussed what will happen if any aircraft crashes on their Island. What will be the fate of air survivors? What will happen to the Sentinelese? Therefore on the suggestion of the tribal welfare experts, our department has sent a letter to the Ministry of Civil Aviation requesting them to change the flight path.”

A few domestic flights and aircraft belonging to the Ministry of Defence currently pass over the North Sentinel Island. It is likely that the Ministry of Civil Aviation discusses the matter with the Ministry of Defence before taking the final decision.

In the meeting, several suggestions about installing floating buoys with electronic devices to keep an eye on intruders and ship movement close to the Island were also made. This was raised following the incident, which led to the death of American missionary John Chau after he attempted to contact the tribe.

“This suggestion was made by some security agencies. It is in a very preliminary stage,” Mittal said.

Sentinelese are believed to be descended from the first human populations to emerge from Africa and have probably lived in the Andaman Islands for over 55,000 years. They typically use bows and arrows to defend themselves against anyone they consider dangerous including outsiders.

In November 2018, John Chau’s case sent ripples across the Andamans administration and drew attention from the media everywhere given that it was the first time someone (barring authorities and experts) had attempted the dangerous journey to the Island.

The subsequent probe revealed that John went to Port Blair on October 16, 2018, and stayed in Hotel Lalaji Bay View. On October 19, 2018, he left for Hut Bay (located far away from Port Bair in Little Andaman Island) and returned to Port Blair on November 5, 2018.

Following his return, Chau stayed with his friend Alexander at Dairy Farm in Port Blair till November 14, 2018, before he left for North Sentinel Island around 8 pm. On November 17, 2018, around 6.30 AM, John’s fishermen friends saw John’s body being dragged and getting buried by the Sentinelese near the shore.