There has been a lot of talk about the fate of the Sentinelese tribe in Andaman. Is the preservation of this tribe without any intervention the perfect standpoint? Should they be brought into our world? Let’s find out.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one of the most beautiful islands in the world. There are around 572 islands and only 38 of them are inhabited. These islands are home to six tribes, namely, the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese on the Andamans and the Shompen and Nicobarese on Nicobar Islands. There was also a Jangil tribe, but it’s now completely extinct, mainly because of diseases which they had no immunity towards, caught from the people from outside their island (visitors).
John Chau (Source)
These were people like John Chau; the American tourist recently killed by the Sentinelese tribe.
Before we talk about the Sentinelese, let’s talk about the Jarawas and their home; Baratang Island. The Jarawas had always resisted contact with the outside world (like the Sentinelese). Baratang Island in Andaman is known for its beautiful Limestone Caves. It’s a popular tourist attraction and getting there is a bit of a journey in itself. When you get off the ferry, you’re shifted into a seven-seater car that takes you through the mountainous jungle (the Jarawa’s reserve) on the Island. Because this Island has been made into a tourist attraction, the road that cuts through their territory brings thousands of outsiders into their land. The tourists treat the Jarawa like animals in a safari park.
On probing further, I found out that there were around 65 Jarawas on that island and they had submitted to government control, after much resistance. Each evening there was a head count of all of them and they were kept under strict supervision. While I was there, I wondered about what their life was like, having to show up for attendance each evening for all their lives.
The Sentinelese people from Andaman are indigenous people who’re the most isolated people on Earth. They are also the most dangerous tribe in the world and have always resisted contact with the outside world, attacking anyone who comes near them. Unlike the Jarawas on Baratang, they’ve been able to protect themselves for this long.
There has been a lot of talk about Chau’s actions and the fate of the Sentinelese tribe in the years to come. The case of John Chau’s death was a result of multiple illegal activities and blind faith. The government of India has banned any outside contact with the tribe, but illegal poaching in their waters is still alive. What John Chau did is just another example of things that unnecessarily superstitious people do. He was a white man with a colonial mindset. Colonialists have always wanted to “educate natives”. It’s just their way of showing supremacy.
One major point of argument has been whether they should be forcibly settled. This would be unethical on all fronts; political, social and moral.
Forcibly settling the Sentinelese tribe is completely out of question, because as soon as an attempt is made, this tribe will be forced into extinction instantly due to their lack of immunity. The entire point of preservation is to keep them alive. By trying to intervene, we’ll only be killing them.
The Sentinelese are happy, strong and healthy the way they are. They have a different understanding of the universe (or lack thereof) and we shouldn’t force our ways on them. Just because their way of living is different from ours, doesn’t mean they’re a threat and have to be tamed. It doesn’t mean that we’re depriving them of modern developments, it just means that we’re letting them be, which is clearly what they want. They’re shooting arrows at people; their message seems pretty clear.
Let’s consider a scenario where the Sentinelese are brought into our world and they somehow survive. They’ll be poor and marginalised for all their lives. The social and political system that humans have built will not be in favour of them, ever. Talking about technology; that hasn’t yielded anything great as well. Sure, we can go to the moon. But what about our endless and pointless wars? We, as a civilisation, are doomed. Forcibly making them a part of our system won’t do them anyone any good.
I’ve seen the way people looked at the Jarawas on Baratang. The exact same will happen to any other tribe that we try to blend with our culture, i.e. if they don’t die from diseases before that. We, as civilised humans, have a tendency to try and make everything we see, ours. Let’s try to overcome it.