Indian authorities were struggling Thursday to figure out how to recover the body of an American killed after wading ashore on an isolated island cut off from the modern world.
John Allen Chau was killed last week on the tiny Indian island of North Sentinel when tribespeople apparently shot him with arrows and then buried his body on the beach, police said.
But even officials don’t travel to North Sentinel, where people live as their ancestors did thousands of years ago and where outsiders are seen with suspicion and attacked.
“It’s a difficult proposition,” said Dependera Pathak, the director-general of police on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where North Sentinel is located. “We have to see what is possible, taking utmost care of the sensitivity of the group and the legal requirements.”
Police are consulting anthropologists, tribal welfare experts and scholars to figure out a way to recover the body, he said.
While visits to the island are heavily restricted, Chau paid fishermen last week to take him near North Sentinel, using a kayak to paddle to shore and bringing gifts including a football and fish.
It was “a foolish adventure,” said P.C. Joshi, an anthropology professor at Delhi University who has studied the islands. “He invited that aggression.”
Joshi noted that the visit not only risked Chau’s life but also the lives of islanders who have little resistance to many diseases.
“They are not immune to anything. A simple thing like flu can kill them,” he said.