Have You Heard of The Sentinelese Tribe of India?

The Sentinelese Tribe of India

A 27-year-old American man was killed in the Andaman and Nicobar islands on 20th November. John Allen Chau has been reported murdered on the North Sentinel Island, as he tried to encroach on the tribal surroundings.

Chau was killed by members of the Sentinelese tribe, which is protected under the Indian Law. Seven people, who helped the American reach this part of the island, have been arrested in connection with the murder as of now.


Have You Heard of the Sentinelese Tribe Before?

Andaman and Nicobar Islands has five reclusive tribes namely, the Sentinelese, the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Shompen and the Jarawa. Out of these, the Sentinelese is one of the most private of the five tribes.

Sentinelese people are the only pre-Neolithic people in the world. This implies that they follow a culture that existed in the middle period of Stone Age. The Sentinelese tribals are practically the sovereign people of India. However, if an outsider is attacked and killed by them for trespassing or trying to make contact with them, they cannot be prosecuted by the police. For them, protection of the tribe is utmost important for their existence and significance.

One must know that the Sentinelese people do not like the presence of any outsiders near them. They are believed to have migrated from Africa and have been living in isolation on this island for about 60,000 years.

The scientific study of their DNA samples by Anthropologists suggest that the Sentinelese were a part of an early wave of Hominoids (primates) evolving into Homo Sapiens who migrated from Africa to the Far East reaching Asia and other parts of the world.

As per a detailed report by Edit Times The Sentinelese aimed their arrows by running into the waves when the vessel reached their shore. What manifested on the beach was a murky glimpse of their culture where a female claimed a warrior for her and sat in the sand, ensconced in a passionate embrace. All the other female members followed suit in the spontaneous beach orgy.

Sources are yet to corroborate whether this act of communal mating was in the heat of the moment or something which the Sentinelese women exercised, calming their men who turned violent and hostile.


Laws and Regulations For The Sentinelese 

The Sentinelese people are recognised amongst the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Several laws including the Andaman and Nicobar Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation (ANPATR), 1956 have been framed to ensure their protection.

As per records, a young British officer Maurice VIdal Portman had tried to encourage the Sentinelese people into the mainstream somewhere in the 1880s. After several days of Portman’s expedition into the hills and forests of the island, he had managed to capture a family of six – a couple and their four children. On bringing them to the Andaman and Nicobar island, the parents contracted and died of diseases which their bodies were not immune to and eventually the children were released back onto the island. The British then gave up their hope of working their development again.

Much later after our independence, the Government of India too launched a similar mission in 1967, however, it took them more than two decades to make the first successful contact with the tribe only in 1991. It is extremely difficult to get close to them as they target anyone who comes close to the shore. They do allow the ship the anchor so that they can capture the articles and goods of use from it, however, soon after the goods are offloaded, they shoot the visitors with arrows.

Private entities too have failed in making this mission successful. Eventually, in 1996, the government abandoned its programme to make any contact with Sentinelese tribe.


Head-Count of The Sentinelese


  • As per 2001 data, the population was numbered at approximately 39 [21 men and 18 women]
  • As per 2011 data, the enumerators could peg them only at a total strength of 15 [12 men and 3 women]
  • However, estimates say they could exist in the range of 40-400



What You May Not Know

Until August 2018, the Indian Law protected this tribe which could not be prosecuted and any contact by outsiders with them was considered to be illegal

Apparently the government of India had also clarified in 2017, that uploading videos of this tribe on social media was also prohibited.

As per Human Rights Activists, they supposedly survive on hunting and gathering food and other needs of basic requirement

However, in August this year, the Modi government removed the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from 29 islands in Andaman Islands with the objective of promoting tourism and North Sentinel Island was one of them. This will remain in force until 2022.

This typically means that the incident of the American National who dared to enter their territory, will not be considered illegal anymore



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