IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

The Sentinelese

21st December, 2020 Art & Culture

Context: Anthropological Survey of India policy document warns of threat to endangered group from commercial activity.

  • Any exploitation of the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans for commercial and strategic gain would spell the death knell for its occupants.
  • The Sentinelese, a most secluded, particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) who reside in complete isolation on the island.

Anthropological Survey of India policy document findings:

  • Right of the people to the island is non-negotiable.
  • These rights are unassailable, non-negotiable and uninfringeable.
  • The prime duty of the state is to protect these rights as eternal and sacrosanct. Therefore, their island should not be eyed for any commercial or strategic gain, for if it were to happen, it surely would be a death knell for its occupants.
  • Along with maintaining the territorial integrity of the North Sentinel Island, the document also calls for building a knowledge bank on the Sentinelese.
  • Since ‘on-the-spot study’ is not possible for the tribal community, anthropologists suggest the ‘study of a culture from distance’.

The Sentinelese

  • With a population of about 50 to 100 on the North Sentinel Island, are not only among the most isolated of nearly 70 PVTGs across the country, but also among the five in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which include the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa, and the Shompens.
  • Though both Sentinelese and Great Andamanese are classified as PVTG, the tribes live in two completely different contact situation.
  • While in the case of the Sentinelese their contact to the outside world is almost nil, the Great Andamanese had decades of exposure to the world outside their Island.

Goodwill missions

  • Till the 1990s, there were goodwill missions whose contact was limited to standing in shallow waters around the island at a distance and offering gifts to the members of the tribe.