American Man Visiting Andamans “Missing, Presumed Dead”: Home Ministry

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Home Ministry is treating John Chau's case as "missing, presumed dead" as body has not been recovered

New Delhi:

The Union Home Ministry on Thursday said that American man John Allen Chau, who was reportedly killed by an isolated Sentinelese tribe in the Andamans, is being dealt with as "missing and presumed dead" as his body has not been recovered yet.

A Home Ministry official said John Chau, 27, violated several rules governing those visiting restricted areas, putting his life at risk.

"There were three filters for foreigners visiting the restricted areas: One which is imposed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation 1956, second is the Indian Forests Act 1927, and then there is the Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which is the weakest filter in terms of foreigners wanting to visit any of the islands," he said.

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"The bigger filters are the other two which are applicable to Indians as well. As the RAP has been withdrawn from North Sentinel as well as 28 other islands, any foreigner who visits these islands does not have to take a permit, but he has to inform the FRRO (Foreigners Registration Regional Officer) about his stay. The hotel where a foreigner stays also informs the FRRO."

"(John) Chau had not even done that. So the mandatory requirement even under FRRO was not complied with. He had not informed the hotel where he stayed. Maybe, he did not even stay in any hotel," said the official.

"His local friend Alexander (electronics engineer), Saw Remmis (a local water sports help) and five other fishermen — identified as Saw Jampo, Saw Taray, Saw Watson, Saw Molian and M.Bhumi — actively facilitated and accompanied Chau to North Sentinel Island under the pretext of fishing activity to evade patrolling teams of the police, Coast Guard and Navy," said the official.

For this, John Chau paid the local fishermen around Rs 25,000 which is why they have been charged under the provisions of the IPC, which include offence of not complying with the legal requirement of hosting a foreigner, he said.

"Chau was visiting a place which was restricted in every way. It was restricted from a tribal and environment viewpoint as well," the official said.

The Andaman and Nicobar Police and authorities were still not clear why John Chau went to the Island, he added.

"About evangelisation, we really have no idea. If he had gone for that, why would he have carried snorkeling and other equipment linked with water sports. He would have carried the Bible or some other religious things. That is a matter of speculation. Investigation is going on. As of now, MHA does not know why he went to that island," said the official.

A 13-page journal written by John Chau was also found by the fishermen who after returning from the shore to Port Blair informed his friend Alexander about his death.

"(John) Chau was writing something in the journal which he must have forgotten behind in the boat that dropped him near the shore. From there he took a Kayak and rode across to the Island and then he was to return and meet the fishermen at some predetermined spot."

Explaining the sequence of events, the official said that John Chau along with the fishermen and his friends reached the coastline on November 14.

"On November 15, Chau moved to the seashore with his kayak, but his friends did not go with him. They decided to meet him in a day or two. In the morning of November 17, the fishermen saw a dead person being buried at the shore. With clothes and other things, it appeared to be Chau," he said.

The fishermen returned to Port Blair and narrated the incident to Alexander and handed him the 13-page journal written by John Chau.

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