February 6, 2006

“Stone Age” Indian tribe kills two fishermen

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Members of one of the world's most
primitive and isolated tribes have killed two fishermen who
strayed on to their island in India's Andaman and Nicobar
archipelago, a senior government official said on Monday.

Coast guards spotted two bodies buried in sand last month
on North Sentinel Island, 40 km (25 miles) west of the island
chain's capital, Port Blair, said chief administrator D. S.

A group of about 20 Sentinelese tribes people were
surrounding them, Negi said. "They (the tribals) were naked and
carrying bows and arrows," he told Reuters by telephone.

The Indian government has banned anyone from going near
Sentinel Island where about 250 tribe members live a
hunter-gathering lifestyle little changed since the Stone Age.

Negi said the he had no knowledge of any previous killing
of outsiders by the islanders. He said the fishermen, a young
boy and an older man -- who lived in Port Blair -- had probably
drifted toward the island without realizing their mistake.

"The relatives of the dead wanted to see the bodies so we
showed them through binoculars. But that's all that we can do,"
Negi said. "We can't retrieve the bodies. No one is allowed to
go near the tribals. The bodies will rot on the beach."

Survival International, a worldwide group for tribal
rights, blamed officials for the incident, saying people from
nearby islands head to Sentinel to hunt for lobsters.

"These tragic deaths could have been avoided if authorities
had been enforcing the law," Stephen Corry, the organization's
director, said in a statement.

But Negi said authorities were careful to protect the
islanders, and local environmentalist Samir Acharya praised
police and coastguard officers for behaving with courage and

"In spite of great pressure from political leaders and the
public, they refused to use force to retrieve the bodies," he
said. "That took some guts."