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November 2018

International

Man killed on remote Indian island tried to ‘declare Jesus’ to tribe

John Allen Chau’s diary suggests he knew the risks of going to North Sentinel Island

Michael Safi in Delhi @safimichael

John Allen Chau, right, with Casey Prince in Cape Town
 John Allen Chau, right, in Cape Town. He told his parents not to be angry at God if he died on North Sentinel Island. Photograph: Sarah Prince/AP

An American man who was killed by an isolated tribe on a remote Indian island wrote to his parents hours before his death that he wanted to “declare Jesus” to the tribespeople and that they should “not be angry at them or at God if I get killed”.

John Allen Chau, 26, is believed to have been hit with a volley of arrowsshortly after making land on North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, last Friday.

The island, which is off-limits to visitors without permission, is home to a 30,000-year-old tribe that is known to aggressively resist outsiders.

Chau repeatedly tried to contact the tribespeople and managed to reach the island the day before he was killed. He tried to offer gifts of fish and a football, he wrote in his diary.

“I heard the whoops and shouts from the hunt,” Chau wrote in an entry that was given to several media outlets by his mother. “I made sure to stay out of arrow range, but unfortunately that meant I was also out of good hearing range.

“So I got a little closer as they (about six from what I could see) yelled at me, I tried to parrot their words back to them. They burst out laughing most of the time, so they probably were saying bad words or insulting me.

“I hollered: ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.’ I regret I began to panic slightly as I saw them string arrows in their bows. I picked up the fish and threw it towards them. They kept coming.Advertisement

“I paddled like I never have in my life back to the boat. I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed. They didn’t accept me right away.”

One of the tribespeople – “a kid probably about 10 or so years old, maybe a teenager” – fired an arrow that struck his Bible, he wrote that night, onboard a boat he had paid fishermen 25,000 rupees (£275) to let him stay on, moored close to the island. “Well, I’ve been shot by the Sentinelese.”

The next day as he prepared to make another approach, Chau wrote a letter to his parents. “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people,” he wrote.

“Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. Rather, please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil.

“This is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language, as Revelations 7:9-10 states.”

He signed off: “Soli deo gloria” (glory to God alone).

A Sentinelese man
 A Sentinelese man aims his bow and arrow at an Indian coastguard helicopter as it flies over North Sentinel Island after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

But his diaries revealed less certainty about the mission he was undertaking. “If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it,” he wrote, addressing God. “I think I could be more useful alive though.

“I don’t want to die. Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so. I still could make it back to the US somehow, as it almost seems like certain death to stay here.”

He gave the diary and letter to the fishermen and took a kayak back to the island. The fishermen told police they saw the tribe dragging away and burying Chau’s body the following day.

Seven people including five fishermen have been arrested for helping Chau reach the island. The Indian government recently lifted a ban on tourists going to the island, but Denis Giles, an activist for tribal rights in the Andamans, said state authorities still asked people to seek permission, and the status of the island was “a grey area”.

Police said Chau had visited the Andamans, which are scattered across the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, four times in the past three years.

His family posted on his Instagram on Wednesday that they forgave his killers and asked for those who helped him to be released. They said Chau was a “beloved son, brother and uncle” as well as a Christian missionary.

“He loved God, life, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people,” the family said. “We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death.”

Economy

GST imposition on cardamom export to India affects price

by Rajesh Rai  

Phuentsholing: Bhutanese exporting cardamoms to India are desperate for a government intervention.

After the Goods and Services Tax (GST) impose since July 1 last year, Indian customs offices have implemented the computerised system called ICEGATE in Indian towns that share a border with Bhutan and are significant trade links.

The ICEGATE system asks exporters clearance certificates from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Plant Quarantine Services of India (PQSI). FSSAI has been managed but the quarantine clearance has not been obtained so far.

PQSI does not issue this clearance for Bhutan and it also does not recognise Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory (BAFRA) certification the exporters get in Bhutan.

The issue has also been raised in several meetings in Phuentsholing in the past but there have been no measures taken.

Initially, the system was not installed in Samtse and Bhutanese exporters took their produce to the place to export it to India despite the implication of transportation costs. All the border areas now have the system.

Without quarantine clearance, Bhutanese cardamom demand has decreased, thus, affecting the price.

Cardamom fetched prices between Nu 700 and Nu 800 per kilo (kg) in 2017 but today the price has plummeted to Nu 450 to Nu 480.

Exporters say cardamom exported to India today is also done “informally” and it has affected the price further.

Although exporters still managed to export “informally,” a manager with Bhutan Export Business Line (BEBL), Yeshey Wangchuk, in Phuentsholing said their buyers in Siliguri faced problems related to GST.

“Our buyers have to show where the cardamoms are being imported from,” he said. “If we cannot export it legally the rates would further dip.”

When cardamom cannot be exported legally, farmers are at the losing end, as the prices keep on dropping due to low demand, Yeshey Wangchuk said. “The situation is same with cardamom traders in Gelephu.”

After the GST regime was commenced, the customs office across the border in Jaigoan has stopped recognising the certification from BAFRA and asked the exporters to get certification for every single consignment from Kolkata, India.

Meanwhile, the Indian agriculture ministry had notified in 2003 list of entry points for import of plants and plant materials under Schedule-I and this does not include any of the exit points from Bhutan to India. Jaigaon for Phuentsholing, Chamurchi for Samtse, Daranga for Samdrupjongkhar and Dadgari for Gelephu are not listed and recognised under PQSI.

Schedule-VII of the same notification also states that the large cardamom is in the list of plant and plant materials under which imports are permissible on the basis of phytosanitary certificate issued by the country. But BAFRA certificate is not recognised by ICEGATE.

Joint managing director of RSA private limited in Phuentsholing, who is also a cardamom exporter, Singye Namgyel Dorji, said they had written about the situation to the ministry of economic affairs.

“The biggest problem today is that we cannot legally export to India,” he said, adding that the buyers don’t want to buy from Bhutan because Bhutanese cannot produce the quarantine certificate that is used to pass the GST system.

Considering the problem of not having the document, buyers will buy only if the price was really low, Singye Namgyel Dorji said. “In the long run, it would be better to have BAFRA link with PQSI so that its certificate would be recognised.”

For a short-term measure, the RSA joint managing director said that those Indo-Bhutan towns should be added in the list of the 2003 notification. “Jaigaon, Chamurchi, Daranga and Dadgari should be included in the list, after which the PQSI can do the quarantine.”

RSA had proposed this to the interim government this September.

Earlier this month, some exporters also had told Kuensel that it was the middlemen who work for some Bhutanese exporters that syndicated and manipulated the price.

Singye Namgyel Dorji, however, said it is not true.

“Each farmer cannot tie up with exporters,” he said, explaining farmers need to go through middlemen who buy and aggregate the cardamom in mass. “They then give us the cardamom.”

Since the middlemen, who are individuals from across the border, cannot export owing to several documentations, RSA buys from them.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing