John Allen Chau's body was found on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal with arrow wounds. (Photo from Instagram)
Indian police and church officials have poured cold water on media reports that an American murdered on an isolated island was trying to convert tribal people to Christianity.
John Allen Chau's body was found on a beach of North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal with arrow wounds on Nov. 17.
Indian laws prohibit visitors to the island to protect the existence and identity of the tribal people, who reportedly have low immunity. The Sentinelese people, one of world's most primitive tribes, are known to resist outsiders and often attack those who go near their island.
Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told the News Minute website that he was told that Chau, 27, lived in the U.S. state of Alabama and was "some kind of paramedic."
"People thought he was a missionary because he had mentioned his position on God and that he was a believer on social media or somewhere online. But in a strict sense he was not a missionary. He was an adventurer. His intention was to meet the aborigines," Pathak said.
Chau arrived in Andaman capital Port Blair on a tourist visa. On Nov. 16, he and six fishermen went close to the island on a fishing boat, and he then used a canoe to land on the island.
He was attacked by arrows but continued walking. The fishermen saw the tribal people tying a rope around his neck and dragging his body. They were scared and sped away but returned the next day to find his body on the shore, wire agency AFP said quoting an official source.
Bishop Aleixo das Neves Dias of Port Blair, which covers the area, told ucanews.com that the diocese did not have any accurate information about the victim but confirmed that he was not associated with the Catholic mission in the area.
The bishop said that those who know about the history and geography of the area know "it is suicidal to enter the area. Projecting religious conversion as the motive of the visitor is misplaced."
"How can anyone imagine going to a place to convert people when you know you will surely be killed upon landing there?"
Father Dharampal Tirkey, financial adviser of the diocese, told ucanews.com that attributing conversion as Chau's motive "is part of a malicious attempt to link the unfortunate incident with Christian missionary work."
He said initial information gathered by the diocese showed that the deceased was doing some research and had previously made an aborted attempt to enter the prohibited area.
Christian missionaries and the church had been "unnecessarily dragged into a controversy of conversion," Father Tirkey said.
Reports said seven people including the six fishermen who took Chau to the island were arrested on charges of culpable homicide amounting to murder, ferrying people on an overloaded vessel and voluntarily causing hurt.
In 2006, the Sentinelese people killed two fishermen whose boat inadvertently drifted onto their island.