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Lethally medieval

Editorial |

It reads like a chapter from the Dark Ages. Except that it tells a story of 2018. The story of an isolated tribal community on an island in the Andaman Sea that reacts violently to any outsiders attempting to establish contact. And of a “white” missionary who stakes his life in his bid to spread the message of Jesus Christ to the “savages”.

The last word has not been written on the killing of American John Allen Chau by those dwelling on North Sentinel island, but can contemporary society live with either his klling, or his family “forgiving” those who reportedly greeted his intruding into their private version of paradise (not the one in California just razed by wildfire) with a volley of arrows from their traditional bows?

Sure some anthropologists demand that the islanders be respected and left alone, yet can they be so easily excluded from sabka sath sabka vikas and the presumed benefits of modernity? Is it also relevant to quiz those with “missionary zeal” if their efforts would not have proved more worthwhile ~ actually more pleasing in the Lord’s calculus ~ if devoted to putting an end to the gun culture in the “New World” that is increasingly being subjected to mass killings: some of them racially-induced, or blatantly anti-Semitic.

Can those living in the “Bible Belt” afford to look down on other civilisations? This is a 21st-century query to those who believe they have delivered the world from a Satanic curse. Have no illusions about it, the Satan mentioned is not an alias for Donald Trump. More down to earth would be queries if the American “tourist” eluded the attention of the authorities in the Andamans when he tied up with local fishermen to violate the law and contact the tribal community.

How much did he pay them, how many previous trips did he, or others, make? Is there an organised racket in place to defy the law ~ regardless of how silly the law may seem? There are more uninhabited islands in the archipelago, strategic questions of national security arise. Such islands can also be used by pirates and smugglers as “bases” or “depots” ~ to put it bluntly, the inept policing of the islands have been exposed despite increasing attention of the Indian Navy. The civil administration needs qualitative improvement.

The “distance” from New Delhi, and their comparative political insignificance, have kept the island territories off the radar screen for dangerously too long. If a “Bible-thumper” can so easily breach the defences what is to be said of those with more sinister intentions? And why should we simplistically take the “evangelist” theory at face value. Time that Raisina Hill realises that it has inimical adversaries beyond China and Pakistan. And that some other nearby islands are populated by folk who do not subscribe to saffron diktat.