North Sentinel Island: An Island In The Andaman That No One Is Allowed To Visit

By Shireen Gupta 


To everyone who has dedicated some time to the book called “One Hundred Years Of Solitude,” Macondo was a child of fortune and home to those who found wonder in mystic. We saw the birth and fall of Macondo and wrapped ourselves in the beauty of what was fiction.

But it would come as a surprise to most in knowing that India has to its name a territory, by the name of North Sentinel Island that resembles Macondo’s solitude.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude, a landmark novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez

The little known territory came into public attention back in 2006 when the civilians of the island killed two unassuming fishermen who came near the land illegally. When an Indian coast helicopter was sent to retrieve the bodies of the fishermen from ill made graves on the sandy beach, it was greeted with rounds of arrows fired by the indigenous. 

So enigmatic is the place that the total population report by the Indian Survey could not put a finger on the exact, or even the estimated, number of citizens living in the island. A range of 50 to 400 was, however, provided.

“The little known territory came into public attention back in 2006 when the civilians of the island killed two unassuming fishermen.

When an Indian coast helicopter was sent to retrieve the bodies of the fishermen, it was greeted with rounds of arrows fired by the indigenous.” 

Sustaining on a diet of locally caught fish and naturally grown coconuts, the civilians of the island are said to be stuck in the hunter-gatherer era. To say we entirely stepped out of the age is a misstatement, for the Sentinelese has thrived on this lifestyle without ever asking for the nation’s help.

North Sentinalese near Andaman and Nicobar Island Following the 2004 tsunami this member of the Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing an arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter. Image: Indian Coastguard

 To the curious mind, the fear of death has never been of trepidation, if you’re planning on, somehow, sneaking into the island, just know that back in 1997, India banned even its own citizen from stepping foot into, what can be considered, the Indian soil of the North Sentinel Island.

North Sentinal Island on Map To protect the Sentinelese people – and visitors – the Indian government has established a three-mile exclusion zone

The government had good reason to ban visits to the island. Since the island is stuck in the hunter-gatherer era and has avoided outer human contact, most diseases and antidotes we have are not accessible to the Sentinelese, therefore, outer contamination can wipe out the entire race and no help will be available, seeing as they have, with hostility, rejected former outer assistance.

Shipwreck off North Sentinal Island This aerial image from Google Maps shows a shipwreck off the coast; clashes with salvagers have left several tribes people dead

With solitude of 60,000 years, the Sentinelese have avoided outer wars and potential forceful monarchies but as times pass, stuck to the past, the North Sentinel Island has been nothing but mystery to every keen observer. The citizens might never come out and try peaceful contact, leaving them to the seclusion they have chosen.




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