The Kansas City-based All Nations missionary agency and the agent it dispatched to India’s forbidden North Sentinel Island, John Allen Chau, broke a whole raft of Indian laws or regulations, including the following:
- Visa law (Chau falsely entered India as a tourist, when the agency should have sought for him a “missionary visa,” which is what India grants to those coming for religious work. The “e-visa on arrival” form for tourists specifically asks if the applicant will engage in missionary activity).
- The 1956 Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation (the agency or its agent should have taken the mandatory permission under this law on this form).
- Regulations under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, applicable to natural forest reserves, including the primordial rainforest of North Sentinel. (A visit to the North Sentinel Island, among other reserves, is prohibited.)
The aboriginal and forest protection laws remain applicable despite the lifting of the so-called Restricted Area Permit requirement for foreigners. The removal of the “permit” requirement merely leveled the playing field for foreigners and Indians: Now both foreigners and Indians need to secure the same permissions — under the aboriginal and forest protection laws.
Also, as part of the tourist visa regulation applicable to the Andaman and Nicobar island chain, Chau should have registered with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office on arriving in Port Blair, the archipelago’s capital. But he didn’t.
In addition, Chau’s broke the tribe’s unwritten law by repeatedly intruding into their island over three days, despite warnings from the tribespeople to stop trespassing. This made him a serial offender for the tribespeople, who, after initially handling him with remarkable restraint, dealt with him in the way modern legal systems punish repeat offenders.
Chau was recruited by the agency’s international executive leader, Mary Ho, who told the Washington Post that Chau had traveled to India as a tourist, without the proper missionary visa, as missionary visas “aren’t easy to come by.” In statements to other American papers or news portals, the All Nations agency has defended its action in sending Chau to the North Sentinel Island, claiming that India’s MHA had lifted RAP requirement in August for North Sentinel. Here’s one sample: https://goo.gl/GoNyqG.
Chau’s own 13-page diary notes, however, show that he was fully aware of the unlawful nature of his mission, which is why, according to his own admission, he evaded Indian coastal patrols under cover of darkness. (The prohibition on travel to the North Sentinel Island actually extends to a five-kilometer exclusion zone around it.) Chau appears to have used his previous visits to the Andaman archipelago for reconnaissance planning, including learning to dodge Indian coastal patrols. On his last visit, he spent four full weeks in the Andaman chain before undertaking his fateful trip to North Sentinel.