Madhumala Chattopadhyay women who made ‘friendly contact’ with Andaman’s Sentinelese


First Indian women Madhumala Chattopadhyay who made ‘friendly contact’ with Andaman’s Sentinelese, back in 1991 woman anthropologist Madhumala Chattopadhyay established friendly contact with the traditionally hostile Sentinelese tribe in the North Sentinel Island in the Andamans, 1200 km off the coast of the Indian mainland.

On January 4, 1991, Madhumala Chattopadhyay Sailed to island in a small craft at around 8 am in the morning, A team of 13 with key team members–team leader S. Awaradi (director, tribal welfare, A&NI administration), medical officer Dr. Arun Mullick (for providing medical attention in case of sickness or injury) and The rest were support crew.

As they made their approach, that’s when officials and researchers on the boat first sighted the Sentinelese – some of them armed with bows and arrows. The visiting party took the initiative of dropping coconuts in the water. Suddenly, a small group of Sentinelese approached them on a canoe and took the offering.

However, it’s when the 13-member team came back with a second set of coconuts for the Sentinelese when something remarkable happened. First, the Sentinelese reached the visiting party’s boat, touched it and collected the coconuts directly. Then a young Sentinelese on the shore had his bow and arrow targeted at the visiting party.

“As the marksman was about to release, a Sentinelese woman standing nearby gave a push to the marksman, and the arrow missed its mark and fell harmlessly in the water. The woman had done that on purpose, thus saving the contact party from severe injury or even death,” says this Probashi profile.

Seeing a woman in the visiting party, one could posit that the Sentinelese now believed them to be non-threatening. Following the incident, Madhumala got into the water and began handing over coconuts in person.

This was the first time a woman was a part of a contact expedition with the Sentinelese, and they put their guard down. The presence of a woman indicated that the contact party meant no harm. This braveheart anthropologist is Dr Madhumala Chattopadhyay, then a researcher with the Anthropological Survey of India spend six years researching the various primitive tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Madhumala is also the first woman to be accepted by another Andaman tribe, the Jarawas, with whom she established a friendly relationship, especially the womenfolk.

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