Thirty-nine international genocide scholars have written to the Indian government warning it that its plans to turn an uncontacted tribe’s island into a mega-port and city will wipe them out.
Great Nicobar Island in the Indian Ocean is home to an estimated 300 Shompen hunter-gatherers, around two thirds of whom are uncontacted. They are one of the most isolated tribes on Earth, and live in the dense rainforests that occupy the interior of the island.
The government’s $9 billion plan for Great Nicobar includes a mega-port; a new city; an international airport; a power station; a defense base; an industrial park; and 650,000 settlers – a population increase of nearly 8,000%.
“If the project goes ahead, even in a limited form, we believe it will be a death sentence for the Shompen, tantamount to the international crime of genocide,” say the experts, who come from academic institutions in thirteen countries.
Among them are historians, sociologists, and the former President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.
The experts say that “simple contact between the Shompen - who have little to no immunity to infectious outside diseases - and those who come from elsewhere, is certain to result in a precipitous population collapse. The mass death of the entire Shompen tribe will ensue. The only way to avoid the obliteration of the Shompen is for the project to be abandoned.”
Survival International is calling for the project to be abandoned, and the Shompen’s land ownership rights over their ancestral lands to be recognized. More than 7,000 people have emailed the government in support of the call.
Caroline Pearce, Director of Survival International, said today: “This is a stark warning which the Indian government must heed – pushing ahead with the Great Nicobar project will destroy the Shompen’s island home and mean the genocide of the Shompen.”