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India risks genocide of uncontacted island tribe with mega-port plan, scholars warn

THIRTY-NINE international genocide scholars have warned the Indian government 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, 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 (£7.1bn) plan for Great Nicobar includes a mega-port, a new city, an international airport, a power station, a defence base, an industrial park and 650,000 settlers — a population increase of nearly 8,000 per cent.

“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,” the scholars said in a letter to the government.

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.”

Britain-based campaign group Survival International has called for the project to be abandoned and the Shompen’s land ownership rights over their ancestral lands to be recognised.

“This is a stark warning which the Indian government must heed,” Survival International director Caroline Pearce said today.

“Pushing ahead with the Great Nicobar project will destroy the Shompen’s island home and mean the genocide of the Shompen.”

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