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Is It Safe to Travel to India Right Now?
With the current situation in the cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Pune in Assam province, is it safe to travel to India at the moment? What are the FCO advising, and are tour companies still operating?
By: Holiday-n-Adventure UK
Although the panic that has arisen in Chennai and Pune has been put down largely to scare-mongering over social media sites, it is undeniable that serious conflict has occurred in Assam and that the threat of violence remains in that region.
The Naga Council along with the Naga Hoho and the Naga Students Federation of Nagaland have recently expressed their frustration at the local government’s failure in tackling the issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants settling on their land. The local government has warned these groups that any attempt to deal with matters on their behalf would not be tolerated as it is a government issue. However, many feel the Assam and Nagaland governments have buried their heads in the sand thus far and have consequently lost faith in them. This has led to violent confrontation between Bengali immigrants and Assam locals.
Since mid-July over 80 people have died during conflicts between indigenous Bodos and Bengali Muslims and, as a result, thousands of local residents of neighbouring north eastern towns have been afraid to leave their homes. As a further consequence of the Bengalese-Assam conflict, over half a million people have fled their homes in the cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Pune after receiving threatening text messages warning of impending attacks on Muslims.
India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has spoken out against radical groups, saying that a stop must be put on scaremongering through text messages and social media as he feels these are the main reasons for the panic people are feeling rather than an actual, threat of violence in Bangalore, Chennai or Pune. However, the British Foreign and Common Wealth Office advise that caution be taken when travelling in the north-east Assam region.
According to clauses in the Assam Accord, certain borders between India and Bangladesh remain open and it is through these that Bengals freely roam into India on a regular basis. It is the permanent settlement of these people that has caused tension among the indigenous and Bodo people of North-East India, who feel the government has failed in tackling what they see as a serious immigration issue.
Talks and debates have been underway over the last number of days between the Assam government and the Bengali government with a view to amending the Assam Accord and redefining boundaries between the two countries.
Investigations have also gone underway into the threatening text messages and social media messages sent by radical groups that led to the mass exodus of hundreds of residents in Chennai, Pune and Bangalore.
Whether it is safe or not to travel to India at the moment depends greatly on the area you intend on visiting. The situation in the North-east is changing from day-to-day and it is this unpredictability that is causing many sensible travellers to avoid the area, at least until some kind of agreement has been reached.
However, at present, the majority of travel agents are still operating holidays and tours in India and the problems in and around Bangladesh are being considered an isolated issue.
As far as the rest of India goes, travel to Kashmir, Jammu (other than to Ladakh) and Srinagar is still ill advised by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office unless it is essential. If you must travel to Srinagar then it is recommended that you travel by air only. This is due to an incident on the 28th July 2012 in which two were killed and four injured when their vehicle exploded in Bijbehara, Kashmir, 44 kilometres south of Srinagar. There have been repeated incidents in Srinagar, Sopore and Bijbehara in the last number of months, but most were limited to attacks on police stations, security forces and police officers. Travel in India around the Pakistani border is considered high risk.
Luckily for travellers to India however, this huge and diverse country has a lot to offer and not only every region, but every city is unique. This leaves the traveller with plenty of options of places to go, even if certain cities are temporarily not advised.
For the latest developments in India, visit the FCO (http://www.fco.gov.uk/
Page Updated Last on: Aug 21, 2012