New Delhi: In its latest travel advisory for American travellers coming to India, the US has highlighted “rape” as a major concern, thereby putting India in the ‘Level 2’ category of travel destinations.
The advisory, which was issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the US State Department on 15 November, has asked American travellers to exercise “increased caution” while travelling to India, as it said, “Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations”.
“Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the advisory stated.
This is not the first time that the US has highlighted sexual assault as a concern in its travel advisories for India. It was highlighted earlier in 2018 and 2019, when the US had asked women travellers to exercise caution.
The US State Department follows four categories of travel advisories for countries. Level 2 denotes “exercise increased caution”, while Level 1 means “exercise normal precautions”. Level 3 indicates “reconsider travel”, and finally Level 4 is used for destinations where the advise is “do not travel”.
Apart from sexual crimes, the advisory also refers to rise in terrorism, insurgency by ethnic groups and Maoist rebellion as some of the reasons why American travellers should exercise caution while travelling to India.
Terrorist attack, civil unrest in J&K
Apart from sexual crimes, the advisory has also advised American travellers to avoid visiting some popular tourist places in Jammu and Kashmir due to the risk of terrorist attacks and civil unrest.
“Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Avoid all travel to this state (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh),” the advisory stated.
It added: “Sporadic violence occurs particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating India and Pakistan, and in tourist destinations in the Kashmir Valley: Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting certain areas along the LOC.”
The advisory also talks of “strong military presence” on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.
Caution against travel to northeast, central and eastern India
The advisory has also cautioned Americans against travelling to the northeastern part of India owing to “incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings of buses, trains, rail lines, and markets”, which “occur occasionally in the northeast.”
US government employees are prohibited from traveling to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur without special authorisation from the US Consulate General in Kolkata, the advisory added.
About central and eastern India, it stated that in these parts Maoist extremist groups or Naxalites are “active in large swath”. It has advised American travellers against going to areas of eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal, particularly in rural parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and on the borders of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha.
“The Naxalites have conducted frequent terrorist attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials,” it said, adding that “due to the fluid nature of the threat” all US government travellers to states with Naxalite activity “must receive special authorization from the U.S. consulate responsible for the area to be visited”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)