How safe is India for foreigners? -TNN
Posted On: 03/01/2008 08:34 GMT
 
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NEW DELHI: While Mumbai and Delhi seem to have discovered an unhealthy rivalry for the tag of "unsafe city" for women in India, how safe is India for women tourists even as she takes pride in welcoming outsiders with the Sanskrit sloka, "Atithi devo bhavah"?

On New Year's at Fort Kochi, a number of foreign tourists were heckled, abused and a 16-year-old Swedish girl molested by an unruly bunch of revelers. Another German scholar wasn't so lucky when Bitihotra Mohanty, the son of a top Orissa police officer, raped her in Alwar, Rajasthan, in May 2005, a crime for which he was convicted. He subsequently jumped parole and is still at large.

In fact, Rajasthan, which gets over 5 lakh foreign tourists a year, has consistently been in the news for attacks on tourists. In 2005, another German woman was raped in Jodhpur for which an autorickshaw driver and his friend were sentenced for life.

A schoolteacher in Jhunjhunu was given two years for molesting another German woman in March 2006. While the culprits in these cases have got their due, there was yet another case of alleged rape of two Australian girls in Jaipur who, after reporting the assault to the cops but traumatised by the experience, left for home and never answered court summons.

It's easily worse in Agra, where foreign tourists reported a dozen cases of rape, harassment, theft, and cheating while visiting the city in 2007 alone. The most shocking was the alleged gangrape of two Japanese girls on September 19 last year. They were so shocked that they did not even lodge a complaint in Agra, which was registered in New Delhi with assistance from Japanese embassy officials.

Then, acid was thrown on a Russian girl when she was returning with her friend after dinner at a hotel on Mall Road, on November 28. Varanasi, another "must" on the rubberneck circuit, too has reported violence of such sort: Diana Clare Routley from New Zealand was raped and murdered by a fake guide Dharmadeo in 1998. Her body was found after several days of search in Ghazipur district and the fraudster was arrested and later convicted.

Not surprisingly, the Australian high commission in Delhi stresses on the following advice to their women tourists: "Women travelers, especially when traveling alone, often get unwanted attention and have been sexually harassed and assaulted. Women should avoid walking at night in deserted areas including city streets, village lanes and beaches There have even been instances of single women being intimidated and harassed by houseboat personnel and their movements severely restricted."

Such an advice could also be extended to Indian women traveling within the country: Ask starlet Tanushreee Datta's whose New Year celebration in Bangalore was ruined when she slapped a man who heckled her, and which led to more catcalls and hoots against her.

Edited & Published By Raj Francis Pereira


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