Please can someone give us some advice on a very urgent situation.
We recently arrived in India, we were conned into going on a 2 day tour to Kashmir by a Delhi tour agent (which was listed in the Lonely Planet unbelievably). Basically we asked for a Himalaya tour, they took our money then didnt give us the flight tickets until the morning of the flight, which turned out to be to Srinagar in the Himalayas. We asked several staff at the airport who assured us the situation was ok up there now.
We stayed on Nageen Lake in the houseboats, which are run by a mafia type mob of guys who threaten and intimidate their guests into handing over thousands of pounds to book up more tours with them. We were the "lucky" ones who only paid an extra 300 pounds, other couples we spoke to were made to hand over more than a thousand.
The manager threatens you with the army and police if you do not pay up, he also refuses to give you your flight back and says you will never get out of Kashmir if you do not pay up.
As you can imagine this was the most frightening experience we have ever had to face. Thankfully once we had paid him he gave us our flight tickets and we are now back in the safety of Agra.
Our problem is: we met an Australian girl there who had also been conned into the same trip. She is travelling on her own and is blonde and very pretty. She recently sent us an email saying HELP... the manager has expressed his "love" for her and wants her to stay with him in Kashmir, where he will marry her and then he will escort her back to Delhi. At the moment she is playing along and saying she wants to be a nun so as not to anger him.
I know this sounds like somethng from a film but the sad truth is its not. How can we help this girl without making things worse? The manager told us he knows the army and police, he proved this by driving through Kashmir without ever being stopped at any of the checkpoints.
The phones do not work in Kashmir so she cannot call us, we are worried if she rejects his advances somethng bad will happen, yet if we go to the Kahsmir police and they are friends with the manager it will make things worse for her.
Please can anyone advise what to do?! I am writing to the UK Embassy today and also to Lonely Planet to inform them of what is going on. The sad thing is more tourists are going there every day just to be ripped off.
This is really sad, and unfortunatly I can't think of any way to deal with the situation. I suspect though that writing to Lonely Planet may not do any good. They already know, hence the half page warning in their guide book explaining that Kashmir is NOT safe to travel in, and that listening to tour agencies in Delhi that tell you its safe will result in being held prisoner in Srinagar while paying alot of money. Their exact words (as part of a larger warning) "Ignore the Kashmiri touts in Delhi who have a vested interst in telling you, very convincingly, that it's all perfectly safe. Some who have fallen for this (usually paying well over the odds rfor it, too) have found that once they're in Kashmir, and on a dodgy houseboat, the conflict is used to hold them a virtual prisoner with little opportunity to explore independently".
As well, pretty much all foreign embassies, including the UK and Australia, strongly advise against travelling to Kashmir unless its absolutly urgent. The warnings mention the risk of bombings, such as the few this summer that killed tourists, and the one on tuesday that killed a number of civilians, and also mention the several tourist kidnappings that have happened over the last few years.
The warnings are all there, people just choose to listen to a "travel agent" in Dehli rather than their own government or their guide book. Then they wonder why they've run into problems.
i have to say - i am shocked! and aashamed that this happenes in my country. Writing to the uk embassy seems a good idea - but better call them !
New Delhi contact: (91-11) 26872161
and this is the australian high comission in india (delhi)
ps: i know this is really not the most encouraging thing to say, but yea travelling alone to kashmir is in itself a bad idea unless u are a local. a girl doing it alone seems like plain stupidity!
i am not sure- u shd look up indian travel helpers and people based in kashmir - if any. they might be able to do something!
Hey just found this thread. Christ thats terrbile. How's the situation panned out? And i must point out how increadibly helpful it seems to reply that basically its your own fault and leave it at that! Hope its all good. I was weighing up going to Kashmir in the next couple of months, lucky i found such a shock story. And seeing as the UK foreign office website tells you that you may be the victim of terrorism in Sweden and to excersise caution, one cannot help but take its advice with a pinch of salt.