New Australian Travel Advisory, India
Topic: New Australian Travel Advisory, IndiaPosted: Barry Pittard, Australia, March 24, 2003 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sent to: www.exbaba.com Ref: http://www.dfat.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/India I copy below a revised Travel Advice to Australians, which was issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Friday 21 March 2003 16:50:28 EDT
For three years, the Australian Sathya Sai Baba Expose has been knocking - sometimes very insistently - on the doors of the Prime Minister's Department and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Of course, we went all out to get a Travel Advisory specific to Sathya Sai Baba. Considering this three years of nil response, it hard to understand how the Travel Advisory could not have heeded the Expose case, and at the very least advise as they have at last done:Australians should be aware of persistent allegations of sexual misconduct made against certain prominent cults and their leaders in India and reported in the media.
Better late than never? No, better never late! Anyway, at least it is there, now.
On the other hand, UNESCO had the steel to actually name Sathya Sai Baba in its very critical Media Advisory, September 9, 2000. And at least the US State Department, in its Consular Information Sheet, November 23, 2001, clearly pointed to Puttaparthi, warning of reports of sexual abuse of males by the religious teacher there. No doubt for political reasons, Sai Baba was not named. Both the UNESCO and US government actions were prompted by strenuous representations to the highest levels by a former devotee Expose team.
Particularly relevant to efforts to get the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to widen its terms of reference about terrorism is the passage in last Friday's update, which states:Australians should take account of the potential for politically motivated violence and for terrorist activity by militant groups, including possible attacks against national institutions within major cities and at religious sites, festivals and events frequented by Westerners. Australians should avoid large public gatherings and exercise caution, particularly in commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners.
Is Puttaparthi not a large public gathering? Although Sai Baba has grossly exaggerated crowd numbers who come to see him (as witness the V.K. Narasimhan's private revelations to Robert Priddy), there are not too many larger public gatherings than those at Puttaparthi. Let us recall the three prime enemies of many militant Islamic groups: the 'Christian' West; Hinduism; and Judaism. There is a remarkable confluence of all three groups at Puttaparthi.
Barry Pittard Email: email@example.com
India This Advice is current for Monday 24 March 2003 EDT The Advice was issued on Friday 21 March 2003 16:50:28 EDT This advice has been reviewed. It contains new information or advice but the overall warning level has not changed. Australians in India should take account of the potential for politically-motivated violence and for terrorist activity by militant groups, including attacks against national institutions in major cities and at religious sites, festivals and events frequented by Westerners. Australians should exercise caution, particularly in commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners, avoid large public gatherings or demonstrations and maintain a high level of personal security awareness. Australians should take account of continuing tensions between India and Pakistan. The situation is unpredictable and could deteriorate at relatively short notice. Australians should not travel to the border areas between India and Pakistan, except Amritsar and Jaisalmer, and should avoid travel to Jammu and Kashmir. Australians in India should register with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. This travel advice should be read in conjunction with the General Advice to Australian Travellers, available at http://www.dfat.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/General Safety and Security Australians in India should register with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and should carry proof of identity at all times. They should closely monitor developments that might affect their safety, monitor local news reports and act on the advice of local authorities. Australians should take account of the potential for politically motivated violence and for terrorist activity by militant groups, including possible attacks against national institutions within major cities and at religious sites, festivals and events frequented by Westerners. Australians should avoid large public gatherings and exercise caution, particularly in commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners. Australians should take account of continuing tensions between India and Pakistan. The situation remains unpredictable and could deteriorate at relatively short notice. Australians should not travel to the areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab closely bordering Pakistan, other than Amritsar and Jaisalmer. Shelling continues across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Minefields were laid in some rural areas along the India/Pakistan border in 2002. Although some de-mining is underway, there are areas that remain heavily mined and hazardous. Trans-border coach, rail and air services are suspended. Australians who choose to travel to border areas should closely monitor events that might affect their safety and follow the advice of local authorities. Australians should also avoid travel to Jammu and Kashmir other than travel to Ladakh via Manali or by air to Leh. There continue to be serious security problems in Srinagar, elsewhere in the Kashmir valley, and in other parts of the state. Armed clashes and terrorist activities occur frequently, which continue to result in death and injury to civilians. Australians should be wary of travel agents who try to convince them that it is safe to travel to Jammu and Kashmir. Australians should be aware that several foreign citizens have been attacked or have disappeared while visiting the Kulu/Manali district in Himachal Pradesh, particularly on some of the more remote trekking routes. Those considering trekking excursions are advised to register their presence with the local police and to avoid trekking alone or in small groups. The security situation in the northeast remains uncertain. Australians should defer non-essential travel to the states of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur and exercise caution if travelling in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram. There are communal tensions in various parts of India, including parts of Gujarat. Occasionally, curfews are imposed and while violence is not normally directed at foreigners, Australians should pay particular attention to their personal security, monitor local news reports and act on the advice of local authorities. They should also avoid travel at night in these areas. General Prior permission is required from the Indian authorities to visit certain parts of the country, particularly the northeast. For example, permits are required for Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, parts of Kulu District and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh, border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, some areas of Uttar Pradesh, parts of Rajasthan adjacent to the international border and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi has advised that the minimum period of notice required for processing applications for permits is four weeks. Advice on particular requirements should be sought from your travel agent or from the Indian mission in the city closest to you. Contact details for foreign representatives in Australia can be found on our website at http://www.dfat.gov.au/protocol Attacks by pirates against ships in South Asian waters can occur. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. Further information can be found at http://www.dfat.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Piracy Australians should be aware that in some parts of India there are sensitivities about missionary activity, usually in rural areas. In January 1999, an Australian missionary and his two young sons were murdered in the eastern state of Orissa. Physical harassment of women, especially those travelling alone, is a problem and sexual assault can occur. Women travelling alone, especially in rural areas, are at risk of unwanted attention and can find themselves in difficulty particularly at night but also during the day. Australians should familiarise themselves with local customs before arriving in India and are advised to dress and behave modestly. Women should avoid wearing short-sleeved garments or shorts and physical contact between men and women in public should also be avoided. Australians should be aware of persistent allegations of sexual misconduct made against certain prominent cults and their leaders in India and reported in the media. Australians are advised to use only recognised taxis and limousine services, and where available, should seek information from authorised service counters at airports, railway and bus stations. Australians are advised to exercise care when riding motorcycles. It is obligatory for riders to wear helmets. Travellers intending to ride motorcycles should check that their travel insurance polices cover injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents. Both an international and Australian driving licence are required to drive or ride legally and to validate any applicable insurance. An Australian licence alone is not sufficient, despite the advice to the contrary by some car and motorcycle rental companies. Australians are advised to be very wary of unsolicited approaches for provision of various services, particularly for assistance with shopping for jewellery, gems and carpets. There are validated cases of tourists being intimidated or tricked into purchasing items which are grossly overvalued. When shopping for jewellery, gems and carpets, visitors should use only reputable outlets - there are government jewellery and carpet outlets in India and these are listed in government tourist literature. There are no special tax-free arrangements on holidays or other special occasions. Health For information on prevalent diseases and inoculations, travellers should consult their doctor or a travel clinic. Contact details for travel clinics can be found in our 'Travelling Well' brochure available on the department's website. Travel and Health Insurance Travel and medical insurance is strongly recommended for all overseas travel. Travellers should check with their insurer to make sure that their policy meets their needs. In particular, travellers should be aware that some insurance companies will not pay claims which arise when travellers have disregarded the Government's travel advice. Consular Assistance and Registration Australians in India are advised to register their presence with the Australian High Commission in New Delhi at Australian Compound No. 1/50 G Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - telephone (91 11) 2688 8223, facsimile (91 11) 2687 2228 or the Australian Consulate-General in Mumbai at address: 16th Floor, Maker Towers E, Cuffe Parade, Colaba, Mumbai (Bombay) - telephone (91 22) 2218 1071, facsimile (91 22) 2218 8228. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also offers an on-line registration service, accessible via the internet, at http://www.orao.dfat.gov.au The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 62613305.