The Government of Assam through State Tourism Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma urged the United Kingdom and Australia to immediately ‘rectify’ their travel advisories in which they cautioned citizens against travelling to Assam and four other northeastern states.
The two countries had updated their travel advisories where they had asked their citizens to either cancel or reconsider their visit to the northeast in view of major incidents of terrorism and insurgency. They cited the shooting of 14 people in Assam’s Kokrajhar last month and the killing of 18 soldiers by NSCN-Khaplang rebels in Manipur last year.
State tourism minister Himanta Biswa Sarma described the inclusion of Assam in a list of disturbed areas of the country ‘a careless oversight’ and urged his counterparts in the two countries to avoid referring to the state as a forbidden destination.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in its advisory, said, ‘Although the overall security situation in the Northeast of India is improving, some areas, especially in Manipur and Assam, still experience sudden and random outbreaks of violence. There have been several incidents of violence in Assam including a shooting in Kokrajhar on August 5 resulting in 14 deaths and grenade explosions in Lakhimpur, Karbi Anglong and Guwahati. Review your security arrangements carefully, seek advice from the local authorities and avoid large crowds.’
The Australian advisory said, ‘We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to these areas due to risk of armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion and separatist and insurgent violence, including in rural areas. Insurgent groups have attacked civilians and bombed buildings in these States.’
Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Kokrajhar incident was a ‘rare occurrence’ and one which could have ‘taken place in any modern society’. He added that the law and order situation in Assam was fine and any fear or apprehension was unfounded.
Himanta Biswa Sarma said, ‘The diverse ethnic and cultural groups of Assamese society have co-existed with enormous harmony and displayed exemplary bonhomie for decades. Any representation of minor skirmishes as state-wide disturbance amounts to inexplicable exaggeration and causes unnecessary anxiety for tourists who wish to visit the State.’