Kullu, Himachal Pradesh – Disappearance of a large number of foreign tourists from the Kullu valley in Himachal Pradesh has become a cause of concern for the authorities.
The cases of missing tourists have been shrouded in mystery because most of them are unresolved.
“Many of the foreign tourists, when they came here, they have also stayed back. Some of them married here. They are also engaged in various social activities and social causes. But this can’t also be denied that some of them have been engaging themselves in drug trade because some of them have been nabbed with narcotics,’ said K.K Indoria, Superintendent of Police.
It is believed that it is the streak of adventure, for backpacking in the rough terrains of Himalayas that can sometimes put the tourists in danger.
“Many foreigners, who get some kind of army training, they think that they can handle going alone in the Himalayas. But there are inherent problems with frequent change of weather, animal attacks, hostility of the terrain, and remoteness for communication. All these factors can contribute to people getting seriously in a dangerous way in nature. There are also some people go missing because they want to go missing,” said Himanshu, a tour and travel agent.
The issue came to light once more after Israeli-American backpacker Amichai Shtainmetz went missing in July this year.
Shtainmetz had gone trekking with a friend from Khirganga, a hamlet in Parvati valley of Kullu and hasn’t been seen since.
He is the 19th foreign tourist to have gone missing in the valley since 1992. The police in collaboration with Israeli agencies and David Shtainmetz, father of the missing, had launched widespread search operations, but to no avail.
Special police teams have been deployed to trace the missing foreigners but to no major results.
Only the case of Australian tourist Burfitt Jacqueline Louise, who was reported missing in June 1993, was solved and she was traced.
As per records almost 57 foreigners have died in the region in the last ten years and most of them due to accidents or drug overdose.
Almost 50,000 foreign tourists visit Kullu every year, with a huge percentage of Israelis out of them. It is believed that they come mostly in search of cheap hashish, which can land them into trouble. But some tourists think otherwise.
“A lot of Israelis, they think, that they come here to smoke drugs or take different things,” said Ellan, an Israeli tourist.
Apart from the Himalayan setting, any backpackers delight, the lure for most of the tourists is also cheap and quality cannabis, found in abundance in the valley.