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The BBC's Jill McGivering:
"Backpackers dominate the streets of small towns"
 real 56k

Monday, 4 September, 2000, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
India's valley of death
Valley of the Gods: Spectacular views but dangerous reputation
Valley of the Gods: Spectacular views but dangerous reputation
The BBC's Jill McGivering reports from a remote corner of northern India where in recent years several tourists have been attacked or have disappeared


The attack and our pleas for mercy as they were beating us just increased the assault. And the motive was simple robbery.

Martin Young, attack victim
British tourist, Martin Young, is recovering in hospital in the Indian capital, Delhi, after being viciously attacked just over a week ago.

He was trekking in Himachal Pradesh with his Spanish fiancée and her teenage son when a group of men assaulted them.

Mr Young, 32, was the only survivor. It is the second murder of a foreign tourist there in less than a month.

Vicious attacks

Martin Young: Badly injured while travelling companions were murdered
Martin Young: Badly injured while travelling companions were murdered
Backpackers dominate the streets of small towns and villages high in the foothills of the Himalayas.

About 20,000 foreign tourists arrive every year - many of them were attracted to the dramatic mountain scenery.

However, some trips like that of Martin Young and his fellow travellers' are ending in tragedy.

The three were savagely attacked as they camped in the mountains.


Mr Young was the only one to survive. Speaking from hospital in Delhi where he is now in a stable condition, he said the motive must have been robbery.

"I think it was completely random," he said.

"I don't think they picked on us in particular.

"But it was premeditated, certainly premeditated because the attack and our pleas for mercy as they were beating us just increased the assault.

"And the motive was simple robbery."

Mysterious disappearances

This is the second recent murder. Two German trekkers were shot a few weeks ago, one fatally.

Backpacker: Second thoughts
Backpackers are wishing they had stayed away
There have also been mysterious disappearances.

Police records say at least 14 foreign tourists, most of them young backpackers, have vanished from the area in recent years.

Some travellers were clearly alarmed by news of this latest attack.

One backpacker said: "It's sad that this area seems to be deteriorating very rapidly, becoming a very dangerous place for travellers to come.

"And I think we would have given it a second thought if we'd heard about this before we came up."

Drugs trade


Drugs trade: Some foreigners provide a ready market for dealers
However, not all tourists come innocently for the scenery.

Police swarm down the mountainside, pulling up by hand row after row of cannabis.

It grows wild almost everywhere - and is now being actively cultivated.

Police say the drug trade is booming with foreigners providing not only a ready market but also playing a central part in developing this illegal business.

Superintendent Anurag Garg, the district police chief, said: "The people who are into it in a big way are not carrying it themselves.

"They are using the locals to cultivate it, to grow it and to transport it".

Garg: They are using the locals to cultivate it, to grow it and to transport it
Garg: They are using the locals to cultivate it, to grow it and to transport it
"It is generally taken out of this valley."

Just before we arrived, police arrested a British man accused of possessing 20 kilogrammes of cannabis.

They say drug trafficking by foreigners is a key factor behind the rise in violent crime.

Temple rituals are an important part of daily life in an area known as the Valley of the Gods.

Threat to traditional values

However, the older generation is concerned that traditional values here are suddenly changing.

They welcome the legal tourism industry - but not the drug trade.


J P Awasthi, a local community leader, said: "Not all foreigners cause problems.

"But many of them come here and take drugs and they're a bad influence.

"They're turning our children into drug addicts.

Mr Young is making a good recovery and the police search for those who murdered his companions goes on.

However, the wider questions have still to be answered - why has this region has become the focus for such vicious attacks and how far foreign drug dealers are to blame?

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | South Asia
Briton describes Himalayan attack
29 Aug 00 | South Asia
Rescue chaos for ambushed Briton
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