The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tourism alarm on trekker goof-up

Jamshedpur, Oct. 16: The detention of eight trekkers from Calcutta on suspicion of being Naxalites has spread concern among Ghatshila tour operators.

Most operators feel that the negative publicity from such incidents will turn prospective visitors away from the East Singhbhum town. Almost all tourists to the weekend getaway spot are usually from Bengal.

On Tuesday, Ghatshila police picked up eight youths from Calcutta from the remote forest areas of Narsinghpur, taking them for members of either the People’s War or the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

The Bengali-speaking youths were brought to Ghatshila where the police had to set them free as a background verification with Calcutta police did not throw up anything incriminating. All of them returned to Calcutta yesterday by the Howrah-bound Ispat Express.

The police found out that all the youths had come to the area for trekking and are members of a nature lovers’ club attached to a school in Calcutta.

“We have come to know that a section of the Calcutta-based media has already highlighted the entire episode. And since cent per cent of our customers are from Bengal, especially Calcutta, we apprehend that such an incident could have a negative impact on our business this season,” an unauthorised tour operator in Ghatshila said. There are about 20 such tour operators in the town.

The operator said tourists from Bengal are peace-loving. “If such incidents happen, they will think twice before making a trip to the town. They always have other options.”

“Patamda police had tipped us that eight Bengali-speaking rebels have been seen moving in the forest. Based on that information, Ghatshila police conducted the raids,” a police source said.

“We admit that Patamda police had passed wrong information. But you cannot blame them. These youths had taken the route that are frequently used by the rebels,” he added.

The deputy superintendent of police, Shailendra Kumar Sinha, said the incident would have no impact on the inflow of tourists. “This incident was an aberration. Tourists are never harassed by the police in Ghatshila. The fears of the tour operators are unfounded.”

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