Crime cloud over Shimla worries government, tourists

There have been two suicides and two murders in past six months in Shimla.

Shimla: Is the popular hill resort of Shimla, crowded at this time of the year, turning into a crime zone for tourists? There have been two suicides and two murders, all involving tourists, in the past six months.

The alleged suicide by a Chhattisgarh couple who reached this town June 19 is the most recent case. Before that, a husband pushed his newly-wed wife off a cliff during their honeymoon trip and a male student of the premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee murdered his girlfriend in a hotel room.

Sudheesh Singh and his girlfriend Devi Vaid were found unconscious in a hotel on Monday (June 21). They were taken to a hospital by the hotel staff, where the man was declared brought dead. The woman died in hospital later. Singh was accused of murdering Avinash Ramteke, who was engaged to be married to Devi, in Chhattisgarh.

Police officer Shakuntala Sharma said two suicide notes were recovered from the crime scene.

"In one of the notes, Singh claimed that `I am solely responsible for the murder of Avinash`. In the second note, he said that `We are committing the suicide on our own and nobody is responsible for this (act)`. Both the handwritten notes were in Hindi," she said.

According to the police, the couple died after consuming some poisonous substance.

In February, the murder of an IIT-Delhi woman student in a hotel again brought the spotlight on the town. Gaurav Verma, a third-year architecture student of IIT-Roorkee, was accused of murdering his friend Pragati Tibberwal.

Tibberwal, a resident of Patna, and Verma of Manikapur in Uttar Pradesh`s Gonda district, came here for holidaying. They had been friends for the last three years, but their relationship had got strained.

Two knives, a broken liquor bottle allegedly used in the crime and a cake were also found in the hotel room.

In February too, another crime came to light - of a honeymoon that apparently went sour and ended in a murder. Simranpal Singh from Punjab was arrested for allegedly killing his newly-wed wife, Simranjit Kaur, by pushing her off a cliff during their honeymoon.

The body of Simranjit was recovered from a gorge in Hasan Valley near Chharabra, on the outskirts of the town, almost a week after the crime.

This apart, incidents of criminals and others wanted in heinous crimes seeking out the hill state of Himachal Pradesh for refuge is also on the rise.

Swami Nityananda, who faces charges of rape, criminal intimidation and cheating and was on the run for almost a month from Karnataka, was arrested in April from a village in Solan district, about 50 km from here. He was staying in a rented house for one month.

Likewise, sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) visited Kufri near here in January to track the footprints of Mumbai terror suspect David Coleman Headley`s estranged Moroccan wife who is said to have made a reconnaissance trip of the area in 2008.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said: "The rising crimes involving tourists is a serious issue. We have directed the representatives of the hospitality industry to maintain proper log books to register the entry of tourists and install closed circuit cameras."

"Since it`s a tourist spot, such stray incidents bring a bad name to the tourism industry," said Dhumal, who also holds the home portfolio.

Superintendent of Police RM Sharma said: "It`s wrong to blame police for the rise in crime. It`s society that is also responsible."

Shimla, the former summer capital of the British, has more than 450 hotels, restaurants and guest houses.

During the peak tourist season - from May to June and from December to January - the town and its nearby places attract on an average more than 20,000 tourists on a single day.


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