shooting squad targets British for 'humiliating' treatment at games
When India's crack
shooting squad arrived in Bisley for the Commonwealth shooting championships,
they expected a friendly reception. Luxurious rooms, perhaps, vegetarian food
thoughtfully laid on, and a few kind words from their British hosts.
But last night the Indian shooters
described their 10-day stay in Britain as "humiliating" and said they
would lodge a formal complaint with the competition organisers.
When the squad arrived at Bisley,
Surrey, home of the national shooting centre, two weeks ago they discovered many
of their delegation had been allocated "shabby" rooms only 6.5ft
square. There were no towels, and one delegate said: "hardly room to hang
up my coat".
Worse was to follow. At meal times
surly British canteen staff allegedly refused to give the Indian marksmen second
helpings of food. "We had to literally plead to get something to eat,"
India's national coach, Sunny Thomas, said. "They insisted we say 'please'
even though many of us didn't speak English. If we were five minutes late they
refused to serve us. It was belittling."
Mr Thomas also said a waiter informed
him at a communal evening barbecue: "This food is not for Indians."
The Indian team also claims British
officials treated them condescendingly. When Indian marksman Manavjid Singh
accidentally left his gun under a tree, the officials demanded a written
"The whole thing was completely
blown out of proportion. I have never had that feeling before from any other
country I have visited in 16 years of competitions," Baljit Singh Sethi,
the secretary general of India's National Rifle Association, said last night.
Mr Sethi said that as the event went
on, the mood became increasingly acrimonious. The Indian team won 13 gold, six
silver and eight bronze medals - more than anyone else. Recalling the day when
India took all four gold medals at stake, Mr Sethi said: "Every time the
Indian flag went up, the murmurs increased; I could make out from their [the
British officials'] expressions they were appalled at the clean sweep."
Mr Sethi finally complained to Graham
Hudson, the Commonwealth shooting championship's New Zealand president. He told
him: "They [the British] still feel that the
Indians are their slaves."
Last night a spokesman for the
National Small-bore Rifle Association said the competition's organisers were
"surprised" and "disappointed" by the Indian team's
"We are astonished. They were
looked after the same as everyone else. Twenty-two nations were here. India was
the most successful team."
The spokesman added that no
complaints were made while the Indian team was at Bisley. "The
accommodation that they used was left in a terrible state. Bedding and duvets
were stolen as well as cutlery and some other things."
The championships at Bisley, which is
owned by the Ministry of Defence, were run by the Small-bore Rifle Association
together with two other shooting organisations, the National Rifle Association
and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. The NRA has close links with the
Countryside Alliance and says its aim is "to promote and encourage
marksmanship" throughout what it calls "the Queen's dominions".
The NRA describes several of its fixtures as "imperial meetings".
Last night Mr Thomas vehemently
denied that his squad had stolen anything. "Everything was kept
intact," he said. The team would now lodge a formal complaint, he said.
Mansher Singh, India's top marksman,
who arrived back in Delhi on Sunday, said: "It happens only in