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Indian 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 apology.

"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 allegations.

"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 Britain."



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