Indian shooting team held for 12 hours while customs clear guns
The shooters were returning on Tuesday from competitions in the Czech Republic and Cyprus. Following tiring long-haul flights, customs officials asked the team to wait until a designated official arrived to clear their guns and ammunition.
"We had the necessary documents with us yet they failed to give us clearance. We had to wait for the customs commissioner for hours," AFP quoted one of the shooters, who didn’t want to be named, as saying.
Earlier visuals of National Shooting Team members waiting at Delhi airport: Weapons of the team were seized by Customs, were later returned pic.twitter.com/alpRqLU8Gw— ANI (@ANI_news) May 9, 2017
One customs worker allegedly used rude language towards the jaded athletes, telling them they “wouldn’t die if they didn’t eat,” the India Times reports.
Customs officials had reportedly stepped up security measures following a recent raid at the home of a retired colonel and the father of a national team shooter, Prashant Bishnoi. Officers seized dozens of illegally imported firearms during the raid, according to the Indian Express. Three people, including a Slovenian national, were arrested, although Bishnoi himself is in hiding.
One team member, Heena Sidhu, issued a mocking tweet expressing her indignation.
Shooters need to learn to live at airports before learning to shoot.— Heena SIDHU (@HeenaSidhu10) May 9, 2017
"Would this ever happen to our cricket team?" asked Abhinav Bindra, who won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
They are our countries ambassadors and should not be treated like this. Would this ever happen to our cricket team ? 2/3— Abhinav Bindra (@Abhinav_Bindra) May 9, 2017
He then rebuked the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) for leaving the shooters stranded at the airport for so long.
The association’s head snapped back, saying everyone has to comply with the rules.
...every airport in India. It's not nrai or athlete specific it's for all citizens until they decide otherwise... criticism is welcome...— Raninder Singh (@RaninderSingh) May 9, 2017
..but nrai like all Indians must comply. I understand the frustration of our athletes sitting for so long waiting for the DRI inspector...— Raninder Singh (@RaninderSingh) May 9, 2017
In any event we accept our appointed fault ironically none of this would have happened if a few bad egg athletes did not resort to smuggling— Raninder Singh (@RaninderSingh) May 10, 2017