New Delhi: The shocked Arunachal Pradesh women archers, who were barred from boarding a flight to China, on Saturday lamented that political problems between the two countries have crushed their dreams of competing in the Youth World Championships.
Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi - both barely 15 - were to take part in the Championships at Wuxi in the eastern coastal Jiangsu province in China from October 13-21 but the immigration officials at the IGI Airport refused to clear them as they were issued stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy.
China issues stapled visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh but the Ministry of External Affairs has declared these visas invalid.
The two archers -- to compete in compound events -- now have no chance to take part in the World Championships as the draw will happen on Monday.
The Archery Association of India said they tried to get regular visas from the Chinese Embassy here but the Embassy was closed for the weekend.
"I don`t know what is happening. We were on cloud nine that we would be taking part in the World Championships and this was to be the biggest event of my career. But my dreams now have come crashing down. I am helpless," Yumi, who is yet to come out of the shock, told PTI here today.
"We even don`t know what is stapled visa or any other visa. I was stopped at the immigration counter and told that I can`t board the flight because of the visa," she said.
"Who would not want to take part in such a big event like the World Championships. Every athlete dreams of taking part in big events like this. But in our case it has gone for no fault of ours," said Mihu who, along with Yumi, trained at a camp at the Army Sports Institute in Pune before reaching here.
The two archers, who are leaving for home tomorrow in a Guwahati-bound flight, said it will take some time to settle down after the shock.
"We are very young and cannot do anything. We hope this issue will be solved. What can we say more than this. More than us, other sportspersons from our state will continue to suffer if this continues," Yumi said.
This was not the first incident in which sportspersons and sports officials from Arunachal Pradesh were not allowed to travel to China. In 2011, Indian Weightlifting Federation Joint Secretary Abraham K Techi and lifter Yukar Sibi were refused permission to travel to China for an international event as they were issued stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy.
In 2010, Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist shooter Pemba Tamang was denied permission to leave for Beijing for the ISSF World Cup as he was also issued stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy.
Interestingly, three weightlifters -- Sambo Lapung, Lalu Taku and TBC Lalchhanhima -- could travel to China for the August 16-24 Youth Asian Games in Nanjing as they had the accreditation cards issued by the local organiers in China with them before departure from India.
"The local organising committee in Nanjing sent accreditation cards for them and so there was no need for visa and these Arunachali weightlifters went to China for the Youth Asian Games," Abraham Techi said.
"The government should find a solution to this stapled visa issue or allow sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh to travel to China with the stapled visa. Some mechanism will have to be found out because the people of Arunachal Pradesh cannot continue to suffer like this," he said.
"It`s sad that the perception is that the Indian government is not doing much on this stapled visa issue and because of that the people of Arunchal Pradesh are suffering," he added.
Archery Association of India Vice-President and former Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Kiren Rijiju clarified that the two archers were not stopped by the Southern China Airlines officials but by the Indian immigartion officials.
"They were stopped at the immigration counter from proceeding further. The matter ended at the immigration counter," he said from his home in Arunachal Pradesh.
"The Arunachalis are Indian citizens. How would India accept its citizens being issued stapled visas by the Chinese Embassy? Doing that would mean that India accepts China`s claim that Arunachal Pradesh is a disputed territory," he said.
"It`s a political issue and sadly these two archers have suffered. Athletes from other sports have suffered in the past because of this stapled visa issue," said Rijiju, who has told the AAA President V K Malhotra that he is resigning from the post of vice-president.
"It`s not the fault of AAA but I am resigning on moral grounds. I have told our president (Malhotra) that I am resigning. I am writing the formal resignation letter today," said Rijiju who is also the president of Arunachal Pradesh Archery Association.
The former Bharatiya Janata Party MP said he would also write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he should bring up the issue with
his Chinese counterpart during his official visit to Beijing starting, October 20.
"PM Manmohan Singh should pre-conditioned his visit to China with this issue of stapled visa. He should forcefully bring this issue up with his Chinese counterpart. I am going to write a letter to the Prime Minister about this," he said.
China being a major sporting power in the world, several sporting international events are held there and Rijuji said the Arunachalis will continue to suffer if this issue is not resolved.
He said he would also suggest the Prime Minister that India should boycott the Youth Olympics to be held in Nanjing, China next year if that country is to continue to issue stapled visa.