Noted shooter Manu Bhaker 'harassed' by Air India staff; airline pleads innocence
Manu Bhaker alleged that the Air India staff and other officials at the Delhi airport stopped her and handled her 'like a criminal'
Ace Indian shooter Manu Bhaker took to Twitter and sought assistance from Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and Union Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday (February 19) after she was stopped from boarding her Air India flight to Bhopal by officials at the Delhi airport.
The Tokyo Olympics-bound shooter said the officials stopped her and handled her "like a criminal" because she was at the MP Shooting Academy carrying weapons and ammunition for training.
The 19-year-old added in her tweet that despite bringing all relevant papers and DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) permission, she faced harassment.
Bhaker also disclosed in a series of tweets that she was being asked by the Air India officials to pay Rs 10,200. She tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in one of her tweets. She even alleged that her mobile phone was snatched away and the image of her being harassed was deliberately deleted.
Baker, a gold-medalist in the ISSF World Cup, later thanked the Minister of State (MoS) Sports and Youth Affairs Rijiju for the "strong support" that helped her finally board the flight.
Replying to her Rijiju tweeted, “You are India's pride.”
Bhaker, one of India's brightest medal hopes at the Tokyo Olympics, has secured an Olympic quota for India in the women's 10m air pistol event and enjoyed a successful season last year where she won five World Cup gold medals in individual and team events. With a win at the ISSF World Cup in Mexico in 2018, she burst onto the national scene and has not looked back since. She is the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup.
Bhaker had also won gold a the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the women's 10 m air pistol event. She was only 16-years-old at that time.
Bhaker was nominated for the BBC 'Indian Sportswoman of the Year' award recently. She will compete alongside the likes of Rani Rampal, captain of the Indian women's hockey team and chess ace Koneru Humpy for the prestigious prize. She had been conferred the coveted Arjuna Award for 2020.
The Jhajjar-born Bhaker will be seen competing in New Delhi at the ISSF World Cup, scheduled to take place from March 18 to 29. She is part of the women's 10m team, the women's 25m team and the mixed 10m team.
Air India, however, seemed defiant. The airline said in its reply on Twitter, “Dear Ms Bhaker, Our Delhi Airport team has confirmed that the official at our counter had only sought for valid documents as per rules for carriage of your weapon on board. In absence of the same, legitimate specified charges for the arms were conveyed to you. No one sought a ‘bribe’ as has been alleged. You were issued boarding pass on your assurance of furnishing valid documents before boarding. Immediately after the official valid documents were shown by you at the boarding point, you were allowed to board. It may please be noted that Air India has always encouraged and respected Sportspersons and have many eminent sports legends working with us.”