By P.V. Durga:
The aspirations of young Indian archers have been crushed, with the US embassy denying a Visa to 20 members out of the 31- member contingent. They were set to take part in the World Youth Archery Championships in Yankton, South Dakota from June 8th to 14th. The secretary general of the Archery Association of India, Anil Kamineni mentioned that the members of the contingent failed to “satisfy” the Visa officer about their intention to return to India after the event. It is noteworthy that most of the archers hail from humble economic backgrounds and belong to states such as Assam, Jharkhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In addition, they are not well-versed in English.
There was no problem with the paperwork, because the contingent possessed the sanction of the Government of India and an invitation from the US Archery Association. The young archers have been working hard for the past three months, but the mere inability to converse in a foreign language denied them a precious opportunity. Yes, you heard it right. A language barrier came in the way, and the contingent had to withdraw from the tournament.
Moreover, the fact that the Visa officer was not convinced about the contingent’s return to India after the event must be questioned in the context of class bias.
The website of the US’ Delhi embassy, says that a Visa could be denied if the officer feels that one’s “social, family, economic or other ties to India are not strong enough to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and qualify for a Visa.” It mentions that “ties” are the “various aspects of life“, including “family relationships, employment commitments, possessions and other factors.”
The secretary general of the Indian Olympic Association has condemned the incident, but it looks like the authorities have “let go” of the issue quite easily. Despite the treasurer of the Archery Association of India approaching the Ministry of External Affairs and the Sports Ministry, there was no response. Maybe, this would not have been the case if it were a more “popular” sport like cricket. This perpetual apathy towards sports that do not enjoy much monetary or commercial attention speaks volumes about the status of sports in our country. Priyamvada Mukund, a former state- level table tennis player feels that economically backward people would now feel that they are not “worthy enough” to represent their country, and that their ability to make our country proud is “not nurtured”.
All this while, we thought that talent was the only prerequisite for a sportsperson, but this incident seems to be proving otherwise. Amrutha Vasan, a former basketball player who has taken part in national level tournaments, says, “To be denied at an interview level is unacceptable, because for a sportsperson, it’s their skill and talent at the game they’re going to play that should do the talking.” It looks like the USA is using rules to hide blatant discrimination. At the end of the day, the spirit of sportsmanship is universal, and essential for establishing friendly ties between nations. All countries must uphold that, irrespective of the socio- economic backgrounds of athletes.