The contentious issue of China issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh surfaced once again, when two young women archers from the border state heading to Wuxi for Youth World Archery Championship, were prevented from boarding a China Southern Airlines flight at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday.
Mihu Maselo and Yumi Sorang, who were the only two Arunachal archers in the 24-member squad, were given stapled Visas issued on a separate papers as the immigration officials prevented them from boarding the 11.10 pm flight to Guangzhou.
Archery Association of India president VK Malhotra said that the Chinese Airlines Authorities denied the two archers from boarding the flight, saying that they will not be allowed to enter China as they don't have affixed visa on their passport.
"The Chinese embassy issued the stapled visa to the two Arunachal archers and they said there should not be any issue. But when they were to board the flight, the Chinese airlines authorities said the two archers will not be allowed to enter China by the immigration department there," Malhotra said.
Confirming the incident, AAI assistant secretary Gunjan Abrol said: "It's a political issue as China considers the state 'disputed'. For no fault of theirs, the two poor archers were heartbroken. These two Arunachali archers are very young, both 1999 born and they are very upset. We were surprised that the Chinese airlines authorities told us that the two archers cannot board the flight despite all their travel documents are in order," he said.
"Since the stapled visa was issued by the Chinese Embassy, we thought there should not be any problem," Abrol added.
The two female archers are kept at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) Guest House.
China has been in practice of issuing stapled Visas -- unlike the normal stamped Visas on an individual's passport -- to residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir which it considers disputed.
The practice of issuing stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh came to light in January 2011 when two weightlifters belonging to the state were prevented by immigration officials from boarding a flight from New Delhi to Beijing since they had such visas issued by the Chinese Embassy on their passports.
India has been protesting the issuing of stapled visas by the Chinese to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh.
India considers as 'invalid' the stand-alone Chinese 'paper' visas given to some of its nationals and the contentious issue has been taken up with the highest levels of the Chinese government.
The vice-president of Archery Association of India and one of the leading sports admonistrators of Arunachal Pradesh Kiren Rijiju was surprised as to "why Chinese embassy had issued stapled visas all over again? All other members have left but these two girls are stuck. Indian immigration did not allow the two girls to board flight citing that stapled visas are not recognized."
"As the vice-president of AAI and former Member of Parliament, why is this happening to the citizens of India coming from Arunachal Pradesh? We are Indian citizens and we represent India. But we face discrimination again and again as a disputed territory. I am appalled as to why the Indian government is letting this happen again and again?," the AAI VP fumed.
"Why are our people (Arunchal Pradesh citizens) being targetted in this manner? Why is Ministery of External Affairs (MEA) not approaching the Chinese embassy? Why has this issue not been raised when Chinese PM came to India?" were some questions that Rijiju asked.
"It is not about stapled visas but also about stapled citizenship. Our citizenship is being questioned. India is not concerned in such a serious matter for all of us. Here these two young girls are crying and I as a vice-president of AAI is helpless as I am in a border area."