A daughter’s memories of her father showed up as a security hazard in an airport X-ray machine on Sunday morning, leading to her arrest.
Sampa Srivastava, a 61-year-old resident of Washington, was found carrying five cartridges of World War II vintage that belonged to her late armyman father when she checked in for a British Airways flight to London around 2am, airport officials said.
She told Air India officials, who handle baggage for British Airways at Calcutta airport, that she wanted to carry the cartridges with her for “sentimental reasons”.
Srivastava was allowed to proceed to the immigration counter after the cartridges were taken out but British Airways staff stopped her in the security hold after hearing about the incident from Air India. She was later handed over to police.
“It is mandatory for any passenger carrying arms or ammunition to have a licence or any other official document that says he/she has been granted permission,” an airport official said.
Srivastava would have been stopped at any airport for the same reason, and certainly in her adopted country where security after the 9/11 attacks has been of the highest level.
One of Srivastava’s relatives in the city said she was “pretty upset” about what had happened.
“Some of her father’s belongings had been kept in a bag in one of the rooms of her ancestral house in Bandel (Hooghly district) since he died. My cousin came to Calcutta specifically to take away her father’s belongings. We didn’t know exactly what the bag contained until she arrived and opened it,” cousin Santanu Sen said.
Srivastava’s father Subrata Banerjee was an officer in the British Indian Army during World War II. He died last year while visiting his daughter in Washington.
“She found some letters, books and the cartridges, wrapped in a Japanese flag, in her father’s bag. They are all special memories of her father,” Sen said.
A police officer said the manufacturing date and other marks on the cartridges had been wiped out but they looked “very old”.
Srivastava, who works for an American financial company, was produced in Barrackpore court and remanded in judicial custody for a day.
“The court has asked for a detailed report and she will be produced before it again on Monday,” the police officer said.
British Airways officials were unavailable for comment.