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`A cruel joke against people of Kerala'

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 21. A dharna was staged at the Gandhi Park maidan here on Tuesday by sportspersons, officials, coaches and enthusiasts, under the banner of the Sports Lovers of Kerala, in protest against the denial of the Arjuna award to high jumper Bobby Aloysius and footballer Jo Paul Ancheri.

Signficantly, the sit-in was staged at the same time when the investiture ceremony of this year's awards was in progress at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi, with athletes holding placards demanding justice for Bobby Aloysius and Jo Paul Ancheri.

Inaugurating the dharna, the Kerala Sports Council president, C. Mohanachandran said it was just another instance of merit being overlooked. This, he said, was what had led to the sportspersons to the spontaneous protest. "At a time when all of us should have been celebrating, we are instead left protesting. The decision of the awards committee to overlook the claims of Bobby Aloysius and Jo Paul Ancheri are nothing but a cruel joke played out against the people of Kerala and its sportspersons."

Expressing similar sentiment, the former ball badminton star and Arjuna awardee, Sam Christudas said controversies such as these only helped in diluting the prestige attached to these awards. "I hope the Government will take steps to correct this grave injustice meted out to Bobby Aloysius and Jo Paul Ancheri. Hardly anybody need be told that these two had represented the country with distinction through the years and strove hard to keep the Indian tricolour flying high in the international arena."

Bobby Aloysius' former coach, T.P. Ouseph also spoke before the athletes and others dispersed peacefully.

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