Bhutia's decision is personal, says Dasmunsi

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New Delhi, Apr 1 (UNI) The Government today said Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia's decision not to participate in Beijing Olympic Torch Relay was taken on personal grounds and did not reflect the stand of the AIFF and the football fraternity towards the Beijing Olympic Games.

It, however, said it respected Bhutia's sentiments and his fundamental right to decide his own course of action or express his opinion.

''Bhutia was invited to grace the occasion, which was also an honour to the football fraternity, but he expressed his desire not to take part or participate in this function, for some personal reasons, totally unrelated to All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Football fraternity,'' Minister of Information and Broadcasting and President of AIFF Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said in a statement here.

In the history of international sports, players, social activists, writers, intellectuals and artistes haev been registering their protest against the violation of human rights in their own individual capacity without any assault on the honour of the Olympic movement, so Bhutia's decision was ''purely an expression of his Fundamental Right and is own decision,'' he said.

''People's Republic of China and India are two important nations in the globe as well as great friends and partners of socio-economic progress.

''The Government of India is engaged in further strengthening the ties through several bilateral initiatives. We all welcome the participation of India in the said event including the torch relay,'' Mr Dasmunsi said.

The Beijing Olympic Torch Relay will to be received by the Indian Olympic Association here on April 17.

''Our Football National Team Captain Bhaichung Bhutia hails from one of our important Himalayan State, Sikkim. His concern on Lhasa incident is a concern of any other human rights activist or social activist or cultural legacy of the monks, etc against the violence,'' said the Minister.

He said he had a telephonic conversation with Bhutia and understood his sentiments.

''All India Football Federation welcomes the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay as a part of the legacy of Olympic Movement at the eve of Beijing Olympics 2008 and we wish the success of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,'' Mr Dasmunsi added.

UNI NAZ RAR KP2112

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