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Beauty pageant in India becomes a contest of wills

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November 17, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EST (0445 GMT)

From Correspondent Anita Pratap

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- For the first time in four decades, the Miss World contest is being held in India. (19 sec. /768K QuickTime movie)movie icon

But the event has not received a warm welcome from everyone. Several groups -- women activists, farm lobbies and Hindu rightists -- have voiced their objection to Miss World contest as an affront to Indian culture.

"What is the size of her hips, the size of her breasts," asked political activist Uma Bharati. "Is a woman worth only this, parading naked flesh so that men can feast their eyes?"

India's high profile movie actor Amitabh Bachchan is bringing the contest to India and claims the event will put Bangalore, the host city, on the map.

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Little did he expect the flurry of attacks and demonstrations. Opponents say they will attack, lay siege to the venue and burn themselves if the contest is held in India.

"It is the vulgarity and the consumerism that the Miss World contest spreads here that we are opposing," said student activist Rekha Jindal.

But promoters of the event say the protesters are missing the point. "This contest is not about vulgarity or nudity," said spokesman Ashwini Singhla. "It's about beauty and beauty with a purpose."

Critics say the event is about nothing more than money, millions of dollars generated by an event watched by two billion people around the world.

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The contest also has triggered street plays and mock contests by women activists who say Indians should fight poverty instead of wasting money on such a glitzy event.

This woman has been crowned Miss Unemployment, another is Miss Disease, Miss Illiteracy, Miss Lawlessness.

Supporters of the contest are puzzled as to why such a fuss is being made in a land where Hindu Lord Shiva's Phallus is worshipped, where the sex manual Kama Sutra was written 2,000 years ago and where erotic art and sculpture are part of temple architecture.

With the organizers determined to hold the show and protesters equally determined to disrupt it, the Miss World competition has become a contest of wills.

 
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