Indian police prepare for worst in beauty pageant clash
November 22, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT)
From Correspondent Anita Pratap
NEW DELHI (CNN) -- Much of India is on edge as the Miss World beauty contest involving participants from 88 countries takes place Saturday in the south Indian city of Bangalore.
The event has snowballed into a huge controversy, with passionate demonstrations against it and a threat by feminists to sneak into the pageant and set themselves on fire in a suicide protest. One man already committed suicide in protest.
Indian police are taking no chances. Protesters trying to disrupt the pageant have been dragged away and jailed.
Pageant spokeswoman Julia Morley said the event is essentially positive and in no way presents an affront to Indian culture, as the protesters claim. "There is nothing happening that is wrong or bad. In fact it's culture, it's interesting."
But a dozen Indian groups opposed to the event don't see it that way, claiming that it degrades women. "It's not an IQ test," said activist Subhashini Ali. "Neither is it a charity show. It's a beauty contest in which these things have been added on as sops."
The hostility hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of the contest organizers, who have been absorbing the Indian culture they are accused of polluting.
Preparations are in full swing to televise the event to two billion viewers around the world.
State authorities have posted 7,000 policemen to keep troublemakers at bay. They promise that those who try to disrupt the show will be taken into custody.
"We are prepared to face the worst," said a police official. "We have enough force to deal with any situation. We have enlisted so many vehicles to lift everybody here and send them to jail."
With the law and police on their side, organizers are confident the show will go on.
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