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Walking the ramp for Tibet, their lost homeland

Dharamsala, June 2 (Calcutta Tube) They will never make it to a global beauty pageant. But four exiled Tibetan women will still sashay down the ramp here as a ‘peaceful protest’ against Chinese repression and to raise awareness about Tibet’s cause.

The ninth edition of the Miss Tibet pageant will be held June 4-6 at McLeodganj – near Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile. For the organisers and the contestants, it’s a platform to raise Tibet’s cause even though their own political leaders say a beauty pageant is un-Tibetan.

‘I want to see my country free from Chinese occupation. Through the ramp, I want to highlight the cause of thousands of Tibetans who were forced to flee from their homeland (in 1959). It’s a way of peaceful protest against repression,’ Tenzin Norzom, 23, told IANS.

‘If I win this pageant, I will promote the unique culture of the Tibetans across the globe,’ said Tenzin, who knows that the winners of the pageant cannot participate in any international beauty contest as representatives of Tibet due to objections from China.

Another contestant, Tenzin Namchoe, 22, believes it’s a unique way to focus on the aspirations of Tibetan people, especially the youth who were born and brought up outside Tibet.

‘We urge countries and particularly global human rights organisations to press the Chinese to halt all sorts of repression against Tibetan people and engage China in wide-ranging discussions to mitigate the suffering of the people of Tibet,’ said Namchoe, a student of St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore whose brother supported her decision to join the contest.

The other two participants, Yangchen Metok and Rinchen Choden, think beauty and brains could go together to highlight their cause.

‘Though we were born in India, we yearn to go back to our country one day. Of course, this beauty pageant will highlight the aspirations of six million Tibetans living in the Tibet region of China and over 150,000 living in India to get freedom,’ one of them said.

Lobsang Wangyal, the event’s director-producer, said the pageant faces stiff resistance from China.

‘Due to stiff opposition by the Chinese, the past winners have not been able to vie at international pageants. The Chinese have started organising a Tibetan Beauty Queen contest, but still we are getting an overwhelming response, particularly from youth. Such events keep alive the independent identity of Tibet,’ he said.

The three-day event that began with the swimsuit round will be followed by the talk and talent rounds.

Last year too, only four models participated in the Miss Tibet contest that started in 2002 amid a mixed responses from the exiles. Many opposed the pageant, saying it was ‘un-Tibetan’. Even the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in this hill town, has condemned the pageant, saying it is not part of their tradition.

Miss Tibet 2010 will be awarded Rs.100,000, while the first runner-up will be presented Rs.50,000 and the second runner-up Rs.25,000.

Exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama fled Tibet along with many of his supporters in 1959 to escape Chinese occupation and took refuge in this Indian hill station.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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