India-administered Kashmir mulled as Miss World host
August 29, 2023 09:26 PM
Miss World beauty contest organisers say they are considering holding the pageant in the disputed territory of Indian-administered Kashmir as part of a month-long series of events across India.
Control of the Muslim-majority territory is split between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full but administer separate portions, divided by the Line of Control.
For decades, an insurgency seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan -- and military operations to crush that movement -- have seen tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels killed.
But India is now promoting tourism in the region -- home to spectacular mountain scenery -- and more than a million Indian citizens visited last year.
Miss World Organization chair Julia Morley said that India will host a month-long series of events for the annual international beauty pageant from November to December, with hopes to host part of the schedule in Kashmir.
"This is a blessed place for tourism," Morley told reporters while on a visit to Srinagar on Monday, the region's main city.
In a later statement issued Tuesday, Jamil Saidi, chairman of Indian event organisation company PME Entertainment, said the location of the final contest had not been decided.
"The venue for the finale is to be finalised and will be announced officially at a later date", Saidi said, adding that the official schedule on events across India had not been decided.
Miss World organisers say the contest "celebrates the beauty, intellect, and humanitarian efforts of women".
Competitors will take part in "talent showcases, sports challenges and charitable initiatives" to shortlist participants before the grand finale in December, the organisation said.
The pageant has in the past sparked protests from critics who say it perpetuates the objectification of women and contributes to a beauty industry that pressures women to appear a certain way.
In May, India hosted a G20 tourism meeting in Srinagar under tight security in a bid to show that what officials call "normalcy and peace" were returning after a massive crackdown following New Delhi's revocation of the region's limited autonomy in 2019.
Dissent has been criminalised, media freedoms curbed and public protests limited in what critics say is a drastic curtailment of civil liberties by Indian authorities.
Miss World 2022 Karolina Bielawska said she was stunned by Kashmir's scenery.
"I cannot wait to welcome 140 nations, and all my friends and family, to bring them here to India and to show them places like Kashmir, like Delhi, Mumbai... you have so many beautiful places", the Polish model said Monday.