‘Miss World hosts didn’t keep their word on charity’

‘Miss World hosts didn’t keep their word on charity’

uesday marked 25 years of the pageant in India. Lawyer-activist Pramila Nesargi, who campaigned against it, says Amitabh Bachchan’s company didn’t pay a single paisa for spastics, as promised

Pramila Nesargi

Twenty-five years ago, the first Miss World pageant in India was held at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. Two-time MLA and lawyer Pramila Nesargi, who led protests against it, recalls all the action.

The pageant was hosted by entertainment company Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL). “A few weeks before the pageant, a swimsuit competition was announced. They wanted to use it to assess ‘beauty’. I was upset and said it affects the dignity of women and couldn’t be held here,” she told Metrolife.

Most male members of the Legislative Assembly, irrespective of party affiliation, and the then chief minister J H Patel, opposed her. “Many told me that ‘it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’... But I was against women being looked at as objects of sexual desire,” she says.

Pramila then filed a writ petition in the High Court. Facing the heat, the hosts moved the swimsuit round to Seychelles.

Many questions

The event, initially planned in a defence area, was moved to the stadium after protests broke out. 

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, whose company was hosting the  event, had said part of the proceeds would be donated to the Spastics Society of India in Indiranagar. “Not a paisa was paid,” she says.

The hosts also wanted the Bengaluru police to provide protection. “The police are paid by the government and there was no discussion about extra pay. I filed a writ against this also, and the High Court ordered
that the police should be paid extra for such duties,”
she says.

With protests escalating, Bengaluru witnessed a ‘bandh’ and Pramila was among those threatened with arrest. “I never worry about the end results and threats, and always do whatever is right to my conscience,” she says.

‘No change’

Pramila’s opinions haven’t changed in the intervening years. She still feels beauty pageants undermine the ‘dignity of women’.

“Anything that provokes a man to get aroused sexually cannot be permitted. Such events violate the Indecent Representation of Women Act,” she says.

If the pageant comes to Karnataka again, she says, she will protest. “The impact can be seen even in our schools, where similar pageants are taking place. What are we teaching our children?” she says.

‘No objection to natural beauty’

Events that insidiously expand the market for the West should not be encouraged, says Pramila Nesargi, now 83. “Most participants get plastic surgery done, which leads to health problems,” she says. However, the former MLA says she is not against competitions for natural beauty. “Why should artificially corrected beauty be measured? If sportspersons who take steroids are barred, why shouldn’t we have similar rules for beauty contests?” she told Metrolife. She believes it is high time the Parliament put a law in place. “Beauty lies not in her body but character and intellect. Such pageants should be held to measure the beauty and creativity of women,” she says.


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