By Vishal Gulati
DHARAMSHALA, India, 4 December 2012
The Miss Tibet pageant, an event that helps the exiled community draw the attention of the world to the cause of Tibet, has moved out of Dharamshala, the home of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say organisers.
Miss Tibet 2013, the 11th in the series, will be held in Bylakuppe, the largest settlement of the exiles in Karnataka, southern India, February 10 to 13 of next year, the pageant’s director-producer Lobsang Wangyal told IANS.
“Since a large number of Tibetans are settled across India and they are not able to witness the event (in Dharamshala), we have decided to take the event to other towns too,” Wangyal said.
“If we get a good response in Bylakuppe, we will move to other places like Dehradun (in Uttarakhand) and Gangtok in Sikkim before returning to Dharamhsala,” he said.
This year’s pageant was cancelled by the organisers following the continuing wave of self-immolations in Tibet protesting China’s harsh measures and demanding the Dalai Lama’s return home from exile.
“Some 90 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Chinese misrule in Tibet. We would like to dedicate the Miss Tibet pageant 2013 to those Tibetans,” he said.
Wangyal, 42, said the pageant, popular among Tibetan youth living in exile, was earlier held in June each year, but this time it will be held in February.
The forthcoming event will coincide with Losar, the first day of the Tibetan New Year, a traditional event that sees massive celebration among Tibetans.
The Miss Tibet contest started in 2002, amid mixed responses from the exiles.
Many, including the government-in-exile, opposed the pageant and held it to be against Tibetan tradition.
Despite that, the pageant has gained huge popularity among the exiled Tibetans.
Wangyal said the winners of the contest have represented Tibet internationally — twice in Miss Earth in the Philippines and Miss Asia Pacific World once.
Miss Tibet 2011 Tenzin Yangkyi participated in Miss Asia Pacific World 2011 in South Korea, and Miss Tibet 2006 Tsering Chungtak and Miss Tibet 2007 Tenzin Dolma participated in Miss Earth in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
The Miss Tibet pageant faces even Chinese ire, as winners participate in international pageants. Wangyal said that due to stiff pressure by the Chinese the Miss Asia Pacific World organisers had to change Yangkyi’s sash from “Miss Tibet” to “Miss Swiss-Tibet”. (Nineteen-year-old Yangkyi is a Swiss citizen.)
In a similar incident, Tsering Chungtak [Miss Tibet 2006] withdrew from the Miss Tourism Pageant in Malaysia in 2007 after the Chinese government representatives pressured the organisers to enter her as “Miss Tibet-China”.
Tenzin Dolma [Miss Tibet 2007] also was asked to wear a “Miss Tibet-China” sash in the Philippines in 2008, but she refused. Eventually she was allowed to go ahead with the “Miss Tibet” sash.
The first Miss Tibet pageant was held in 2002, and four women participated. In the 2003 and 2005 editions, only one contestant turned out each year and were awarded the titles unopposed.
In 2011, the pageant saw six participants, the highest number so far.
Lobsang Sangay, the democratically-elected leader of the Tibetan people in exile, supported the Miss Tibet pageant saying “if composing songs, holding Miss Tibet contest, and demonstrations are ways to achieve the goal (to draw international attention towards Tibet), I am all for them.”
“When we have a Miss Tibet,” said Wangyal, “she can speak about the Tibetan situation in various international fora.”
India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.