We'll set ourselves ablaze insist beauty protesters

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The Independent Online
Bangalore, India (Reuter) - An Indian woman again threatened to upstage Miss World's crowning moment by setting herself ablaze after a court said yesterday that the beauty pageant can go ahead. One man burnt himself to death last week to protest against the show, which opponents say offends women and Indian culture.

"My protests will be peaceful. By burning myself I will not be disrupting the show. We will go ahead with our earlier plan," Kina Narayana Shashikala, leader of the Mahila Jagran Samiti (Forum for Awakening Women), said, after a court rejected the group's petition to block the pageant.

The group had held its threat of self-immolation in abeyance until the court decision was known.

"We declined to ban the show," R.P. Sethi, the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court. "The state government should not prevent peaceful protests."

Ms Shashikala has said several of her followers will join the 20,000 people expected to attend the Miss World crowning ceremony on 23 November and take cyanide pills before setting their silk saris ablaze.

Julia Morley, president of Miss World International said: "Obviously it is a very sad situation when somebody is prepared to do this without finding out what we are all about."

People attending events at the Miss World gala have been frisked by police, who confiscated cigarette lighters and bags.

In addition to a de facto ban on smoking, the court on Tuesday told pageant organisers that no alcohol should be served at the Chinnaswamy cricket stadium where the open air show is being held.

The finale is expected to be seen by two billion television viewers worldwide.

A protester against the Michael Jackson concert in Bombay in late October also threatened to burn himself but was detained by police before he could commit suicide. Under Indian law, police can take people into custody as a preventive measure.

A police chief and senior court official were assigned by the high court to watch the beauty parade on Saturday to ensure there is no indecent exposure of bodies, nudity or obscenity."Absolutely. I agree with that wholeheartedly." Julia Morley said when informed of the ruling.

The ruling Janata Dal in Karnataka, which is Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's party, has supported Miss World coming to the state capital, which is known as India's "Garden City", but any politicians hoping for a free ticket can think again.

The court said that people in the state government will have to pay like anyone else.