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Maoists fail to unseat Miss Nepal

Sitashma Chand, a 23-year-old sales executive, bagged the best deal in her career by lifting the Miss Nepal 2007 crown.

fashion and trends Updated: Apr 09, 2007 18:57 IST

She came, she was seen by thousands, and she conquered. Sitashma Chand, a 23-year-old sales executive, bagged the best deal in her career by lifting the Miss Nepal 2007 crown. She won over 18 other finalists as well as scores of Maoists, rights activists and feminists, who kept up stiff resistance outside the pageant venue, trying to stop it.

"I respect the opinion of all the women who are protesting against the pageant," Chand said after lifting the title Saturday, with a smile that however showed the iron under it.

"However, all the participants here are above 18. So the protesters should also respect our right to form our own opinion."

The five-seven-and-a-half leggy beauty won the contest due to her quick wit.

Asked during one of the preliminary rounds, which role she considered the most important - a mother's, wife's or daughter's - her immediate answer was a daughter's.

"I am a daughter and I can make my parents proud. So it's the most important role for me," she said. What clinched the crown for her was her answer at the final round when she was asked whether traditions should be followed or changed.

Chand rooted for some amendments. "Sacrificing animals in the name of god is not what god asks for," she said.

Animal sacrifices form a key component of religious festivals. The slaughter of animals and birds in temples during Dashain, Nepal's biggest festival, similar to India's Dussehra, often shocks foreigners with the pools of blood and severed heads and entrails of sacrificed animals littering places of worship.

Chand's victory is especially sweet coming after a harrowing time as the women's wing of the Maoists and other feminist organisations began a sit-in outside the pageant venue in a bid to stop it.

Calling it a tool to exploit, degrade and traffick women, protesters pulled down the welcome arch and prevented people from entering through the main gate.

Riot police, employed to prevent the protesters from storming the venue, baton-charged the crowd, resulting in nearly half a dozen being injured. The other victory was the unhindered live telecast of the show by the government-run Nepal Television channel.

"It shows the Maoists are developing maturity," said Subarna Chhetri, whose The Hidden Treasure event management company held the pageant with the sponsorship of Dabur Nepal.

"Though the information and communications minister (Krishna Bahadur Mahara) is from the Maoist party, still by allowing the state channel to work unhindered, the Maoists showed a positive side."

Chhetri, a Calcutta Boys alumnus and arts graduate from Kolkata's St. Xavier's College, said he was optimistic the pageant would be held in 2008 too despite the stiff resistance.

Started in 1994, the Miss Nepal contest was prevented only twice - in 2001 when Nepal went into national mourning after the royal family with 10 members were gunned down in the palace and in 2006, due to the political instability and the Moss World pageant advancing its date.