The Miss Tibet beauty contest is in deep trouble.

It’s only one year old and only one contestant turned up for this week’s contest. She is 20-year-old Tsering Kyi.

“We declared her Miss Tibet,” said competition organiser Lobsang Wangyal.

It is not clear if he had any alternative plan of action.

Why so little interest?

“There was immense social pressure on the girls not to participate by traditional sections of the Tibetan society,” Mr Wangyal told the BBC.

The contest is staged in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. Last year’s inaugural pageant did fare better – 30 Tibetan women registered. However, on the day, only four turned up.

Dwindling response

This year, the organisers received only 10 applications. As Tsering Kyi gets used to her new title of Miss Tibet 2003, Mr Wangyal described her as “a brave girl”.

She is a student in a nearby monastery in the scenic Kangra valley. Ms Kyoi was born and raised in north-eastern Tibet. She escaped to India after finishing high school at the age of 16. Ms Kyoi has written a book of poetry in Tibetan and speaks fluent Chinese, according to the Miss Tibet website. She has won several prizes in high school level essay competitions.

“She defied the community’s intense silent protest to participate,” Mr Wangyal said.

The formal ceremony crowning Ms Kyi will be held on 9 October. She will be presented a prize of 100,000 rupees ($2,000).

The organisers made frantic last minute efforts to persuade more girls to participate but failed. The organisers and a section of the younger Tibetan community say that the Miss Tibet show is another way of espousing the Tibetan cause.

But the BBC’s Baldev Chauhan says it has met fierce opposition from traditional Buddhists in the area. They argue that holding beauty contests is against the very essence of Tibetan culture.

Many of them were particularly outraged by a round in which contestants parade in swimsuits. The critics of the contest include the Prime Minister-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche. Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has remained silent on this issue.

//From the BBC online