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November 12 1996

Jesuits in New Delhi have joined students and activists protesting the Miss World Contest in India and alleged vulgarity in the media.

Some 14 teachers and students of Vidyajyoti Jesuit Theologate marched with 200 schoolchildren Nov. 2 from Delhi´s historic Red Fort to the shrine of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

Under the banner of Azadi Bachao Andolan (ABA, save freedom movement), they shouted slogans and carried placards demanding an end to obscenity in media.

Jesuit Father S. Arokiasamy, secretary of the doctrinal commission of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of India, who was among the protesters, told UCA News that holding the Miss World pageant in a country like India is unethical.

"When millions do not have enough to eat or clothe, it is unethical to host such a show of the rich and the affluent," said Father Arokiasamy, Vidyajyoti´s moral theology professor.

Meanwhile, the Miss World Contest, scheduled to end Nov. 23 in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, went ahead as planned.

All 89 participants arrived in New Delhi and proceeded to Seychelles, a tourist island in the Indian Ocean, Oct. 6 for the swimsuit competition.

Despite threats from several organizations to disrupt the contest, economy tickets priced at about US$55 and US$85 reportedly sold out on the first day. The average monthly income of an urban Indian is less than US$85.

Terming the beauty pageant an "insult to Indian culture," the Delhi student protesters urged the government to cancel the show and stop advertisements on the government-controlled television network publicizing the event.

Amit Kapur, a student at New Delhi´s St. Mark´s school, said that Indian culture was respected by other nations but is gradually being destroying by local media through "vulgar programs."

In a memorandum, the marchers asked Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma "to intervene immediately" to effectively ban adult programs on television.

"Vulgar film songs and programs shown on television are making it difficult for women to walk on the streets safely. In buses and markets, it´s lewd comments one hears," said Maya Gupta, principal of Universal Public in Delhi.

"We are trying to awaken the public to the dangers of growing obscenity in the media. More people will have to come out in protest to put pressure on the government to purge obscenity," ABA leader V.P. Srivastava told UCA News.

Acting on an ABA petition against vulgarity in media, a Delhi court ordered the government to ensure that beginning in August no adult programs were telecast on Doordarshan, the government-controlled television network.