Racism gets a reality check

The abuse of Shilpa Shetty on 'Celebrity Big Brother' has prompted more than 21,000 protests.
Effigies of contestants are burnt in Patna as India reacts angrily to her treatment.
Tony Blair's spokesman says any perception Britain tolerates racism 'has to be regretted'.
The broadcaster defends programme against criticism but enjoys boost in ratings.

The alleged racist abuse directed at a Bollywood film star appearing on the Channel 4 reality show Celebrity Big Brother became an international issue yesterday.

In a day of extraordinary developments, Chancellor Gordon Brown was forced to defend Britain against allegations of racism on his first full day of a trip to India.

Mr Brown said he regarded the alleged racist comments made on the programme as "offensive". He added: "I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn".

And as the protests grew more vociferous, No 10 was put on the defensive. Tony Blair's spokesman said any perception abroad that Britain tolerated racism had to be "regretted and countered".

Yesterday, Indian TV news was dominated by images of Shilpa Shetty in tears after arguments with flatmates, during which she was allegedly called a "Paki" and a "cunt".

"Racist Big Brother leaves Shilpa shattered," read the headline in the Deccan Herald, one of several newspapers to carry the story on its front page.

And in the city of Patna, effigies of Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara were burnt. "The big question is: why does everyone hate Shilpa Shetty?" the Indian Express asked on its website.

In one recent argument on the show, Goody told Shetty: "Go back to the slums and find out what real life is like, lady. You are not some princess in fucking Neverland. You're not some princess here... you need a day in the slums... fucking go in your community."

And Danielle Lloyd was heard to mutter, out of Shetty's earshot: "I think she should fuck off home." Britain's media watchdog Ofcom reported a record 19,300 complaints against the programme, with a further 2,000 contacting Channel 4 directly.

Last night, it emerged Channel 4 and Endemol, makers of Big Brother, are facing a lawsuit from viewers who say they were distressed by what they saw. In what would be the first case of its kind, seven Asian viewers, all victims of racism, have instructed the civil rights law firm, Equal Justice, to institute proceedings in the "provision of services" under the Race Relations Act 1976.

Keith Vaz MP, former minister for Europe, used an early day motion in the House of Commons to call on Channel 4 bosses to take "effective action" against the "unacceptable" racist language allegedly used.

The London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, said: "The mocking of Shilpa Shetty's accent, her Indian cooking and other aspects of her culture, as well as such basic things as repeated failure to get her name right and referring to her in extreme derogatory terms are completely unacceptable ... All cultures are welcome in London and we do not ask anyone to give up their culture or background in order to be welcome and to contribute to the city and its great prosperity. The treatment meted out to Shilpa Shetty is totally opposite to such an approach."

But Channel 4 appears in no hurry to take action. Ratings for the highlights show on Tuesday evening hit 4.5 million viewers, up from 3.5 million on Monday.

The bookmaker William Hill said Shetty was now the new "hot favourite" to win. In a further twist, Goody and Shetty are to go head to head in the next round of evictions.

Last night, Channel 4 claimed there had been "no overt racial abuse or racist behaviour directed against Shilpa Shetty within the Big Brother house". It said what had happened could be characterised as a "cultural and class clash between her and three of the British females in the house." It added: "Unambiguous racist behaviour and language is not tolerated under any circumstances in the house. Housemates are constantly monitored and Channel 4 would intervene if a clear instance of this arose." Channel 4 said it had spoken to Shetty, "who has not complained or raised the issue of racism".

Hours later, however, Shetty spoke for the first time of her fears that she is the victim of racism. Unaware that the race row has developed into an international incident, the housemates last night had an argument over Oxo cubes.

After the spat, fellow housemate Cleo Rocos told Shetty: "I don't think there's anything racist in it."

Shetty replied: "It is, I'm telling you."

One of the complainants bringing the claim against Channel 4 said the comments he heard triggered memories of racism he had experienced in the 1970s. Tallat Mukhtar,a former banker who now runs his own firm, said: " This series has taken me back to the 1970s when I was racially abused on the streets and encountered the Jade Goody mentality. I find it disgusting that Channel 4 and Endemol broadcast such material. Even if it boosts their profits, it is not a fit or ethical way to make money."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy