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
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game