I am a white, British-born woman living in Scotland. Please believe me when I tell you that it is not only people of South Asian origin who are offended, angry, upset, and complaining to the television company about the appalling treatment of the very beautiful, honourable, and amazingly dignified Shilpa Shetty. I have personally complained to Ofcom, the media watchdog, and made several calls to the television company and I know many other white British citizens have complained.
I used to be a Big Brother fan but I now hope that it loses its right to broadcast. On behalf of all the decent, respectful people of the U.K., I would like to offer my apologies for this shameful behaviour.
The behaviour of Shilpa's fellow participants on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother show is condemnable. It not only shows how intolerant the westerners are of others but also their desire to assert their supremacy. The actor's restraint in the face of insulting behaviour deserves praise. This is also the time for us to introspect how justified we are in protesting. Racism, in the name of caste and creed, has been prevalent in our country for hundreds of years. Even today, the so-called lower caste people are not allowed entry into temples. The two-tumbler system is being practiced in many States, particularly in villages. Do we have the right to object to the treatment meted out to Shilpa?
The name-calling by envious fellow contestants, including referring to Shilpa repeatedly as "the Indian," drove the actor to tears. It is a shame that she was subjected to such humiliation for being an Indian.
The well-publicised jibes reek of racism. We cannot be asked to take such remarks in our stride just because we are not unfamiliar with them on cricket fields and in outsourcing centres. The taunt by one of her housemates whether Shilpa lived in a shack is an insult to India. The fact that her accent was mocked and she was referred to as "the Indian" is a reflection of the participants' cultural impoverishment. If this is the treatment a Bollywood celebrity gets in the west, it is not difficult to guess how the ordinary Indian is treated.
G. David Milton,Maruthancode
The racist remarks hurled against Shilpa are an insult not only to her but the entire Indian community. Those responsible should be made to apologise publicly.
Gurpreet Singh,Hoshiarpur, Punjab
Racism has been practised in the West for decades. But the governments there try to project themselves differently. The television show has helped to unmask the attitude of the westerners towards non-whites. Indians who have settled abroad have frequently complained of being treated as second-class citizens.
Notwithstanding pretensions to the contrary, self-proclaimed racial pre-eminence forms an integral part of the attitude harboured by western societies towards the not-so-white people in other parts of the world. It is indeed unfortunate that the colour of one's skin still forms a basis to pass sweeping judgments on character and personality. No sphere of human endeavour seems to have escaped racial hostility, be it sports, politics, economics or `reality' shows. Let us hope the outcry generated transforms into a meaningful debate.
Instead of bursting into tears, Shilpa should have told her fellow participants to get used to her "accent" as the Mittals and the Tatas are already in their homes on business and others will follow soon.
D.S. Kalsi,Ukkunagaram, A.P.
Shilpa is a professional artist and what she is facing is a professional hazard. So far, she hasn't complained. If she feels offended, she should quit the show. Speaking of insulting accents, Bollywood has been insulting the south Indian accent for years in films, Padosan being an eminent example. Should one take such things seriously?
Shilpa has been paid an astronomical amount to put up with such insulting behaviour. One wonders why the Government should up the ante. Many Indians who are working for a living in the Gulf and other countries are routinely abused. The migrant Indian labour force undergoes persecution and torture. I have seen many reports of labourers being made to work like slaves without being paid the promised salary. What is the Government doing about those complaints? Do they not matter because they do not pertain to celebrities?
It is amazing to see even the Government of India taking up Shilpa's case with the U.K. But isn't it a case of clear discrimination? Will the Government take up the issue of thousands of ordinary Indians suffering racial discrimination every day in Britain and elsewhere? An ordinary Indian suffering racial insult catches the fancy of neither NGOs nor the Government.
Shilpa is participating in a game show and sledging and ragging are part of the game. What is wrong in calling Shilpa an Indian? Isn't she one? Shilpa should firmly put in their place participants who sledge. The issue certainly does not deserve to be discussed in British Parliament.
The controversy has boosted the show's TRP ratings and is doing a world of good to the producers by giving them free publicity.
Nitin G. Gokarn,Mumbai
I feel the uproar is uncalled for. The incident should serve as an eye-opener for millions of Indian youth who imitate the west and try hard to look like the westerners. No matter how much you ape the west, you are not going to be accepted as part of western society. You will remain an Indian forever.
Speaking of racism, I recall the time I went to the Mumbai airport to take a passport size photograph to apply for the American visa. The photographer, seeing my dark complexion, said: "normally the Americans prefer only white complexioned people." This was the remark made by a north Indian photographer about his fellow south Indian marine engineer. I am pained not by his comment but by the deep cancerous attitude among the people that white is superior.