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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 12:23 GMT
Shetty fears Big Brother 'racism'
Shilpa Shetty
Shetty, 31, is an award-winning Bollywood actress

Celebrity Big Brother housemate Shilpa Shetty has spoken for the first time of fears that she is a victim of racism.

Fellow contestant Jade Goody told the actress to "go back to the slums", in a row that erupted over stock cubes.

Shetty later told housemate Cleo Rocos that she feared she was being targeted because of her race.

Reports say Shetty and Goody are to go head-to-head in the next Celebrity Big Brother evictions, with Goody 1-5 favourite to get the boot.

The nominations come as the latest argument threatens to escalate the international row that has broken out over the show.

'Go home'

Rocos, comforting the Bollywood actress following Wednesday's row, told Shetty: "I don't think there's anything racist in it."

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

However, Jade Goody's spokeswoman has denied Goody's behaviour is motivated by racism.

"I have not heard Jade say anything that could be interpreted as a racist remark.

"I am not denying the fact that it appears Jade dislikes Shilpa, but I don't believe her race is the reason."

Contestant Danielle Lloyd also hit out at the Bollywood star, saying Shetty should just "go home".

Jackiey Budden, Jade Goody and Jack Tweedy
Jackiey, Jade and Jack have made it clear they do not like Shilpa

In a statement, Channel 4 said there had been "no overt racial abuse or racist behaviour," despite more than 27,000 complaints from the public to media regulator Ofcom - a record number.

"Unambiguous racist behaviour and language is not tolerated under any circumstances in the Big Brother house. Housemates are constantly monitored and Channel 4 would intervene if a clear instance of this arose," it said.

Cultural clash

However, the channel admitted there had "undoubtedly been a cultural clash between her and three of the British females in the house".

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said they were taking the complaints "seriously" but said he was "not going to conduct a kangaroo court".

"One can think of other circumstances when people have rushed to judgment and repented at leisure," he added.

Shilpa Shetty is being victimised for being different, be it by colour, class or culture
Urmisha Rathod, Barkingside

He said they would write to Channel 4 in the forthcoming weeks. The channel will then have "a few weeks" to respond.

Complaints have flooded in since housemate Goody, her mother Jackiey Budden and boyfriend Jack Tweedy; model Danielle Lloyd and former S Club singer Jo O'Meara allegedly began allegedly bullying the 31-year-old actress last weekend.

Shetty has been a victim of regular sniping, has been branded a "dog", and told to clean out the toilet with her teeth by one housemate.

Lloyd asked whether she has "stubble", while Budden, who has now been evicted from the house, asked whether she lived in a house or a shack.

The National Bullying helpline has reported a rise in phonecalls since the alleged bullying on Celebrity Big Brother.

Viewing figures

However, the explosion of media coverage has seen audience figures rise, with 3.5 million viewers tuning in on Monday, 4.5 million on Tuesday and 5.2 million on Wednesday - equalling the highest figure for this series since the live launch.

Wednesday's row blew up when Shetty asked if there were any remaining stock cubes.

Protest in India
Protesters burned effigies at a small demonstration in India

She sparked a furious reaction from Goody, Lloyd and O'Meara when she said it was the only food she had ordered on the house shopping list.

Goody, 25, retaliated by calling Shetty a liar; O'Meara and Lloyd began to laugh.

After an exchange of words with Shetty, in which Shetty told Goody she needed elocution lessons, Goody launched into an expletive-ridden rant to Lloyd and O'Meara in which she said "fake" Shetty needed "a day in the slums".

She added: "Go in your community and go to all those people who look up to you and be real."

Indian reaction

The story has made the headlines in India, and a small-scale protest in the eastern Indian city of Patna saw the burning of an effigy of the show's organisers.

Former England batsman, Geoff Boycott, a friend of Shetty, told the BBC Asian Network that he was not impressed by what he had seen so far.

"It is totally alien to most Asian girls, in particular Shilpa Shetty, who's known in India for being a really nice girl; she's not up her own self; she's not full of herself," he said.

In their statement, Channel 4 said Shetty had not voiced any concerns of racial abuse to Big Brother.

Shilpa Shetty on her treatment by other housemates


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