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Jun 17, 2007 at 04:30pm IST

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New Delhi: The Shilpa Shetty racial abuse episode is threatening to snowball into a big issue in the UK with London police reportedly investigating threats against the "abusive" housemates of the reality show Celebrity Big Brother.

The police say this is being done after an outburst of public concern over alleged racist bullying Shilpa on the British show.

According to news agency Reuters, nearly 10,000 complaints have so far been registered with the media regulator Ofcam.

RACE AGAINST RACISM: Almost 10,000 viewers have registered their protest.

Most of these complains are about the ill-treatment meted out to the 31-year-old Shilpa, who has been called a "dog'', "a Paki" and "the Indian" among other things, since the reality television series started two weeks ago.

According to Reuters, police in Hertfordshire, north of London, said two emailed threats had been sent to the show's broadcaster Channel 4. ''(They) contain unspecified threats against a number of the housemates. Police are currently looking in to the e-mails,'' a spokesman was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Detectives also reportedly received a telephone call complaining about ''alleged racist behaviour'' on the programme, he said.

Channel 4, on its part, said that it took matters of racism and bullying "seriously", but also made clear that Shilpa herself had not voiced any concerns of racial slurs or bullying against her.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Carphone Warehouse, a mobile phone retailer and a sponsor of the show, said his firm was reviewing its sponsorship of the programme.

''The sponsorship is constantly under review. Clearly, we are against racism,'' a Carphone Warhouse spokesperson Charles Dunstone told UK daily The Times.

Common agenda

The echoes of the row also spilled over in the UK House of Commons - Britain's lower chamber of parliament - where Labour MP Keith Vaz tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons demanding a probe into the alleged comments.

Vaz said members of his Leicester East constituency had contacted him about alleged racism on the Channel 4 show.

Video: Shilpa breaks down

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According to news agencies, The early day motion (EDM) reads, "This House views with concern the comments made about Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty by other housemates; believes that Big Brother has a role to play in preventing racist behaviour in the Big Brother house; regrets that these comments have been made; and calls on the programme to take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable."

“We would not tolerate this kind of racism on other types of television programme and we should not do so on a programme that is watched by millions of people,” Vaz reportedly said.

Ofcom has so far received 7,600 complaints from viewers concerned that housemates, including reality TV star Jade Goody, former beauty queen Danielle Lloyd and ex-S Club seven singer Jo O'Meara, were victimising Shilpa, media reported today.

A further 2,000 e-mail and telephone complaints were made directly to Channel 4, they said.

India reacts

Congress leader Anand Sharma came out with India's first official reaction to the controversy.

Sharma said that officials had seen the report and will get all details and take appropriate action.

He also said that India rejected all forms of discrimination and racism and that racist remarks have no place in civilised society.

Reacting to Shilpa being called "dog" and "the Indian", Sharma, "India is regarded with respect the world over and whosoever choses to use that word is only showing himself/herself in poor light," Sharma told CNN-IBN.

What the show is all about

Filmed by hidden cameras, the antics of the housemates of Celebrity Big Brother can be watched 24 hours a day, with highlights played every evening on Channel 4.

The housemates alone remain unaware of the furore in the outside world which - if nothing else - will likely boost the show's viewing figures.

Select videos of the series are also available on YouTube.

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