Pamela Timms, This Is Lonodon, May 22, 2008
Two London cheerleaders hired to entertain crowds at India’s Twenty20 cricket premier league have accused organisers of racism.
Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson say they were banned from performing because they had “dark skin” and told to sit out of the opening routine at the India Premier League’s inaugural match in Chandigarh.
They said they were left sobbing as Team Chennai and Team Mohali took to the field and that event organisers told them only “white girls” would be allowed to perform.
Ms Newton, 22, from Islington, said they had been called “n*****s” and banned from performing.
She said: “An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don’t want to see dark people. The n***** word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls.”
Ms Anderson, 25, from Hayes, added: “This kind of thing has never happened to us not in Europe, not here, nowhere. We are offended.”
The girls had been hired by Fierce Performance Productions which has offices in London and Bombay.
Director Jorge Aldana said the girls were eventually allowed to take part as cheerleaders after he intervened with local officials.
Several of India’sTwenty20 cricket teams have hired American and British cheerleaders, including a number of black African-Americans, but this is the first allegation of racism.
The raunchy routines have caused outrage in the country, where protesters condemned their introduction as an insult to traditional Indian modesty.
Now India’s Twenty20 organisers are braced for a fresh and potentially more damaging row over the cheerleaders’ allegations. Women’s rights groups in India have condemned the organisers, and called for action to be taken.
The All India Democratic Women’s Association, said: “Stopping anyone performing on the basis of colour of skin is not only illegal but unconstitutional.
Racism is rarely discussed in India, but African visitors, immigrants from Nepal face regular abuse.
The event management firm Wizcraft today denied the allegations and accused the women of having “an ulterior motive” for making them. A spokesman said: “They are totally fabricated.”