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‘Colour of skin’ comes into play
‘Dark’ girls told to leave

Calcutta, May 19: Two cheerleaders from London were asked to leave the ground at Mohali “because of the colour of their skin” by the Preity Zinta-hired event management company, Wizcraft International Entertainment, which handles her team, Kings XI Punjab.

One of the girls, Ellesha Newton, told The Telegraph: “It was okay when we reached the stadium. It was when we were going to take our positions that some of Wizcraft’s employees asked us to leave. We were surprised and asked them why and they told us it was because of the colour of our skin.”

Wizcraft denied the allegation. “We work with international clients and our employees are trained to interact with them. If there had been any racial discrimination, I would have received a complaint. But I know nothing of it,” said Rajesh KV, executive vice-president, Wizcraft.

Jorge Aldana, the director of Fierce Performance Production, the company with offices in London and Mumbai that had brought the girls from London, said the incident took place before the Kings XI’s first match at Mohali. Yuvraj Singh’s team made its IPL debut on April 19 against the Chennai Super Kings.

Aldana said he found Ellesha and Sherinne Anderson, whom he had recruited as part of a team of 12, in tears when he reached the ground.

“Sherinne and Ellesha were in a state of shock and crying outside the ground. I called them and asked them what was the matter and they told me that a guy from Wizcraft had forbidden them from entering the ground,” Aldana said.

Preity Zinta was not available for comment. It is not known if the actress, who was the only Bollywood star to show the courage to testify against the underworld, is aware of the alleged incident.

Aldana, who has supplied cheerleaders for Shah Rukh Khan’s Calcutta team, too, said when he confronted the Wizcraft people with the allegation they tried to pass it off as a casual comment. “They said people don’t like dark girls here. But if they wanted all blondes, they should have told me so. I would have arranged it.”

On Aldana’s insistence, the girls were allowed back on the ground. But they were so upset that they didn’t want to take their positions on the stage.

“Sherinne and I talked it out amongst ourselves and we really didn’t want to go, but that’s why we were here and so we went,” said Ellesha, 22.

Sherinne, 25, burst out: “This kind of thing has never happened to us before, not in Europe, not here, nowhere.”

Ruby Eaton, their fellow cheerleader, said that after the first two matches when they were all packed and ready to fly to the destination for the third they were told their contract had been terminated.

“We found out later that the main reason was we were a mixed group and they did not want coloured people,” the 23-year-old Londoner said.

The entire group has been stuck in Mumbai since Wizcraft didn’t make any payment until this week for the two matches in which the now-rejected cheerleaders performed and for their travel costs.

Ruby said Aldana’s company had found them accommodation and was trying to get them work in Bollywood. “We have been working with a choreographer.”

She is staying back till July but her team-mates want to go back. “My parents have heard what has happened and are worried.”

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh was recently accused by the Australians of racial abuse and then let off but discrimination because of caste or the colour of skin is not unknown in India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said at a conference: “Dalits have faced a unique discrimination in our society…. The only parallel to the practice of untouchability was apartheid.”

When the actress Shilpa Shetty faced racial abuse on the Big Brother reality TV show in the UK, angry reactions there, including censure by the media regulator, forced the broadcaster to issue a series of apologies.

With Ellesha and Sherinne, the roles have been reversed. The British would be watching to see how India handles the abuse handed to two of their girls.

WEATHER FORCAST

Rain is possible in Calcutta on Tuesday evening or night, Met officials have said. The Kolkata Knight Riders are scheduled to play against the Rajasthan Royals from 8pm at the Eden on Tuesday.

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