NATIONAL

Britain's race panel chief charged in cricket row

LONDON JULY 26. The chief of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) Gurbux Singh, who was arrested for his "threatening" behaviour after India's dramatic win in the Natwest one-day cricket series at Lord's early this month, has been formally charged by the police, and if convicted he faces six months in jail.

There was intense speculation today that he was under pressure to quit his lucrative job, but the Home Office refused to comment. A spokesperson told The Hindu that it was "aware" of the development but believed it would be "inappropriate" to say anything at this stage. Mr. Singh, who was appointed to the high-profile post two years ago, would be the first CRE chief to go under a cloud. A CRE official said he was not making any statement. A former CRE commissioner, Mohammad Amran, said Mr. Singh had lost "credibility'' and should quit, but the Tory party adviser on race issues, Mohammed Riaz, was against rushing into judgment saying he had done "tremendous amount of work" as CRE chief.

Three weeks after the incident, in which an allegedly inebriated Mr. Singh clashed with the police, details are still sketchy. According to the police, as spectators were leaving the Lord's cricket grounds after India's victory in a nail-biting finish he "stumbled into an officer from behind''. Despite efforts by the police and those accompanying Mr. Singh he behaved in a "disorderly manner" and used "threatening language". He was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the police. His wife was also arrested after she tried to remonstrate with the police.

On Thursday, police brought formal charges against him after watching the CCTV footage of the incident but his wife was let off with a warning. Reports said that like many enthusiastic supporters of the Indian cricket team, Mr. Singh apparently had had "one too many" that afternoon though he maintains that "I would not say that I had drunk heavily".

Questions have been raised about the "propriety" of a prominent British citizen waving the flag for India against his "own" adopted country. Critics have accused him of sending the "wrong" message to ethnic minorities whom he himself has been calling upon to integrate more fully with British society. Mr. Singh, 51, came to Britain at the age of six and is married to a British woman. He has never been apologetic about his partiality for Indian cricket and sees it simply as another aspect of his "multiculturalism".

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