Little India Riot: Incident Raises Fear of Backlash

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By Johnlee Varghese | December 9, 2013 10:59 PM EST

The death of a 33-year old man in Little India neighborhood saw a crowd of about 400 foreign workers going on a rampage, setting fire to vehicles and attacking police and emergency service workers late on Sunday evening. The crowded market area has a large Indian-Tamil population and the incident has sparked a fear of backlash.

Little India is located in central Singapore and is quite popular among the expatriates and migrant workers from South Asian countries, such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as a weekend hangout place. Thousands typically gather there on Sunday evenings.

After the 1969 riots, this was the first time that the peace was broken in the city. In a statement on Facebook, Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong has called in for maintaining calm. "The Little India riot last night was a very grave incident. Several police officers were injured, and vehicles damaged or destroyed. The situation is now under control, and investigations are underway. Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour. We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law. I urge all Singaporeans to stay calm," the Prime Minister's office posted on the popular social networking site.

Singaporean citizens were enraged and took it out on all the migrant workers on social networking sites. "I guess its all done by indian nationals who gather in little india on Sundays. The authority has to do something abt this. They should not allow such incident to reoccur. We Singapore Indians refrain ourself to go shopping on sundays to little India. Should restraint india nationals movement in town. Or rather keep them away frm us. Should sent back, all those involved. Reduce Indian national workers. The world has to know that Singapore does not tolerate such behaviours," a user (Sara Roy Aritan) posted on Facebook.

A tweet post called for maintaining restraint. "Any racist reaction by Singaporeans to #LittleIndiaRiot will hurt the Republic." While another one expressing the blame that was being put on whole of India said: "And have read hell lot of tweets, blaming #indians in #singapore. Crazy this. somebody does and the whole of #india gets a bad name."

The riot of 1969 that is seen as a largely Chinese and Malay conflict was a spillover from the incidents in Malaysia. With Malay triads pinning for blood, several Chinese houses were attacked and, at the end of the seven-day conflict, four people were killed and 80 were wounded in the racial clash.

In the meantime, the High Commission of India said in a statement: "Singapore authorities are investigating into the incidents that took place in Little India in Singapore yesterday. We understand the situation is under control and Singapore authorities have appealed for maintaining calm by all sections of society. We hope all parties will maintain calm. The High Commission of India is inconstant touch with the Singapore authorities to ascertain the facts of the incidents. We shall continue to work with Singapore authorities to establish the identity of the Indian national who was killed in the accident and to provide all assistance to affected Indian nationals."

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