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Riot rattles Indian workers

LURE OF LITTLE INDIA: Little India, the scene of Deepavali celebrations in November, is beloved by workers from India, who feel at home there.


    Dec 13, 2013

    Riot rattles Indian workers

    ALMOST a week after about 400 Indian foreign workers created history in Singapore by rioting, their countrymen are reeling from their actions.

    They are nagged by worries that they may not be able to continue working here.

    "I didn't do anything, but I have that slight fear that my work permit will not be renewed because I know that what they did is very wrong," said Mr Muthupandi Mariappan, 31.

    The construction worker with a renovation firm echoed the feelings of many of his counterparts who have come here to earn a living.

    Law Minister K. Shanmugam met about 40 Indian nationals at their dormitory in Kranji on Wednesday to allay their fears.

    He told them that as long as they were not involved in the riot on Sunday, there will be no consequences for them.

    Uncertainty about their future aside, workers are also afraid that people in Singapore will judge them based on the actions of a minority.

    Some have already accepted it.

    "People here may be afraid of us for some time. We have to adjust to it, and improve our reputation again," said Mr S. Saravanan, 29.

    But so afraid was Mr Gobal Chinnan that others would look at him differently that he hesitated to make the journey to Little India from his Kranji dorm on Wednesday.

    But the attraction of the place was too great. MyPaper found him nursing a bottle of beer at Tekka Market.

    The lure of Little India?

    "This feels like my own country. It's a central place to meet my friends, and I can buy groceries from India only here," the 36-year-old said.

    The father of two school-going boys was there to remit money to his family, after getting his pay the day before.

    Many of the workers have also ventured to places like Sentosa, the zoo and Jurong Bird Park, but nothing beats Little India. Every one of the 15 Indian workers MyPaper spoke to shared Mr Gobal's sentiments.

    But their favourite haunt turned into a battlefield on Sunday when about 400 people, including 31 Indian nationals who have been charged with rioting, were involved in a riot sparked by an accident in which an Indian national died.

    Safety supervisor Sakthivel Periyasamy, who has been working in Singapore for 12 years, said that this is not the first time such accidents have happened.

    The 34-year-old has seen other collisions between private buses and pedestrians in the Race Course Road area, where the accident happened, he said.

    He was not there on Sunday, and visits Little India just once or twice a month, like others who have been here for years.

    Their days off are spent resting in their dormitory rooms, watching their favourite Tamil shows.

    It is also where they unwind with alcohol, but only when they can afford it, most of them said.

    For this reason, all of them said the alcohol ban in Little India will not affect them.

    "It's a good thing. It seems to be the root of all problems," said Mr Raja Sekaran, 28.