Little India riot: Foreign workers gather to relax with food and alcohol

Little India riot: Foreign workers gather to relax with food and alcohol

SINGAPORE - It is a common sight on any Sunday night along Serangoon Road - empty beer cans are strewn on the ground and unfinished food packets litter the pavements.

Many foreign workers, with bellies filled with alcohol and food, talk and laugh loudly. Sometimes, their boisterous banter degenerates into insults and punches.

Shopkeepers and foreign workers say scenes of disturbance, due mainly to spats among the workers, are common on the weekends but never on the scale and intensity seen during Sunday's riot.

An angry mob of about 400 South Asian workers turned on police officers after an Indian national was hit by a private bus.

Bengali newspaper Banglar Kantha editor A. K. M. Mohsin, whose office is in Rowell Road, said: "Fights happen every Sunday. But things are settled quickly when other workers stop the fight or the police come."

Foreign workers who were interviewed said their spirits are at the highest at about 8pm. By then, they would have indulged in food and alcohol for a few hours.

For thousands of Indian national and Bangladeshi workers, their Sunday jaunt to Little India starts at around 4pm. They descend on the district in shuttle buses that ferry them from dormitories in remote areas of Singapore such as Tuas and Changi. The buses drop them off at the distinct areas in which Indian and Bangladeshi workers typically congregate.

The Bangladeshis alight at the streets near Mustafa Centre in Syed Alwi Road. The area around Race Course Road, where the riot took place, is the "home ground" of the Indian national workers.

The first thing the men typically do once they are in Little India is to send money to loved ones at home. Indian national workers head in small groups to money- transfer companies. The Bangladeshis turn to hundi or remittance men stationed outside Serangoon Plaza, who promise to send the money but do not issue receipts.

The men proceed to provision shops to buy groceries. By about 6pm, they are usually done with their errands and start to unwind.

Beer cans are seen as must-have items, and the workers pick these up at the ubiquitous liquor stores in the neighbourhood.


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