The 2013 Little India Riots happened on the evening of 8 December 2013. The riots broke out after a fatal accident in Little India; 400 people were involved. This was the first during the Land Transport Masterplan 2013.

The riotEdit

The riot continued for more than two hours, and the situation was brought under control only after midnight.[1] Officers from the Special Operations Command and Gurkha Contingent were deployed.[1] A witness reported that rioters at the scene were intoxicated with alcohol and threw beer bottles.[2]

An estimated 300 police officers were dispatched to deal with the riots. By 12.03 am on 9 December, all the rioters dispersed to the surrounding areas.[3]

Shortly after the start of the riot, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with discussions about the riot, and many videos of the incident were posted online.


According to a statement from the Singapore Police Force, the riots broke out shortly after a fatal road traffic accident between a private bus and a pedestrian[4] at 2123 hours SST, at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road. The victim was identified as Sakthivel Kumaravelu, a 33-year-old construction worker.


Five police vehicles, several private vehicles and one ambulance were damaged in the riots.[5][6] Video footage uploaded on the internet show rioters pushing police cars on their sides and setting an ambulance on fire.[1] Ten police officers, the bus driver and his conductor were injured.[7]

A total estimate of 400 rioters were present.[8][6] The Singapore Police Force dispatched 300 riot police.[8] The police made 27 arrests in relation to the riots.[2][6] In a police statement released to the media on 9 December, it was specified that of those arrested, 24 are Indian nationals, two are Bangladeshi nationals and one is a Singaporean Permanent Resident.[9]

The incident has also raised debate online on the issues of overcrowding and increasing numbers of migrant workers in Singapore.[10] The Singaporean authorities have called for calm and warned against speculations.[7]



Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, stated that the police will "spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law".[10] Later, he told Singaporeans to refrain from negative comments against migrant workers.[11] The country's Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean, similarly stated that no effort will be spared in capturing the perpetrators.[1]

The Transport Minister, Lui Tuck Yew, who is also a member of parliament for that district, wrote on Facebook that he would consider limiting the sale of liquor within Little India.[12] A temporary ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Little India has been set from 14–15 December.[13]

The incident has also raised debate online by Singaporeans on the issues of overcrowding and increasing numbers of migrant workers in Singapore.[14][10] It also highlighted ongoing ethnic tensions within Singapore, rising income inequality, the country's heavy reliance on foreign labour, and the working conditions of migrant workers.[14][15][16] The Singapore authorities have called for calm and warned against speculations.[7]

Mainstream media outlets praised and made public appeals to trace a man and other bystanders who attempted to stop the riots, which was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube.[17][18][19] The man in the video footage was initially identified as Thangaval Govindarasu, 38, from Tamil Nadu, after he came forward following appeals for the identity of the man.[17] However, he later claimed he was not the man in the video, although he did attempt to stop the rioting. A coffee shop owner in Little India later claimed that he recognised the man in the footage as a regular customer from Madras.[17] However, he declined to divulge the name of the customer, and stated he is unaware of where the man worked.[17]


Bangladesh - Bangladesh's High Commissioner to Singapore, Mahbubuz Zaman, was reported as saying that "the news reports that appeared on a section of media and news involving a Bangladeshi worker is not based on facts", and called for the co-operation of the Bangladeshi community with the Singapore authorities.[20]

India - A news report by India's Sun TV on 9 December 2013 attracted strong reactions and controversy in Singapore for erroneously reporting that the deceased was pushed out of the bus by the driver, as well as being attacked by locals.[21] In response to protests from Lim Thuan Kuan, Singapore's High Commissioner to India, Sun TV issued a correction the following day and apologised for the error.[22]


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