Singapore :  Fifty-two Indians were on Friday deported from Singapore for alleged involvement in the worst street violence here in 40 years, and four more are in the line.

The mass repatriation comes as international rights groups including Humans  Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the government here of  arbitrarily deporting people without due process, in its haste to punish the  alleged rioters.

The government maintains that it has legal powers to repatriate foreigners  deem-ed a threat to public security.

The process of deporting 53 men — 52 Indians and one Bangladeshi — began on Thursday as authorities pressed criminal charges against 28 Indians for their role in the December 8 rampage in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where most South Asian workers take their Sunday break. The 53 deported men received stern police warnings and will not be allowed to re-enter Singapore, the police said.

Another 200 workers involved in the rioting, but in a “passive and incidental role”, would be issued formal police advisories.

The trouble started after a private bus fatally knocked down an Indian pedestrian, 33-year-old Sakthivel Kuaravelu, in Little India. Some 400 migrant workers were involved in the rampage that left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles — including 16 police cars — damaged. Singapore previously witnessed violence on such a scale during race riots in 1969.

Earlier this week, a civil group questioned the “arbitrary deportation” of the men, citing the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.

A Committee of Inquiry was set up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s order to probe the riot. He had warned that “full force of the law” would be used against trouble-makers. At the same time, the premier said his government would treat foreign workers fairly and properly. “We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers,” Lee had said.

 In December last year, 29 Chinese bus drivers were deported for their  involvement in a work stoppage for better wages and living conditions — the  first industrial strike in the city-state since 1986.

Gurdip Singh

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