Malaysian students in fear as riots break out in Chennai

Supporters of J. Jayalalithaa, chief minister of India's Tamil Nadu state and chief of the AIADMK party, shout slogans during a protest against the court verdict in the southern Indian city of Chennai September 27, 2014. ― Reuters pic
Supporters of J. Jayalalithaa, chief minister of India's Tamil Nadu state and chief of the AIADMK party, shout slogans during a protest against the court verdict in the southern Indian city of Chennai September 27, 2014. ― Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, Sept 29 — Medical students from Meenakshi Ammal Dental College in Chennai, India, were told to stay indoors after riots broke there on Saturday.

The situation turned sour after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram was sentenced to four years in prison on the same day after a special court found her guilty of “disproportionately” amassing about 530 million rupees (RM28.2 million) outside her known source of income.

Supporters of the former movie star turned politician, who is also the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party chief, were reported clashing with police in Bengaluru and Chennai.

Dr V. Shovannia, 23, said there was no rioting near her college but the streets were empty and many shops closed.

“As far as I am concerned, the situation here is bad and, to my knowledge, no Malaysian students are taking part in it,” she said when contacted by Malay Mail.

“There were some shops still operating yesterday but then a group of people came and told everyone to shut down their businesses rudely. Some shops were even broken into.”

Shovannia said students received a text message that said their college would be closed today (Monday) but there was no official word from the management.

The text message read: “All schools and colleges in and around Chennai are ordered to be closed on Monday (29-9-2014) owing to public agitation as a result of the judgment against Jayaram by a Bengaluru court.

“(The) Public are requested to stay indoors and avoid any form of public transport. Issued in public interest by HRD (Human Resource Department) India”.

“Whatever news we get from our friends is the only news circulating among us and there are no updates from the Malaysian Students’ Association in India either.”

Shovannia said her parents have pleaded with her to return to Malaysia after watching the news of the riots in Chennai.

“They are worried and they did ask me to return till the situation has stabilised,” she said.

Shovannia said students, travelling to Chennai last Saturday were, also informed of the situation and were told to skip the trip instead.

“We stopped them from flying in last Saturday.

“We do not know if there is any public transportation available for them, if they do get to Chennai.”

Shovannia said students are staying indoors and they do not dare step out.

“There is no food rationing at the moment but we are surviving on what we have, the famous Maggi.

“Our main concern is if the riots continue, we will run out of food and all nearby shops are closed.”

The high-profile corruption case has lasted nearly two decades and has also seen the former movie star and four-time chief minister being fined one billion rupees (RM50 million) on top of her sentence, which will be taken from properties that have been seized by the court.

Three of Jayaram’s legal aides were also sent to jail.

Jayaram is legally obliged to step down as the head of Tamil Nadu, which she has governed since 2011.

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