Public outrage grows over alleged discrimination against devotees at Thaipusam kavadi procession

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The seemingly needless disruption a group of devotees allegedly faced during Thaipusam has sparked public outcry over the strict restrictions devotees participating in the one-day festival are expected to adhere to.

Members of the public grew incensed after a videos of the disruption some devotees faced during Thaipusam last month went viral online. The Facebook user who posted the videos, Pradeep Thana, revealed that the Kavadi procession included the girl who received considerable praise during Thaipusam last year when a video of her singing during her father’s kavadi procession went viral.

Pradeep wrote that the girl, Vaishnavi, was apparently singing for her father’s procession, like she does every year, when the procession was halted by the authorities:

“Like every other year, Vaishnavi (the girl in the video) was singing hymns and supporting her father along Serangoon Road and Selegie Road when, a HEB member, and a police officer stopped our kavadi and accused us of singing too loudly. Not only did they disrupt our procession, they surrounded our kavadi and started taking a video of each and every family member and supporter of our kavadi. This two officers followed us for a good 30 minutes while we were singing and trying our very best to ignore the fact that we were being filmed for no apparent reason. This caused Vaishnavi and every one with the kavadi much distress and completely ruined everyone’s mood.”

Comments excoriating the Hindu Endowments Board poured in as the post went viral with thousands of shares and ‘likes’ by netizens who felt that the devotees were unnecessarily discriminated against.

Soon after the post began trending online, a petition was started on change.org, calling for the authorities to lower restrictions on singing and playing classical instruments during kavadi processions.

The petition – which is addressed to the HEB, Singapore Police Force and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth – reiterates that singing and the playing of classical instruments are an integral part of Thaipusam processions as music helps alleviate some of the difficulties Kavadi bearers face during the “beautiful yet somewhat difficult journey”.

Created by change.org user Pria, the petition urges: “If a ban should come, it should only be for non classical instruments. Please give Hinduism some respect and give us the freedom to pray, Devote and celebrate! Please do not kill our culture.”

Within 24 hours, the petition has garnered almost 5,500 signatures so far – just shy of 2000 signatures from meeting its 7,500 target.

Meanwhile, another video response to the disruption some devotees faced has been trending online, as well. The video, by Facebook user Suresh Vanaz, calls on the authorities to kindly allow devotees to play music during Thaipusam, much like the petition that has been circulating online.

Vanaz wrote that the incident disturbed him since the music that was played during the procession was very soft and since it was mere children who were singing, with the assistance of adults.

While acknowledging the contributions the HEB has made in the Indian community, Vanaz called the board and, particularly, the HEB officer involved in the scene out and asserted: “You are supposed to support Indians, not go against Indians!”

Vanaz also questioned what was wrong with playing music since the devotees were not hooligans, before adding, “music is our culture.” Calling the officers’ demands “ridiculous,” Vanaz pointed out that devotees pay to go on kavadi processions unlike other groups that do not have to pay a fee when go on processions.

The netizen opined that if the people do not voice their opinions, the generations to come will not know what Thaipusam in Singapore is really like:

hi guys. Please support our local event that happens only once a year. Please allow the devotees to play music during Thaipusam. As one nation, one people, one Singapore I think we all can stand united with voicing this view. Thank you. Share share share share…..#thaipusam #Suresh Vanaz#Suresh Vanaz Thalai#Seelan Letch

Posted by Suresh Vanaz on Monday, 5 February 2018

Devotees incensed that authorities allegedly disrupted Thaipusam kavadi procession for no good reason