HINDUS like me appreciate Law Minister K. Shanmugam's swift reply last Saturday ("Shanmugam clears the air on Thaipusam"), especially his remarks about the potential relaxation of the ban on the playing of musical instruments during Thaipusam processions.
But why did the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) support the ban in the first place? Why did it not lobby against it? As a body whose duty is to promote Hindu traditions, the HEB would have known that musical instruments like the urumi melam (Indian drum) and the nadhaswaram (Indian clarinet) are integral religious components of major Hindu observances like Thaipusam.
The HEB should have helped craft a public order rule that would not have affected the procession's religious vitality.
One gratifying consequence of the incident was the outpouring of sympathy and support against the ban by Chinese, Malay and Eurasian Singaporeans who grew up appreciating Thaipusam's contribution to Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious tapestry.
This article was first published on Feb 11 DAY, 2015.
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