Cops arrest three for scuffle during Thaipusam festival

Cops arrest three for scuffle during Thaipusam festival

THREE Singaporean men have been arrested over a scuffle that broke out on Tuesday evening during the annual Thaipusam procession.

Police said organisers had asked a group of people to stop playing traditional Indian drums as it was not allowed under the event's police permit.

The group refused, and a fracas ensued at the junction of Desker Road and Serangoon Road. Police were called in, and during the commotion, three bystanders aged 28, 32 and 33 allegedly hurled vulgarities at officers and injured one of them.

They have since been arrested.

Videos of the incident that were posted on Facebook showed a tense situation, with officers and devotees pushing and shouting at one another. One video showed a woman falling to the ground after being pushed. Shortly after, a group of what looked like plainclothes officers was seen pinning a man to the ground.

Some netizens have questioned the behaviour of the officers, saying excessive force was used, while others wondered if they were too conservative.

When asked, a police spokesman said "necessary force was used to subdue the three suspects as they were violent".

One of the drummers, Mr Vik Silvaraj, 31, said police called his group of 11 out of the procession, and told them the temple management had asked that they stop playing. He added that his group was paid $500 to accompany a kavadi bearer and play music to encourage him.

Under guidelines for the Thaipusam festival by the Hindu Endowments Board, "music, gongs, drums or music producing equipment" are banned.

While Mr Vik and a second group of musicians were being questioned, the 33-year-old suspect started asking the police why the drums were not allowed.

He was warned to calm down, but persisted with his "disorderly behaviour", said a police spokesman, who added that while the man was being arrested, the other two suspects came forward to intervene. The 32-year-old assaulted three officers in the process.

The spokesman said the men "smelt strongly of alcohol", and one police officer had to be taken to hospital.

To defuse the situation, police officers were seen forming a human cordon around the area and asking the crowd to disperse.

MP Vikram Nair, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said: "Law and order need to be maintained even as we take part in our traditional celebrations."

Meanwhile, Mr Vik, who left the area after being told to disperse and rejoined the processiondown the road, said: "We are not gangsters, we were just playing devotional songs - this is part of our tradition and heritage."

dansonc@sph.com.sg

limyihan@sph.com.sg


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