Engage public to address concerns

A devotee carrying his kavadi waits to start his procession during Thaipusam festival in Singapore February 3, 2015.

THERE has been much hue and cry over the ban on playing music at Thaipusam processions (“Shanmugam clears the air on Thaipusam”; last Saturday).

As a Hindu, I urge the authorities to relax the rules wherever possible. I also urge our Government to engage with the various agencies, as our youth are more vocal and require a clearer picture and understanding of the rationale behind the rules.

Why Indian musical instruments cannot be played during the Thaipusam foot procession must be debated in public. We also need to be law-abiding and we need to protect every citizen. It is not acceptable for the police to be physically assaulted.

Similarly, if police officers are found to have misbehaved or misused their authority, then they should be disciplined accordingly. Thaipusam is a highly symbolic Hindu festival celebrated by Singapore’s Indian community.

It is an annual procession by devotees seeking blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks.

When I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s, I accompanied my parents to the festival with much joy and pride. The crowd was amazing and the ambience superb. The procession was full of chanting and the dizzying rhythms of Indian drums, causing our festival to truly stand out.

These days, there is no music at Thaipusam. People are allowed only to sing devotional songs and offer chanting. The lack of traditional instruments being played makes the festival a lifeless one.

The Hindu Endowments Board and other agencies should come together and address these issues once and for all.

Gather data to show what went wrong in the past and how we can overcome these issues. Let us straighten out the parameters and find the right footing.

People from all over the world visit our country to see and join in the celebrations. We must make this event a lively one and find an amicable closure of this issue for the betterment of our community.

V. Balu

This article was first published on Feb 10, 2015.
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