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Singapore: Three men were arrested during Thaipusam festival for disorderly behaviour and a skirmish with police officers on Tuesday after procession celebrating a festival.
K Shanmugam AFP
Asserting that Hindus are not discriminated in Singapore, Law Minister K Shanmugam on Saturday said the disorderly behaviour and skirmishes with police by three Indian-origin men during this week’s religious procession was not acceptable.
Three men were arrested during Thaipusam festival for disorderly behaviour and a skirmish with police officers on Tuesday when the day-long processions took place, commemorating the occasion when Parvati gave Lord Murugan a Vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. The three were arrested for playing drums along with the procession on foot. One of them have been charged for hurting a policeman.
The festival organiser, the Hindu Endowments Board has banned playing of drums during the procession, citing previous disorderly behaviour.
Responding to the incident, Law Minister K Shanmugam said there was no discrimination against Hindus. “Most people don’t realise that in Singapore, all religious foot processions are banned. This ban was imposed in 1964, after riots,” Shanmugam said.
“But Hindus were given an exemption: Hindus have been allowed three religious foot processions: Thaipusam, Panguni Uthiram and Thimithi (the two other Hindu religious festivals),” he said, citing some of the Hindu religious events.
The Hindu religious foot processions also go through major roads while no other religion is given this privilege, the Minister pointed out.
It is on rare occasions that other non-Hindu religious groups are given permission to hold foot processions and that too on stringent conditions and much shorter routes unlike Thaipusam which lasts the whole day and goes through major roads, Shanmugam said.
The ban on religious foot processions is because they carry a particular sensitivity – the risk of incidents is considered to be higher, said Shanmugam, who is also the Foreign Minister.
Playing of drums, singing and dancing are allowed at social and community events. The ban on religious foot processions is because they carry a particular sensitivity – the risk of incidents is considered to be higher, said Shanmugam, who is also the Foreign Minister.
But the Minister said attack on police officers would not acceptable. “Our police officers protect all of us. It is quite unacceptable for the police to be physically assaulted or ill-treated. We cannot allow them to be demeaned, assaulted,” he said.
“Right-thinking Singaporeans will find this completely unacceptable. If police officers misbehave, they should be disciplined. But gratuitous attacks on the police cannot be allowed and should not be tolerated. We as Singaporeans should come forward and say no to such attacks,” he said.