Since the scuffle that broke out between cops and Hindu devotees back in 2015, the annual Thaipusam procession has been under closer scrutiny by the authorities, and this year is no different.
In a viral Facebook post, a man brought up an incident that transpired on the evening of Jan 31, in which he claimed that the police and a Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) member stopped a group from singing “too loudly”.
Here’s Pradeep Thana’s footage of a girl by the name of Vaishnavi singing hymns in support of her father, who was carrying a Kavadi — beautifully intricate structures adorned in peacock feathers and colorful regalia — along Serangoon Road.
Here’s when the group got into a rather heated argument with the authorities.
Pradeep then went on to claim that the police started blatantly recording them on video for half an hour, causing extreme discomfort among the devotees. Who wouldn’t be uncomfortable with that?
“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,” Pradeep alleged.
“(These) 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.”
The man then expressed his disgust at the authorities, noting that his group had been well aware of residential blocks in the vicinity and were keeping their volume down.
Long-established prohibition on musical instruments
Since 1973, musical instruments have been prohibited during Thaipusam processions, in which Hindus here carry Kavadis from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India and walk through the city center to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road.
Police disallowed the use of music during processions to deter public disorder, which may be caused by rivalries between groups, and to “minimize the impact of the procession along the procession route”.
Back in February 2015, a group of people started to play the drums at the junction of Serangoon Road and Desker Road, and the police were called in to manage the situation. The confrontation then escalated into a rowdy brawl, resulting in three police officers assaulted during the ruckus. Three men were arrested in the aftermath of the incident.
There are no restrictions on singing, however, so it’s unclear what prompted the police to allegedly act on Pradeep’s group last week. We’ve reached out to the HEB to get a clarification about the incident, and will provide an update once we hear back.