In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Feb 7, Singapore Police Force issued a clarification on a dispute over a kavadi procession during this year's Thaipusam.
Earlier this week, Facebook user Pradeep Thana highlighted an incident that happened on the evening of Jan 31. He said that the police and a Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) member stopped a group from singing “too loudly.”
In the post, he wrote 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. This 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 post went viral, with over 1,000 reactions and 3,100 over shares.
The police posted a response to the incident, stating that, "Outdoor religious foot processions are generally not allowed" in Singapore, but an exception was made for the Hindu community for Thaipusam. The kavadi procession was allowed in view of the festival’s significance and importance to the community.
"The restriction on the playing of musical instruments along the procession route was introduced in 1973," said the police. "Nevertheless, in response to feedback from devotees who wanted a more vibrant event, the Police and HEB have increasingly allowed religious music over the years."
The police said they were aware of videos circulating online of said kavadi procession at this year’s Thaipusam. "Some participants in a group of about 16 were singing, amplified through portable loudspeakers, and playing musical instruments. A HEB official advised them to stop, as it was not permitted under the Thaipusam permit conditions." While one of the participants challenged the HEB official by claiming that what they were playing were not musical instruments, the group eventually complied with the HEB official’s advice, and continued with the procession.
Half an hour later, the same group of persons was observed to be singing and amplifying the singing through portable loudspeakers. HEB officials and police officers engaged the group a second time, and advised them to lower the volume.
"In fact, earlier in the night, police had received a noise disturbance complaint related to the Thaipusam procession," said the post. The police added that each of the two engagements lasted no longer than ten minutes, and that "the allegation circulating that the group was filmed and followed for 30 minutes is patently untrue."
Both engagements were filmed in their entirety by police for evidentiary purposes, both in the interests of the devotees and the police.