More music, including the playing of musical instruments, will be allowed at designated points during the Thaipusam procession next year, the police announced on Wednesday (Dec 2).
Seven new “music points” have been approved by the police, with music to be broadcast at four additional locations and musical instruments to be played by certified musicians at three locations.
Other improvements include resting bays and a dedicated lane for women and children devotees on the procession route along Clemenceau Avenue.
The playing of musical instruments during Thaipusam has been banned since 1973, after a history of rivalry and fights between competing groups that disrupted the procession. In 2012, authorities allowed religious hymns to be broadcast at certain points of the procession, following an appeal by the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB).
During the Thaipusam celebrations in February this year, three men were arrested for disorderly behaviour after they were told by police to stop playing drums during the procession. One of the men is accused of assaulting the police officers and all three were said to have hurled vulgarities at the officers. The trio have been charged and their cases are before the courts.
The incident sparked a public outcry, with members of the public calling for the ban on music to be lifted.
The police said the Thaipusam foot procession presents "unique challenges" in maintaining law and order, as it draws about 10,000 devotees each year who walk for more than 3 km through the city.
"The event stretches over 26 hours, with thousands of supporters and onlookers lining the route and walking with the devotees," the police said, adding that their approach is to "strike a balance" between facilitating the procession and ensuring law and order.
"The police will continue to work closely with the HEB to ensure that Thaipusam takes place in a peaceful manner that protects the safety of devotees, participants and the general public, and preserves law and order," they said.
GOVERNMENT ACCEPTED MOST RECOMMENDATIONS: HEB
In a media release on Wednesday, HEB said it proposed several recommendations for the Thaipusam procession based on feedback from the Hindu community, gathered over 10 feedback sessions involving more than 100 participants.
Most of the recommendations were accepted by the Government, it said.
Besides the additional music points, changes include allowing the last Kavadi to leave the Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple at 7pm and stepping up enforcement against the sale and consumption of alcohol along the route.
HEB also said it will reduce by half the cost of Kavadi carrying and waive the deposit, and will distribute information booklets and CDs with religious hymns to participants. The board is also in discussions with the Government on increasing the number of water points (thaneer panthals), it said.
HEB said it had taken “serious note” of the Government’s view that the foremost concern is to tackle disorderly behaviour during the procession.
“The vast majority of participants are law-abiding and fulfil their religious obligations in an orderly manner. It is a small minority who seem to cause disturbance. Rules are therefore needed to ensure that the majority enjoy a safe and orderly Thaipusam," HEB said.
Participants of next year's Thaipusam will be briefed later this month, it said.