Is MIC leadership split on Thaipusam?

Is MIC leadership split on Thaipusam?

MIC’s president SA Vigneswaran commended the government for allowing the Hindus to celebrate Thaipusam under flexible conditions.

There was no real celebration last year, but this year the government allowed the Hindus to celebrate with the SOPs. While Vignneswaran thanked the government for allowing the Hindus to celebrate Thaipusam, his deputy, M. Saravanan had a different view.

He was unhappy that the government encroached on the rights of Hindus by imposing conditions that went against the religious concerns of the Hindus in the country. In fact, in his speech, he urged devotees to come out in numbers to mark the religious occasion.

It was this speech or parts of it that went viral led saying that Saravanan did not respect the government’s SOPs on Thaipusam. I think that Vigneswaran went over board in praising the government for allowing the religious festival.

While there was general feeling that the Thaipusam celebration had to be subdued given the Covid-19 pandemic, there were too many restrictions.But the SOPs were too tight and inflexible to allow some degree of religious freedom for Hindus to mark the occasion.

In Penang, although Thaipusam was marked with adherence to the SOPs, but there was uneasy feeling and sometimes anger that the SOPs were too restrictive on the religious freedom of Hindus.

It is important to see the occasion of Thaipusam in the broader context of the non-existence of the movement control order. Since the free and unrestricted movement of the people are allowed, why the focus only on Thaipusam.

The unrestricted movement of people to shopping centres, restaurants and others were allowed. But why the necessity for strict uncompromising SOPs on Thaipusam.

It is this comparison that angered and infuriated the devotees visiting temples, the day before and on Thaipusam day itself. Why conditions were imposed on Hindus and not on others?

As though Thaipusam gatherings had a greater propensity for the spread of the pandemic than other gatherings. Furthermore, the SOPs were uncritically applied on temples of all sizes and areas.

Temples with large land areas were imposed with the same restrictions like temples with small land areas especially in allowing for devotees gatherings.

In other words, the SOPs were mechanically arrived at without the considerations of the specific nature of the temples. Vigneswaran is a leader who emerged from the rank and file.

He can be happy that Thaipusam was celebrated without any undue incident, but he should be careful in praising the government too much. It is the right of Hindus to celebrate Thaipusam without much interference from the government.

Government exists because of the people not the other way around. It is not that government that gives rights but it there to protect the rights of its citizens. I am in support of Saravanan for taking a dig at the authorities for the unthinking imposition of the Thaipusam SOPs.

In fact, there were no necessity for some of the SOPs.In some temples in Penang, there were more security personnel rather than devotees. The temples were completely surrounded by the police, heath and security officials.

In these temples especially in Batu Kawan, it appeared as though there was some kind of an emergency in force.There is no necessity for Vigneswaran to butter the government. He should not mimic those in the Malaysian Hindu Sangam and others.

The government should be criticised for restricting the rights of Hindus during Thaipusam. Generally speaking, Indians have not been happy with the government for many years.

Due to this disenchantment, the MIC supposedly the official representative has lost ground amongst the Indians. Vigneswaran’s praise of the government for allowing the Hindus to have Thaipusam is no praise at all.

I thought the MIC is beginning to have some dignity amongst the Indian community, but this sycophancy on the part of Vigneswaran has returned the party to its doldrums.

P Ramasamy is the deputy chief minister II of Penang

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