Thursday, 24 January 2008

Thaipusam Turnout Significantly Lower

Looks like the Hindus actually made good on their word when they vowed to boycott Batu Caves this year for Thaipusam.

Heck, instead of the throngs of Indians, much to the chagrin of my photographer friend, "there were more Malays and White tourists to be seen".

He was rather disappointed as he usually makes a tidy sum selling his photographs of Thaipusam.

Perhaps I should have told him they were heading to Ipoh and Penang, but I didn't know if it would happen for sure.

For once I'm proud of the Hindu Malaysians for standing up for their rights and making their voice heard.

The UK Telegraph has a piece on our Thaipusam yesterday:

Hindus in Malaysia mortified their flesh with hooks and spears as they delivered a protest against the government which has imprisoned their popular leaders without charge.

With elections in the multi-racial country expected within weeks, ethnic grievances pose a mounting threat to the party that has governed for all of the 50 years since independence.

The annual festival of Thaipusam is big event for Malaysia's two million ethnic Indians, who make up 7 per cent of the population.

Devotees hang limes and pots of milk from hooks in the flesh of their backs, and pierce their faces with spears, to thank the god Murugan for good fortune or ask him to grant their wishes.

This year the festival was marked by boycotts and hunger strikes.

Indians, who are the poorest of Malaysia's communities, are angry at government policies that give ethnic Malay Muslims - or "sons of the soil" - preferential access to jobs, loans, education and housing.

Malays make up about 60 per cent of the population and there is also a large Chinese community.

A series of temple demolitions in recent years, and a new policy of refusing visas to temple musicians and sculptors from India, has further angered Hindus.

In November a peaceful rally of about 20 000 Indians was dispersed with tear gas and a water cannon.

The five organisers have been held without charge ever since.

The government says the measures were necessary to avoid ethnic conflict. "I think the government are shaken by it," said Dr Jeyakumar, who will stand against Samy Vellu, the only Indian cabinet minister and a key government supporter, in the election.

In an attempt to assuage the anger, the government this week bowed to decades old demands and made Thaipusam a national holiday.

But devotees stayed away from the country's most important temple, accusing its management committee - which is linked to Samy Vellu's party - of helping to crush November's protest.

Normally hundreds of thousands pack the Batu Caves complex on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, but this year the crowds were thin.

Television news was forced to resort to footage of last year's event.

"The crowd is the usual crowd. I have come to Thaipusam for 60 years ... I am very, very happy," insisted Mr Vellu.

Don't mind me while I take some time out to laugh my ass off!! :)

I'm really optimistic that his time is finally up.

At the Hindu temple in Ipoh, 120 miles from the capital, opposition leaders launched a hunger strike in solidarity with the five men in jail and made political speeches.

Noisy Tamil music played nearby as devotees in trances, hooks hanging from their backs, staggered towards the shrine.

Such rallies are illegal but a small group of riot police watched from the back and videoed the event without intervening, apparently for fear of inflaming sentiments at a religious occasion.

"This is the year of Indian political awakening," declared Lim Kit Siang, the leader of the tiny parliamentary opposition.

"The Indians will be king makers in the general election."

According to him, Indians —who used to be a reliable vote bank for the government- are over 10pc of the electorate in more than 50 parliamentary seats.

But although Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi says he is braced for losses in the election, his government is almost certain to win.

And Dr Jeyakumar is pessimistic of his own chances of entering parliament.

The opposition, he says, is fractured along ethnic lines and vote buying is rife.

"And we believe the election commission have a mandate to make sure most of the ministers win," he added.

The Telegraph evidently has got our political situation right.

Oh well, even if Barisan Nasional wins, at least we will try to deny them their 2/3 majority.

No comments: