Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa said that there would be no procession but only the limited movement of the chariot for the Batu Caves temple. This was the reason why the chariot was approved by the National Security Council (NSC).
Of course, he did not elaborate why the agency refused to allow for the chariot procession earlier. Since the movement of the chariot will be limited to four hours, there will be no music or religious songs accompanying the chariot.
It would be simple movement of the chariot from one temple to another starting in January 27 and ending on January 29, 2021.
How the entire journey will be done baffles me. I am not sure whether the chariot will be pulled bulls or motorised vehicle is not clear.
It is well and good to say that there will be no procession, but in reality will this happen.
Once the chariot starts with 10 persons accompanying it, will the streets where the chariot will pass on both days be cordoned off entirely.
Remember this is religious event appear in front of the chariot to keep their religious vows. It is going to be a logistical nightmare to prevent crowds from around the chariot.
Since Thaipusam is one of the most Tamil religious festivals the SOP of the NSC might not really mean anything.
The movement of the chariot might have an electrifying effect on the devotees who might set aside health concerns to be near the chariot.
How is the NSC is going to prevent this?
Did Annuar think about this before giving his approval or still trying to get some Indian support to make up for the lost Malay votes in Umno?
The occasion itself is of great religious significance to Hindus and the question of keeping them away from the moving chariot might pose intractable problems.
It is all well and good for the NSC to come out with SOP on Thaipusam in general and the chariot in particular. But the devil is in the details of the implementation of the SOP.
Something that both the NSC and the temple committee have not thought about thoroughly. The SOP from the NSC is vague. The Batu Caves temple committee just wants to prove to the Hindu devotees that with the guidance of Lord Muruga, the Covid-19 pandemic might not pose a big problem.
The NSC has not lived up to its responsibility that was entrusted to it.
It has been guided by political considerations in watering down its earlier strict and stringent guidelines on Thaipusam.
This is the reason after much thought the Penang Hindu Endowments Board decided to cancel the Thaipusam festival.
It was the fear of not controlling the crowd on a religious occasion that forced us to cancel the events associated with Thaipusam.
It is not that we liked to cancel the festival, but the spread of the pandemic and the fear that the crowd might spark off another “Thaipusam Cluster” forbade us to take a saner and more responsible approach.
It was in this context that Thaipusam events were cancelled with the larger health and security objective in mind.
With the pandemic ravaging the country, we took a responsible and not a popular approach.
Of course, we the devotees urged to pray in their homes with their loved ones on the auspicious day.
The PHEB having introduced the second golden chariot in 2017 would not give up easily the chariot procession without the paramount concern for the health and security of the devotees.
The NSC having cancelled the chariot earlier reinstated it on appeal by Annuar.
I suppose he being a politician and minister wanted to play some politics with Thaipusam.
By intervening on behalf of the Batu Caves temple committee he wanted to show that he was considerate of the Hindus rather than the states like Penang and Selangor that banned Thaipusam.
It is unfortunate that the NSC agreed with Annuar without realising that such a decision has rendered it as a hypocritical federal agency.
Why allow for chariot in Batu Caves and yet not allow in other states where Thaipusam is a major Hindu festival?