A man was jailed and fined yesterday for clashing with police officers during the 2015 Thaipusam procession. Two others were also fined over the same incident.
Businessman Ramachandra Chandramohan, 35, was sentenced to jail for a year and a week, and fined $8,000. He told the court that he will not be paying the fine. So, he will have to spend an additional three weeks and five days behind bars.
Safety officer Gunasegaran Rajendran, 36, was fined $8,000, while operations manager Jaya Kumar Krishnasamy, 31, was fined $8,500.
The trio attended the annual Hindu event on Feb 3, 2015. Gunasegaran and Ramachandra had engaged a troupe to play urumi - a traditional Indian drum - during the procession and were joined by Jaya Kumar.
But the musicians were stopped by the police as there was a ban on the playing of musical instruments during Thaipusam at the time. This upset Ramachandra and Gunasegaran, who shouted at the police officers.
When Staff Sergeant Dennis Lee Aik Seng arrested Gunasegaran, Ramachandra punched the officer in the jaw. Ramachandra also verbally abused Senior Staff Sergeant Azli Othman on two occasions.
Jaya Kumar tried to stop Senior Staff Sgts Azli and Chew Wei Bin from taking Ramachandra into the police van. He also verbally abused Senior Staff Sgt Azli inside the van.
Live music during procession since 2016
In 2016, police allowed live music to be played in the Thaipusam procession for the first time in 42 years at three live music stages.
Music was also broadcast along the 4km route at nine points for the Hindu festival. This came about following community feedback after the festival in 2015.
Last year, music was broadcast at 23 points along the route. This was in addition to the three stages where musicians played traditional instruments such as the nadhaswaram, a type of clarinet, and thavil, a barrel-shaped drum.
This year, there were 19 music transmission points and three music stages along the route during the festival in January.
Music and the singing of religious hymns are an essential part of this religious foot procession.
While the singing of religious hymns is allowed, devotees were barred from playing musical instrument along the procession route from 1973. The ban was imposed due to fights in the past between competing groups, which disrupted the procession.
But the rule has been relaxed since 2011 and devotees have been able to sing religious hymns during the procession if no amplification devices are used.
While the van was travelling from Desker Road in Little India to Police Cantonment Complex, Ramachandra kicked Senior Staff Sgt Chew in the jaw and verbally abused Senior Staff Sgt Azli in Malay and English.
Yesterday, District Judge Kessler Soh noted that the men's offences took place at a public event. He added that the incident was also widely reported by the media and had caused public disquiet.
After a 13-day trial, Ramachandra was found guilty of seven charges, including assault on three police officers. Jaya Kumar was convicted of three charges; Gunasegaran, two.
Following the 2015 Thaipusam procession, now-defunct sociopolitical site The Real Singapore (TRS) published an article that claimed that complaints from a Filipino family over noise had caused a scuffle between police officers and participants at the procession.
This did not happen. Police later arrested the duo behind TRS after a report was made against the website for inciting hatred against the Filipino community in Singapore.
For publishing the above and other seditious articles, the Australian editor of Japanese descent, Ai Takagi, was sentenced to 10 months' jail. Her Singaporean husband Yang Kaiheng, who was co-founder of the site, received a sentence of eight months' jail.