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Verbal tussle breaks out at temple protest

 | April 26, 2014

The protest ended with raised voices and a heated exchange between temple society presidents and members of the Disabled Persons Association.

UPDATED

tample protestPETALING JAYA: A peaceful protest by a group of disabled people outside a Hindu temple became a verbal tussle when the group were confronted by the temple management.

Earlier this morning, several members of the Damai Disabled Persons Association Of Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (Damai) staged a protest outside the Sivan Temple located at Bukit Gasing, for barring wheelchair-bound devotees from entering its premises.

As the protest was about to end, the temple president T Maharathan confronted the group which resulted in an heated exchange of words.

“They are disgracing their ownself (themselves). They are disgracing Hinduism,” said Maharathan, in an emotional outburst.

But Damai president, V Murugeswaran shot back saying, “ The temple is a public place and it is “not your house” to simply put up discriminatory signboards anywhere.”

The group made up of close to 40 individuals had gathered to protest against the discriminatory ruling.

Wheelchair-bound Mahabee Sulaiman, 50, joined the group to show her support for Damai.tample protest3

“I want to fight for the rights of the disabled. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque, a temple or a church.

“It is not right for a holy place to deny the rights of the disabled,” she said.

Many complained that the Sivan temple was not disabled friendly.

Simuayah Periasamy, 48, told FMT that the ruling was “unjust and unfair”.

Several NGOs, notably the Malaysia Hindhudharma Mamandram whose objective is to fight for the rights of the Tamils was also present.

“We feel that this issue can be solved in a civil manner. Both parties need to calm down and have a civil discussion,” said a member of the organisation.

The Malaysia Hindhudharma Mamandram member said that they were willing to provide new wheelchairs to be placed at the temple for the disabled devotees to use while in the temple.

tample protest2Temple area hazardous even for the able-bodied

After the tussle had simmered, Maharathan explained the reason for the ruling.

“This temple is a temporary praying shelter, we are waiting for the new and bigger temple building to be completed.

“The current temple space is small. We do not want the disabled to hurt themselves or others,” he said pointing at the low railings surrounding the area.

Maharathan said that he understood what the disabled community were asking of him, yet it is against the rules of his religion.

“All temples bar the wearing of shoes and slippers inside the temple premises. This also applies to wheelchairs as dirt is carried in from outside.”

“I cannot simply change the rules of the religion. Every temple in India practices this,” he reasoned.

Acknowledging the welfare of the disabled he suggested that they pray from the temple perimeter citing that it would be safer for them.tample protest1

“The perimeter of the temple is not closed off. It is visible to everyone. They (the disabled) can continue their prayers there as only a railing separates them.

“I’ve even asked the priests to come to the disabled devotees,” he said.

Some semblance of understanding was achieved when Maharathan agreed to change a sentence on the signboard to allow wheelchair-bound devotees to carry out their prayers within the temple grounds.

Read also:

Hindu Sangam flays Sivan temple management


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