An estimated crowd of 1 million visited the temple today
Eight Human Rights Party (HRP) protesters were arrested, a limousine dropped off the prime minister amid a fanfare welcome from the MIC youth and a hostile welcome by the HRP protesters, people cursed and shoved each other grumbling about blocked pathways. These were just a few among a plethora of stories that made Batu Caves more than a fun fair circus today.
With nearly a million visitors making it to the temple today, Eight Human Rights Party (HRP) members were arrested early in the morning as they gathered at the temple entrance to protest against the controversial Malay novel, Interlok.
The incident happened at around 10.10 am, when around 20 members of the organisation had gathered to demand for the book to be removed from the national Form 5 syllabus due to certain passages in it which they say are offensive to Indians.
Six of them were allegedly roughed up by the police officers, resulting in minor injuries, before they were taken to the Selayang Police district headquarters.
At the time of writing, Information Chief S Jayathas, who was among those arrested, had told Komunitikini that those arrested would stage a hunger strike until released.
“We were gathering without any excessive force, we were just exercising our rights. But the police started pushing and jostling us all the way,” said HRP’s secretary-general P Uthayakumar when met outside the temple later.
This was followed by the unexpected arrival of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who visited the temple along with several luminaries such as former president Samy Vellu, S. Subramaniam and G. Palanivel, where Najib announced that a new cable car would be built in Batu Caves and start operating next year.
Pushing, shouting and missing
However, as the Barisan Nasional politicians were giving their speeches inside the temple complex, devotees, many of them with kavadis, were forced to wrestle their way through an overwhelmingly congested crowd as Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) officers blocked several paths.
KTM commuters were not allowed to enter the temple compound as officers had blocked the direct access to the prayer area, instead diverting them to the business area before they could make their way inside.
“What are they trying to do?” shouted a middle-aged woman as she struggled to make her exit from the crowd, who were pushing and shoving each other in desperation.
This resulted in several parents being separated from their children, with an officer later heard announcing that a father was crying for his missing daughter.
Several onlookers trying to get a less crowded way of capturing the ocassion
Social service outside
Meanwhile, right outside the temple compound, the Klang Valley Sathya Sai Baba organisations were organising a blood donation campaign.
Asked why they were not at their regular location of a tent inside the temple’s business area, they told Komunitikini that the rental rates for booths there had become exorbitant.
“We asked them to be considerate as we are here doing charity. But they did not listen. Thankfully the council (Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya) gave us permission to set up here,” said the organisation’s national disaster relief coordinator, Ravee.
The donated blood was later delivered to the National Blood Bank, which had also sent nurses to tend to donaters there.
” We have been doing this for over 20 years now, and our highest collection was in 2005 when we collected 2,500 pints of blood,” added Ravee.
This year, Sathya Sai organisations across the country are holding blood donation campaigns in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, and Johor Bahru.
“We make sure that every indidvidual is fit enough to donate, and the blood is kept in cold storage,” said Ravee when asked about the fitness of those who have had an exhausting visit to the crowded temple.
Cleanliness and facilities
Right opposite the blood donation booth however was an open area under the highway flyover, which seemed to be overflowing with an obscene amount of rubbish.
Due to a lack of shaded areas, some devotees were seen resting amidst the refuse.
“There is only one in this whole temple. It’ll be helpful if they could have four or five mobile bathrooms as well,” said the drinks-seller, whose tent was placed outside the temple entrance.
Disorganised KTM station delays travellers
The Batu Caves KTM station, which was earmarked as the most convenient travel method to the temple today, was also expectedly congested, but with many commuters at a loss as to how they should get to the train.
A more relaxing way of waiting for the train
With the pedestrian bridge which heads to KTM station closed, commuters were forced to clog into the station via the temple and wait in long queues to enter the platform through a small emergency exit gate.
The HRP supporters were released on bail later in the night after a bail of RM 5,000 was posted for them.