17 May, 2009

Thousands join Uthayakumar at Batu Caves

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 - About 1,000 Hindraf supporters gathered at the Batu Caves temple complex from as early as 9am to pray alongside their recently-released leader P. Uthayakumar.

Uthayakumar will shave off the long hair and beard he has kept since he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 17 months ago.

There was an air of festivity in the complex as the supporters, many wearing orange which is the official colour of the banned movement, marched some 300 metres to the river where the ceremonial shaving will take place.

Kapar MP M. Manickavasagam, who had had arrived earlier, waited with the crowd for Uthayakumar who finally arrived at 10.30am.

He was given a hero's welcome. The narrow street next to the river was crowded with his supporters and shouts of Makkal Shakti rang through the air.

A group of youths beating tablas accompanied him as he walked towards the spot for the ceremonial shaving where several supporters are also joining in this cleansing ritual by having their heads shaved as well.

Special Branch officers watched from nearby.

Shortly before noon, the river carried Uthayakumar's beard and hair shavings away.

His supporters, watching the shaving ritual of their leader every step of the way, shouted with joy at the sight of a clean-shaven Uthayakumar.

The Hindraf leader was then carried off to the streets and all the way to Batu Caves, as the crowd made its way to the Sri Subramaniam temple there.

By this time, the crowd had grown to some 2,500 people, causing massive traffic congestion just outside Batu Caves.

Uthayakumar then performed his prayers at the temple together with close relatives, including the wife and daughter of his self-exiled brother, P. Waythamoorthy.

He then climbed up the steep Batu Caves steps, accompanied by his supporters, to perform further prayers at another temple within the cave complex. As he walked up the stairs, he shook hands with bystanders, many of whom were keen to rub shoulders with the controversial figure.

After coming down from the cave complex at about 1.55 pm, Uthayakumar addressed his supporters from the back of a pick-up truck parked at the entrance of the stairs that led to the cave complex.

He recounted his days under detention saying that it was a mental torture for him but not once did he let it affect his perseverance to continue with the Hindraf struggle.

"They cannot scare us anymore," Uthayakumar told the crowd. "The number of people present speaks for itself," he added.

The crowd dispersed at about 3.30 pm.

Despite being a banned movement, no arrest was made.

(Source:"Hindraf supporters join Uthayakumar at Batu Caves"

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