Violent scuffle erupts over relocation of Seafield Hindu temple.
- 100 armed thugs held up temple priest, handful of devotees
- Attackers armed with machetes, sticks, other sharp weapons
- Mob smashed and damaged temple structure, statues of deities
- Retaliation from more than 150 devotees, resulting in a violent clash
- FRU deployed, brought situation under control
- Undisclosed number of those involved in the brawl arrested
A riot broke out during the early hours of Monday (Nov 26) over the relocation of a temple in Seafield, leading to 18 vehicles being set on fire and about a dozen people injured.
It started as a protest to stop the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ25, Putra Heights, from being relocated to another site in USJ23.
Videos of the incident have gone viral, showing the protest turning aggressive as people cheered after watching a vehicle set on fire.
In another video, a car was flipped upside down and the Fire and Rescue Department was spotted on the scene.
A Selangor Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said they received an emergency call on the disturbance at 4.38am, and six personnel from the Subang Jaya station were deployed in one fire engine to the scene.
“When we arrived at the location, we noticed two vehicles ablaze on the side of the road.
“We attempted to douse the flames, but were prevented from doing so by the rioters. (So) we decided to await further instructions from the police, who were already at the scene,” he said.
He added that of the 18 vehicles set on fire, two were cars parked by the side of the road, 16 were cars parked at the temple, and two were motorcycles.
The Sun reported that more than 100 armed thugs barged into the temple premises and went on the offensive against a small group of devotees guarding the place – leaving at least a dozen people seriously injured.
The large group of attackers who were armed with machetes, sticks and other sharp weapons had shown up unwarned at about 2.30am before holding up a temple priest and about a dozen devotees.
They also smashed and damaged the temple structure, statues of deities and pelted stones at the temple.
Word of the intrusion spread like wildfire in the social media and amongst other temple devotees – triggering retaliation from more than 150 of them, including women who started showing up at the 147-year-old temple over the next hour.
The arriving devotees and their supporters were further angered when they found the gates to the temple locked with the assailants inside – holding the temple priest and other devotees at knife-point.
Pandemonium broke out when a few supporters jumped over the temple gate and fence while the rest broke down the gate and charged towards the thugs.
It was a violent clash over the next hour with both groups attacking each other with sticks and sharp weapons.
Witnesses said dozens of the thugs on seeing the group of devotees grow ran helter-skelter in the vicinity in a bid to escape from the scene.
Police patrol cars arrived within minutes but the outnumbered personnel were helpless in the tumult and radioed for reinforcement.
It is learnt that more than 12 people from both groups suffered serious injuries.
A few were seen lying on the ground covered in blood and guarded by a group of policemen.
From 3.30am onwards as both clashing parties spewed profanities and challenged each other to a fight, a large number of police personnel, including members of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and Subang Jaya police chief ACP Azlin Sadari arrived the scene and brought the situation under control.
It is learnt that seven people involved in the clash were also arrested by police.
The Fire and Rescue Department was also called in to put out the vehicle fire.
“They placed a parang on my neck and that of other devotees. How could they do this in a place of worship.” screamed a female devotee at outside the temple compound.
Azlin said that a misunderstanding between two groups on the relocation had led to the incident.
He said order resumed at the area after police arrived.
Azlin said police will carry out its duties in accordance with the law to ensure public order and safety prevails during the temple relocation.
As of 6.30am, the atmosphere at the vicinity was calm with police personnel keeping guard.
More supporters and devotees of the temple continued to throng the temple and remained in the premises.
A few also made speeches condemning the attack and pledged to preserve the temple from demolition.
They also took a swipe at the government for failing to protect the interests of the temple devotees.
Over the past two months, a dispute on the relocation of the temple had intensified when the owner of the temple grounds – developer One City Development Sdn Bhd (OCD) had sought to take possession of the place with a court order.
Plans to relocate the temple have been ongoing since 2007 after the land it was on was purchased by One City Development Sdn Bhd.
OCD had compensated the management of the temple and offered to relocate and rebuild the temple on a plot of land about three kilometres from its present location.
However, this was objected by the management and temple devotees and several attempts by OCD to occupy the land since Oct was met with massive resistance and scuffles at the place.
Since early this month, a group of devotees have been taking turns to keep watch of the temple and to deter any demolition attempt by the landowners.
According to a devotee, there were more supporters who kept guard of the temple yesterday after there were rumours that a demolition team had planned to clear the land at about 4am today.
He said the least he expected was a big group of armed thugs to turn up and lay siege at the place.
However, most of the supporters agreed that the attack was not racially motivated but was related to the dispute between the temple management and the landowner.
The temple had been slated for relocation on Nov 22 as part of a win-win court solution involving One City, the Selangor state government and two claimants to the temple management, K Chellappa and M Nagaraju.
However, a faction at the temple insisted that it remain in its present location despite agreeing to a consent judgment for its relocation in 2014.
Devotees have continued to resist efforts to relocate the temple where people have reportedly been praying since 1891.
Chellappa and Nagaraju, who were involved in a separate suit over the control of the temple management, agreed to hand back the land to One City after it agreed to donate RM1.5 million to build a new temple on one of two plots of land given to the temple by One City.
Chellappa was named as the rightful temple manager, but Nagaraju had refused to abide by the 2014 High Court consent judgment to relocate.
On Nov 23, One City denied agreeing to postpone the relocation to Nov 29, saying the final date for the temple occupants to vacate the land remained Nov 22, as per the writ of possession from the High Court.
It was reported that Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple taskforce leader S Ramaji said they want Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to intervene and save the temple from being relocated.
Ramaji claimed that the task force and temple devotees suspected foul play in the relocation due to contradicting facts from a consent judgment and press statements.
He also alleged that the consent judgment had been breached.
Ramaji also claimed that the existing land was supposed to be allocated to the temple by former state exco members in 1987 but is unsure how the decision had been revoked.