In recent times, Malaysian authorities have demolished a number of Hindu temples throughout the country by claiming that many were constructed illegally. On the other hand, our Indian community have throughout the years protested that they have applied for permits and have waited up to 30 years for an answer! 

But the question now is, have their efforts been paid off?

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Image credit: Free Malaysia Today

According to BBC, at least two of the temples demolished were over a century old, indicating that obtaining a building permit is not the problem driving the demolitions.  

Indeed, it seems that these demolitions are part of a coordinated movement in a world where religious minorities are steadily marginalised. 

Recently, MIC president S.Vigneswaran mentioned that most of the Hindu temples were constructed without proper permits. 

During MIC’s general assembly, he mentioned that the community must act together with all the relevant parties to help resolve matters pertaining to temples constructed illegally.  Meanwhile, he assured delegates that the dilemma had to be fixed once and for all before the impeding party general elections.

Image Credit: RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

“We have to take care of the future of our temples. We cannot humiliate our gods by having the statues built to worship them being broken, and then expecting others to help when faced with this problem.”

From my perspective, speaking up for minority rights is noble and especially in our country, it’s a must!

“Who is humiliating them (the deities)? We are because we are not following the SOPs (legal requirements). Instead, we are blaming others,” he said, adding that Indians should not blame others when they run into problems by building temples without proper approvals from the relevant authorities.

So, are there any laws that prohibit authorities from demolishing a building?

Below is an explanation from Act 133:

Doesn’t the explanation sound confusing?

According to the findings of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a total number of  10,000 Hindu temples evolving the private estate shrines have been demolished and about 23,000 temples have been denied property rights. 

Between 22th February 2006, and 13th June 2007, a total of 79 Hindu temples were reportedly plagued by the following issues: 

  • 19 were smashed to rubble
  • 48 have been threatened with demolition and/or relocation notices
  • 3 were burnt
  • 6 were forced to relocate next to sewerage tanks
  • 3 had their deities forcibly removed

“It’s not like in the US. Over there anybody can open a place of worship – anything can. Even sects can open up a place because they have freedom of religion. Over here, the different religions cannot agree…so what to do?” – Dr. Hermen.

Hence, how should proper approval be done before building a temple?

Temple committees must get an approval letter from the Malaysia Hindu Sangam when applying for registration and government land to build temples. Sharan Raj of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) has urged temple committees to settle the internal conflicts and reconcile in order to solve the dispute in a proper way. Meanwhile, the government has also established a Hindu Endowment Board in each state to serve as a supervisor to the temples, making temple administration far more efficient and transparent.

As of now, temple committees should adhere to the requirements by the authorities to get an approval to build a temple on legal grounds.

More updates to follow!