KUALA LUMPUR: Riots erupted early Monday at a Hindu temple in Subang Jaya, a mainly middle- to upper-class residential area in Malaysia’s Selangor state, following a dispute over the temple’s relocation.
The brawl erupted after a large group of masked men ambushed worshippers at the Seafield temple, while 18 vehicles were set ablaze. Authorities reported that up to 200 people were involved in the riot.
Malaysia’s police and fire departments, as well as the country’s federal reserve units, were deployed to ease tensions.
Journalist Arvind Raj, who was present at the scene, said the temple is at the center of a land dispute with real estate company One City Development, which has owned the land on which the temple is located since 2007.
In 2014, a $360,000 settlement was reached when two groups vying for control over the temple agreed for it to be relocated.
Temple devotees, however, objected to the settlement and have been on 24-hour surveillance of the site ever since.
“Yesterday, supporters got news that the temple would be demolished by dawn,” Raj told Arab News.
“According to witnesses, thugs stormed into the temple with daggers, iron rods and sticks as worshippers got ready for prayer at 2 a.m.”
Rioters attacked worshippers, some of them of Indian descent, and ordered them to leave the temple, Raj said.
One City Development denied reports that it had given ethnic Malays $75 each to instill fear among temple-goers. But Raj said: “It was most likely the developer’s way of creating fear in the temple.”
Malaysian police said the riot was an isolated incident and not racially motivated. But race and religion have become increasingly contentious topics in Malaysia in recent months.
Last week, the government decided to not ratify a UN convention on discrimination following nationwide protests by Malay nationalists.