I'M really worried. And I think there are others just as worried too. First there was the Batu Burok street demonstration a couple of months ago. This was followed by the Bersih Rally and then came the Hindraf protest last Sunday.
That's three protest rallies in as many months. I'm talking about the big ones only, and not counting the smaller ones in between. Regardless of the reasons why these rallies are held, and I believe some of the objectives set by the organisers have been met, there is the inherent potential danger that the next one will not be as 'peaceful' as the previous one.
I have young friends who chuckle with considerable sarcasm when I explained why I have this big fear of street protests. They just can't seem to understand why I need to be really afraid of thousands of people marching in the streets in support of their grievances.
I have no quarrel with people wanting to voice their opinions and demanding what they believe to be theirs. There are many ways of doing that, and all of them will be strongly justified by their backers or promoters. Some may say that after all the talking or negotiation is done, then it's time for some action.
There are also those who believe that action speaks louder than words. They may be right, but only if the action does not trigger violence, in the same manner that many had witnessed and been traumatised ever since.
There were near misses in recent years. The Kg Medan incident of a few years ago is still vivid in my mind. And it's the same in Penang where a Hindu temple and a mosque had been in existence side by side but had some differences which could have turned bloody and ugly.
If the differences are just political, chances are they can be reigned in. And violence is surely not the way forward to settle political disputes, as seen in many parts of the world. But when politicians decide to close one eye, and not take seriously the undercurrents in their backyard, the chances of such differences escalating into chaos becomes more enhanced.
How much of these street protests are mere posturing? How much is genuine? I can already hear whisperings that any show of force must be met with likewise responses, and they may not necessarily be from the uniformed authorities. If might is to be met with might, you can guess where we are heading.
At the rate things are going, I don't think we have seen the last of these street protests. With the prospect of the general election round the corner, these protests would fit in with political ceremah and house-to-house campaigns after polling day has been announced. As was seen in recent by-elections, there could be ugly scenes during these campaigns.
There are examples of how fistfights broke out on nomination day. If this can be controlled, I suppose I can live with that. But what worries me most is the verbal exchanges which could turn physical and ugly. Could all these street protests be pre-election skirmishes before the main event or bout?
I hope I'm wrong.