Hardly a day goes by without some major protest somewhere over something or the other. Wednesday was exceptional – there were two protests both forcing police to use water cannons and tear gas which is perhaps the minimum force if they are to control the unruly crowds protesting these days.
One was the protest organized by activists of the Inter University Students Federation against South Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) at Malabe which according to them was a threat against free education. Other was by a group of cricket fans who failed to obtain tickets to watch the fourth ODI between Sri Lanka and Australia. The tickets had been sold over the Internet and no tickets had been available at the entrance thus frustrating those who came a long way to Dambulla from surrounding areas.
The protests are a democratic way of expressing one’s displeasure over something. But the unhealthy aspect here is they are too many and some of them obviously are over too little things, but often end up in violence. Some believe that this sudden upsurge of protests is the result of years of suppression –during the years of war and emergency there was hardly any room for such things. Now with the advent of a more democratic environment it is natural for people to protest against even a minute thing.
But the question is whether they have a right to become violent, damage public property, forcibly enter government offices or attack police officers whose duty is to control the behaviour of protestors when they exceed the legal limits of their right to protest. In other words shouldn’t all protests be peaceful?
A number of Police officers as well as protestors have been injured in the recent protests. At Dambulla alone, thirteen Police officers have been injured. All that shows the limits of peaceful protests have often been far exceeded. When such incidents are too many and cause traffic congestions and hardships to the public there could be more public antipathy against such actions than sympathy for their causes.
Unless some saner counsel prevails the natural outcome of all these could be public opposition towards organized protests leaving room for authorities to restrict some of these democratic freedoms on the ground they are often misused. Too much of anything even protests could be good for nothing particularly if they are accompanied by violence and mayhem.