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Phulbari protesters give ultimatum to meet 6-point demands

  • Published at 06:38 pm May 10th, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:34 pm May 10th, 2017
Phulbari protesters give ultimatum to meet 6-point demands

Leaders of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports have demanded immediate implementation of their six-point demands regarding the clash between police and people who protested the proposed Phulbari open pit coal mine in Dinajpur in 2006.

They also asked the government to withdraw false cases filed against the protesters following the 2006 incident.

Anu Mohammad, member secretary of the committee, made the announcement during an hour-long blockade organised in Phulbari, Dinajpur on Tuesday afternoon.

The committee threatened to take to the streets and stage demonstrations if their demands were not met by August 26.

Anu said the committee would organise more meetings and protest rallies in June, July and August.

Phulbari locals staged a protest on August 26, 2006 against coal extraction from an open pit in the area proposed by Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pvt Ltd.

The protest turned violent when law enforcement agencies intervened, resulting in the death of three protesters and injuries to dozens more.

At the time, the BNP-Jamaat government negotiated with the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports and settled on six-point demands placed by the committee.

The six-point demands are: cancellation of the agreement between the government and Asia Energy and a government declaration that no coal mining projects will be undertaken in the area, compensation for those injured and killed on August 26, 2006, the bringing of law enforcement members responsible for the deaths and injuries under investigation, return of the bodies of the protesters that could not be found, construction of a monument by the Phulbari bridge in memory of those killed in the protest, and compensation for the shopkeepers and rickshaw pullers who suffered damages by the law enforcement members during the clash.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then leader of the opposition, had pledged her support for the public's demands.

On November 29, 2014, when Asia Energy CEO Gary Lye visited Phulbari, infuriated locals vandalised the company's office and a car. The company filed a case against 60 people including Phulbari municipality Mayor Murtaza Sarkar Manik, who received a suspension notice on April 4, 2017, after police submitted a charge sheet against him on December 14, 2014.

Murtaza was reinstated on April 10 after he filed an appeal against the case at the High Court.

On Wednesday, Dinajpur Police Superintendent Hamidul Alam said: “We support the protest and do not want to obstruct it as long as it is peaceful. However, any chaos will not be tolerated and will be dealt with immediately to maintain law and order.” On the other hand the Phulbari branch committee Convener Saiful Islam Jewel said: “The blood spilt in Phulbari will not go in vain and we will ensure that Asia Energy is driven out from here. In 2006, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to implement the six-point demands, but this has not been realised.” Also, Deputy Commissioner Mir Khairul Alam said those who abide by the law will not face any problems.