[Dhaka Correspondent] People from all walks of life in Dinajpur Friday vowed to resist open pit mining in the region and any attempt by the controversial Asia Energy to develop the Phulbari coal mine. “Let alone men of Phulbari, ask Asia Energy to come in front of any woman in our area, we will show them how we feel about the company for which people had lost their lives,” Saima Begum, a resident of Phulbari, told a discussion meeting at the National Press Club.
“The people, who are propagating that we want open pit mining and Asia Energy, are the brokers of the company. Please government, take steps so that Asia Energy leaves the country,” said Saima who along with thousands of men and women participated in the movement against Asia Energy last year.
National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port organized the discussion on “Open pit mining method and evil activities of Asia Energy: Statement of public representatives from the coal mine area.”
Farmers, members of indigenous communities, day laborers, employees of shops and small businesses, construction workers and college teachers of Phulbari, Parbatipur, Birampur and Hakimpur demanded the ouster of Asia Energy from Bangladesh as per an agreement the previous government signed with demonstrators.
“I have received bullets in my abdomen and hand during the protest against Asia Energy on August 26 last year and have been living in miserable condition. I will give more blood, if Asia Energy tries to enter Phulbari and develop the coal mine,” said Pradip Sarker.
Three people were killed and more than 200 injured when law enforcers opened fire on the agitating people while they were staging demonstrations protesting the planned open pit mining project of Asia Energy on August 26, 2006.
“An open pit mine project is only for 30-40 years. But its impact on agricultural land will remain for ever. Why should we give our farmland from where we will get crops till the end of the world for getting coal for 30-40 years,” asked Moslem Uddin of Berdighi village.
Ramai Soren, a indigenous community member, said brokers of Asia Energy were creating confusion among them telling lies, “We are illiterate but we are not fools. We will give our blood but will not Asia Energy in our land.”
Aminul Islam Bablu, an organizer of the committee in Phulbari, vowed that the people of Phulbari and adjacent areas would not give any more blood to stop Asia Energy from entering Phulbari coal field rather they would take blood if the company tries to enter the field.
Almost all the speakers blasted a section of media and reporters who were supporting the propaganda of the Asia Energy. “We urge all media people not to act in favour of Asia Energy, otherwise we will also declare the reporters who work in favor of the company as traitor,” said Abdul Majid, a farmer.
Member secretary of the committee, Professor Anu Muhammad, also blamed a section of media who were publishing advertisements of Asia Energy on Phulbari coal project, against which “the people had already given verdict.” “It is strange how Asia Energy is propagating in front of the government and under the present state of emergency, as the government has already said there was no mining agreement with the company.”
Anu demanded punishment for Asia Energy for raising money through London Stock Exchange showing the Phulbari coal project. He also demanded that the advisory committee, formed to finalize draft coal policy, drops the open pit mining method including the pilot project.
Committee convener Sheikh M Shahidullah, Professor MM Akash, Liakot Ali of Muktijoddha Sangsad Phulbari command council, Kamal Chandra Saha of Phulbari Dokan Karmachari Union, MA Quyum of Phulbari Thana Traders Union, Shah Mohammad Ilyasur Rahman, Rafiqul Islam from Birampur, Shahjahan Ali from Nawabganj, Hafizar from Madhyapara and Mozammel Hauque from Parbatipur also spoke.