MAC: Mines and Communities

Phulbari: life and struggle continues

Published by MAC on 2007-08-25

Phulbari: life and struggle continues

Report by Nasrin Siraj Annie , Meghbarta

25th August 2007

Roaming in and around Phulbari town and surrounding villages has always been an extraordinary experience for me. Here I meet people who made history to protect land and resources of Bangladesh from disastrous open pit coal mining project proposed by Asia Energy.

When I went there first time in January, 2006, at an open meeting on Phulbari coal project attended by different professionals, I realized how absurd and cruel it would be to let a company to destroy the locality. Phulbari is not a dumped area, in fact from primary school I learned to love Dinajpur area as the best place for rice, mango and lichi. It was totally unacceptable to let Asia Energy to destroy this highly populated and fertile land. Why should people give up their livelihood, land, resources and culture for corporate interest that would make generations after generations sufferer?

During August 26 uprising I was in Rangpur and went to meet injured villagers at Rangpur Medical Collage. There were Bablu, Prodeep and Srimon. From their injuries and narration I could easily understand that the Bangladesh Rifles fired bullets on mass gathering blindly. I could only send a small story to Meghbarta and Uttorshuri email group.

I went again to Phulbari 3 months after the uprising, firing on mass people, killing of 3 children by BDR, continuous protest from local level to national level and Government's agreement on cancel to open pit coal mining. On that trip I met mothers of Torikul, Amin and Salekin, those were killed on 26 August, Pradeep, who just returned from hospital and his family, villagers who were in the demonstration. I saw vast crop field, small mud houses, tears and pride for sons, rubber bullet hit youths and old, brave hearts and eyes with commitment and promises. This was an experience where I didn't have to try much to find stories. Indeed, people all around me were s/heroes of Phulbari uprising. Rickshaw pullers, van drivers, passengers, tea stall owners, customers, passerby, all had stories to tell. This July I went to Phulbari again but with a still camera. Let me introduce some people of Phulbari who protected land, water, air, coal of Bangladesh from plunder and destruction.

Bablu Roy, Shondhya, Dipto, Dipu and Diponkor. On 26 August, 2006, Bablu was injured on spinal cord by bullets fired by BDR on a peaceful mass protest against Phulbari Open Pit Coal Mine project proposed by Asia Energy. After long 11 months Bablu returned home in Phulbari. For nearly one year Bablu had to stay laid on the hospital bed, paralyzed bellow hip, from Rangpur hospital to Dhaka PG to Savar CRP believing that he will live and walk again. For these days Bablu could not see his parents, for hundreds and thousands of moments he missed his love- Shondhya, every second he was longing to see the face of his newly born son Diponkor, every fraction of seconds he wanted to kiss and hug Dipto and Dipu, his other 2 sons.

Bablu was a van rickshaw driver. His father has only 3 decimal homestead land where Bablu's father, mother, Bablu and his brother Ratan live with wife and children. Ratan works at a nursery. On an average this joint household could earn only 100/200 taka per day. They consume or demand very little but sacrificed highest to save natural resources of People's Republic of Bangladesh.

It took Dulali, Bablu's mother, whole life to build this sansar. Open pit coal mine project was a cyclone to her that has made her bread earner young and healthy son wheel chair bound.

Bablu's parents Vobesh Chandra Roy and Dulali. At this age they are not supposed to start a new earning project.

Once again I was speechless in front of Amin's mother. How can I console her! How can I wipe away her pain! With what can I fill her emptiness and what can I do with her remembering her son every moment!

Amin (12) was among three who died on August 26, 2006 by BDR open fire on that peaceful mass protest against Phulbari open pit mining project. Other two victims were Torikul (20) and Salekin (13).

In memory of 26 August Saiful Islam a banner/signboard artist has drawn about 50 paintings. This is Shahid Minar for martyrs according to Saiful's dream. People of Phulbari live everyday with pain and memory of loosing 3 children on August 26, 2006.

'We don't want coal mine by destroying our home'. Typical street and typical wall writing in Phulbari.

Wall writing says, 'dear mother I promise you, we shall protect Phulbari'

Wall writing giving warning to Asia Energy collaborators.

'Hands off Asia Energy'

Sayema Begum owns a small shop in Phulbari town, where she sells tea and biscuits. On August 27 she was in front of processions and resistance to break 144.

Nurunnahar Begum, while pregnant for 2 months, came out on the street to break 144 on 27 August, 2006. Her pictures of vocal confrontation with aggressive BDR were published in front pages of national dailies during Phulbari uprising. She wined her battle on 30 August and Government had to agree with the protesters to cancel deal with Asia Energy and say no to open pit coal mining.

Renu, another 'hero" of Phulbari uprising. She manages households, perform domestic duties. She is not supposed to understand "big" issues like 1% growth of GDP, global politics around energy, neo-imperialism, and the ties of ruling class with multinational corporate but Phulbari experience made her understand that. In fact, she understands what is better and worse for Bangladesh. She understands dirty deal with Asia Energy.

'Salute Phulbari. We mourn August 26. We are proud of August 26'.


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