The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports called a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Phulbari upazila of Dinajpur for Saturday protesting Friday’s imposition of Section 144 in the area.
Prof Anu Mohammad, member secretary of the committee, made the announcement at a press briefing Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Phulbari Municipality Mayor Manik Sarkar expressed solidarity with the national committee in calling the strike for Saturday, reports our Dinajpur correspondent.
Earlier, local administration imposed Section 144 in Phulbari upazila of Dinajpur apprehending deterioration of law and order in the area over a meeting called by the committee.
Md Moniruzzaman, upazila nirbahi officer of Phulbari, imposed the ban on public gathering around 11:30am.
The restriction on holding any programme in the area will remain in force for 12 hours from midday.
The national committee called the meeting protesting the government’s recent move that urged the local administration to create environment for Asia Energy so that it can proceed with its work.
The meeting was scheduled to be held at Nimtali intersection at 3:30pm.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, and Power and Ports on Friday will enforce a daylong general strike in Phulbari on Saturday after authorities prevented it from staging protests.
Leaders of the committee announced the fresh agitation programme from a meeting at Nimtoli intersection at Phulbari ignoring the ban the administration had imposed on public gatherings in the area.
The indefinite embargo was slapped just before the committee was supposed to stage demonstrations against an order of the Ministry of Home Affairs for assisting British company Asia Energy.
The committee has been protesting against open-pit coal mining in the district, and demanding implementation of the 2006 Phulbari deal.
Around 5pm, the bdnews24.com correspondent reported from the scene, several thousand men and women braved police barricades around the stage erected for the demonstrations and occupied the venue.
The committee’s Member Secretary Anu Muhammad addressed the gathering there and announced the shutdown.
The police did not obstruct the demonstrations this time and the rally ended peacefully as planned, according to reports.
On Aug 26, 2006, the police opened fire on a public demonstration against the open-pit coal mining project, killing three – Al Amin, ‘Saleqin’ and ‘Tariqul’ – and injuring over 200 others.
The demonstration had been organised also to demand withdrawal of Asia Energy from the controversial mining project.
The brutality outraged the local people and nation as well, prompting the then BNP-led government to strike a deal with the inhabitants of Phulbari on compensation to the families of the slain protestors and cancellation of the project altogether.
The six-point deal also included expulsion of Asia Energy from Bangladesh, building a monument in memory of those killed, punishment to those who opened fire, and withdrawal of cases filed against the demonstrators.
Though the charges were withdrawn and the families were compensated, the rest demands remain unimplemented yet. The government has moved to engage Asia Energy into open-mining in the area once again.
The ruling Awami League, which spoke in favour of the protestors in 2006 as the then opposition party, has not made it clear whether it supports open-pit coal mining.
The Prime Minister’s Energy Affairs Advisor Dr Towfik-e Elahi Chowdhury and President of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Subid Ali Bhuiyan have been advocating open-pit mining.
On Oct 14, the government asked the local administration to assist Asia Energy for a survey in the area.
The order said Asia Energy wanted to make the people aware of the entire project, including its agricultural potential, underground water management and environmental development.
It added that the company had the right to do so as it had licence to look for mineral resources, and had leased the mines.