Nasrin Siraj Annie
On 26 August early in the morning people in Phulbari, including children, are getting ready by wearing black badges on their chest to join a condolence procession and march to the martyrs monument to express their love, respect and gratitude to the sacrificed lives, namely Al-Amin, Tariqul and Salekin, three children, aged from 13 to 22, who were shot dead by the Border Guards of Bangladesh Government on 26 August in 2006.
The activists of Procheshta Gronthagar, a library initiative of young people in Phulbari, are waiting for the Central National Committee leaders to lead their march to the martyrs monument.
The union of construction workers in the rally.
While the local inhabitants of Phulbari are busy marching on the streets of their own small town many ‘outsiders’ are taking notes and photos of them. Prominent journalist and feminist poet, short story writer Shameema Binte Rahman is photographing one marchers in my shot while I am busy capturing the slogan on the t-shirt of the marcher. The slogan: “We don’t want the coal mine by destroying permanent (read non-renewable) resources. Inhabitants of Phulbari”
Activists of Gonoshanghati Andolon, a leftist political organization, are waiting for their other comrades to show up beside the Dhaka-Dinajpur highway. The banner says: “No open-pit coal mining, No MNOC, No export, Red salute to the martyrs of the movement to protect national resources.”
Of course not everybody in Phulbari is in the rally as some of them are busy doing farming or other works. This tractor driver is driving his vehicle to the opposite direction of the monument but is expressing his solidarity with the rally by wearing a t-shirt. The slogan says: “Stand against all conspiracy to establish the destructive open pit coal mine.”
Another busy Phulbarian is not joining the rally but expressing his solidarity by wearing a t-shit. His slogan says: “Let the agony of 26 August turn in to strength: the inhabitants of Phulbari”
Some local NGO, namely Social and Environment Development Forum, puts fresh poster on the wall asking for planting trees to save the dying world. Perhaps the posters are irrelevant to ‘Phulbari uprising’, perhaps they are not, I wonder, but definitely they do not mention destructive projects by MNOC that actually play important role in destroying society and environment worldwide. The poster depicts a common pattern of ‘NGOised environmentalist activism’ in Bangladesh.
The activists of Bangladesh workers party, another leftist party in Bangladesh, with their banner. In the middle of the banner in red the banner says: “The agreement of Khaleda Government, the promise of Hasina Government, we want the full implementation of six demands”
Bablu Roy who was shot to the spinal cord on 26 August 2006 by the armed force of the state is leading the rally of Central National Committee on his wheel chair. He had escaped the death once but, now, sadly he is getting old faster. He looks fifty something in his thirties.
The Dinajpur Committee of the National Committee in the rally.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh in the rally. The woman in white sari, namely Sayema Khatun is a dedicated midwife, social worker and enterpriser in Phulbari.
Student organization Bangladesh Chatro Moitree in the rally.
Student organization Bangladesh Chatro Union in the rally. Commonly it is known that they are linked with CPB.
Biplobi Chatro Moitree, another leftist student organization in the rally. This organization is known as linked with Bangladesh workers party.
Another busy man of Phulbari is participating in the rally, but this time it seems that he will be late with his business with the chicken. Perhaps he is returning to his home to cook it, I wonder.
The Union of hotel and restaurant workers in the rally. For the past nine years this organization have played an important role in implementing the ‘all shop closure’ programme of protest on the 26 August.
Bangladesh Socialist Party in the rally.
Cultural activist group Shangskritir Naya Shetu is waiting to join the rally.
All the shops are closed in Phulbari today except this tea stall that saves me from the heat and humid of Vadra by serving a hot raw tea. A banker (state owned) pays for my tea while informing me that he is not joining the rally but officially they are closed for the half day today.
The largest demonstration in the rally is composed by the daily labourers and agricultural labourers of Phulbari. The name of their political party is Gono Front that unites workers federation and krishok khetmojur samity (Farmer-agricultural labourers Federation). Unlike the other leftist political parties they put a slogan on the top that call not only the workers to unite but also the ethnic minorities against the open pit coal mining.
A santal man plays his dhol in the rally.
“We are not nri-gushti (a derogatory term recently introduced by the Bangladesh government for the ethnic minorities) we are adibashi (a preferable term for indigenous people).” This group of ‘ethnic minorities’ holds a banner that says: “Displacement of adibashi from the mining vicinity will not be tolerated”. They are organized under Adibashi-Bengali mukti shongram committee.
The union of rickshaw (tri-cycle) and van (man-pulled) drivers in the rally.
The mayor of Phulbari and a political activist of Bangladesh Awami League organizes a separate rally and public meeting to mark the Phulbari uprising and to pay tribute to the martyrs of 26 August 2006. Considering the ‘leftists’ as political his platform is named as “non-political”. Part of his statement in the public meeting: “I would like to say to the DGFI, SB and other detective branches of the government that no one in Phulbari supports the open-pit coal mining in their vicinity.”
The condolence procession has come to an end at the martyrs monument beside the river Choto Jamuna. The family members and neighbours of martyr Salekin is waiting in the cue to put their flower buckeye as a symbol to show their respect to their lost sons.
Phulbari upozila garments workers at the martyrs monument. But of course they are not the last group of protesters against the establishment of Phulbari open pit coal mine in Bangladesh. The remembering programme continued with condolence meeting till late evening.