Nationwide protests against Bashkhali Tragedy: Criminals for Coal-shooting Must be Prosecuted

Press statement by National Committee in Bangladesh has released the following statement on Bashkhali killing on 8th April 2016

 “We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in Bashkhali and Rampal.”

“Being a close ally of present ruling party, S. Alam group, a Bangladeshi business house, has managed to acquire a permission from the government to set up a 1224 MW capacity coal plant in a populated location in coastal area, Bashkhali, Chittagong. The area is well known for its salt farming along with various fish and agro-cultivation.

“S. Alam group signed an agreement with two Chinese companies, SEPCOIII Electric Power and HTG to set up a coal based power plant back in 2013.  On 16th February, 2016, the government of Bangladesh approved the deal and set a price to purchase electricity from S. Alam Group at a rate of BDT 6.61 per unit. S. Alam group managed to showcase a total of 600 acres of  land for this plant. As much as 75 percent of the investment is reported to be borne by Chinese lenders.

“It is important to note that, no environmental impact assessment(EIA) report has been prepared on this plant. In addition, incidents of fraudulence and lack of transparency was visible from the very beginning of the project. Along with 7 thousand households, the propsed landmass for the plant also includes around 70 mosques, grave yards, a technical education institution, around 20 cyclone shelter houses, 1 high school, 8 primary government schools, 2 Alia Madrassa, 5 kaomi Madrassa, 5 markets, and 1 government hospital. Despite of the existence of such intense locality, a total of only 150 households have been reported in the area by the local administration in order to be able to handover the land to S. Alam group.Massive level of illegal practices have also been observed on the dealings of land. A good number of people have been reported to be victimized by the fraudulence of the agents of S.Alam group.

“People of Gandamara Union have been protesting against the proposed plant along with range of illegal activities associated with land purchase/acquisition for long. Assaults and threats became common in the process. The local people had tried to negotiate over the choice of location of the plant, appealing to spare the heavily populated areas. On March 23rd, a peaceful protest was organized in the area with the presence of the officials from the administration, in which around 30 thousand people participated. They demanded to spare the heavily populated segments of the area from the already chosen location for the plant. On 2nd April, the local villagers attempted to obstruct the entry of the officials of the S.Alam group into the area, 7 locals were arrested based on the incidenton April 3rd. On April 4th, a protest was organized under the banner of “Boshot vita rokkha Committee” (committee to protect housholds) demanding the release of the arrested ones. Meanwhile, the paid locals of the company called for a counter program in the same location to spoil the event. Following the situation, a restriction was imposed by the local police administration. However, while the angry protestors continued to gather on the spot, around 30 to 40 goons hired by the company began to fire on the unarmed villagers. A large number of people were shot on the spot. At least 4 have been reported to be confirmed dead.

“We would like to ask, if the state chooses to call it ‘development’, then where is the Environmental Impact Assessment report? Why is this atrocity? How come there is no space for people’s opinion? Why is the government so afraid of protest? What sort of democracy is this in which the police administration and armed goons are consistently used to assault the people in protest?  We have seen it in phulbari. Now witnessing the same in Rampal coal project near Sundarban, Ruppur nuclear power plant and in Moheshkhali in Cox’s bazar.

“As long as assault, land grabbing, evicting people, and threat continue in the name of development, discontent would prevail. If the interest and consent of people are not prioritized, people will reject every so called development project.

“We demand exemplary punishment for the persons responsible for killing innocent unarmed people. We also demand to scrap projects with irregularities, corruption, and threat to human livelihoods and environment including coal fired power plants in bashkhali and Rampal. We call for a protest rally in Dhaka and Chittagong on 5 april and call for nationwide protest on April 8th, 2016 to express solidarity with the people in Bashkhali and to press the government to fulfill above demands.”

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