Online Santal Resource Page: the Santals identity, clans, living places, culture,rituals, customs, using of herbal medicine, education, traditions ...etc and present status.

The Santal Resource Page: these are all online published sources

Santal Gãota reaḱ onolko ńam lạgit́ SRP khon thoṛ̣a gõṛ̃o ńamoḱa mente ińaḱ pạtiạu ar kạṭić kurumuṭu...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari -Bangladesh

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Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari -Bangladesh

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Cultural Survival

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.


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Rights of the Adibashis

ASK Research Unit

his chapter explores the many facets of insecurity experienced by Adibashi s in terms of their economic situation, social marginalization, political non-recognition and ever growing fear of the loss of their collective identity. The last year has seen a continuum of abuses against A dibashis, with violations of their fundamental rights both in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the plains. In the CHT, there was a further dimension - a legacy of the conflict in the region. The chapter first examines the situation in the CHT, then in the plains, focusing mainly on land rights, civil rights as well as socio-economic rights in each case.

Bangladesh is signatory to several major international legal instruments, [1] with the significant exception of ILO Convention 169. Historically, ‘Bangali nationalism' was recognized as the ethos of the state. This constitutional denial of other cultures and languages has been a major issue for the Adibashis, [2] in particular, and also for the country as a whole, as it is perceived as a barrier to a pluralistic Bangladesh that actively promotes diversity.

Bangladesh is home to as many as 49 distinct ethnic Adibashi groups, which constitute two per cent of the total population, according to the Bangladesh A dibashi Forum. [3] Although their numbers are insignificant in proportion to the total population of Bangladesh, A di-bashis , are staggered across the country. Their largest concentration is in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), where thirteen different Adibashi groups [4] constitute a razor-thin majority over the ethnic Bangali population. In the plains, they are mostly concentrated in the greater Rajshahi, Mymensingh and Sylhet regions. There are significant A dibashi populations in the Ghazipur district of Dhaka and in the coastal regions of southern Bangladesh.

Chittagong Hill Tracts

The CHT Peace Accord signed in December 1997 between the Government of Bangladesh and the PCJSS ( Parbattya Chottagram Jano Samhati Samity ) raised hopes for a peaceful settlement of the two decade old conflict. The implementation of the Accord was seen as critical for sustainable peace in the region. It was also a unique document being the first since the foundation of Bangladesh to recognize the rights of the Adibashis (‘tribal' in the original text).

There has, however, been a troublesome legacy of sporadic strife between the Adibashis and the Bangali ‘settlers', which may have been exacerbated by the military presence. According to the Peace Accord, the deployment of army personnel was supposed to be limited to half a dozen large garrisons and the remaining camps were to be closed. There is, however, little or no official information in this regard, but eyewitness reports from the region would testify that the task has not yet been completed.

Status of the Peace Accord

Implementation of the Peace Accord has not been significant. A three member Committee for the Implementation of the Peace Accord formed by the Awami League Government [5] became totally dysfunctional during the tenure of the BNP-led Government. The CHT Affairs Minister also did not meet with the Advisory Council members to the Ministry. As a result there has been no progress in activating key conflict resolution mechanisms envisaged in the Accord, such as the Parbotya Chottogram Bhumi Birodh Nishpotti Commission (CHT Land Disputes Settlement Commission) and Refugee Rehabilitation Task Force. They were expected to bring about an acceptable and permanent solution to the land disputes and settlement of peoples from the plains, on lands claimed by the Adibashi s, “in accordance with registered title and/or customary law.”

According to the Pahari members the major obstacle to the Commission's work is that the Act itself deviates from the structure and functions as laid down in the Accord. The discrepancies include the (i) jurisdictional area of the Commission and the (ii) vesting of near-absolute veto-like powers upon the chairperson in case of absence of consensus among the members.

Since its establishment the Land Disputes Settlement Commission has remained non-functional, a major reason, according to the Adibashi members being that the Act itself deviates from the structure and functions as laid down in the Accord. The discrepancies include jurisdictional area of the Accord and the vesting of near-absolute veto-like powers upon the Chairperson in case of absence of consensus amongst the members. The fate of the Refugee Task Force is similar to that of the Land Commission. After much delay, the Government reconstituted it with new members in 2004. But this Task Force too has remained non-functional.

Land Grabbing and Control over Natural Resources

Throughout the year, allegations of land disputes or of forcible occupation of lands claimed by the A dibashis were reported. Most incidents of forced occupation were allegedly perpetrated by the rehabilitated Bangalis, commonly known as ‘settlers', reportedly with assistance and protection provided by military personnel.

The most egregious incident took place in Maheschari, resulting in the loss of properties and homesteads of several hundred indigenous inhabitants, and reported rape of some Adibashi women. The incident was triggered by forcible occupation of lands by the Bangali ‘settlers' in Maheschari union in Mahalchari thana of Khagrachari district. [6] The ‘settlers' occupied a Buddhist temple and its land, torched the huts around it and constructed new houses. On 21 May 2006, the Managing Committee of the temple called on the UNO of Maheschari to resolve the dispute. A meeting convened by the UNO was ignored by the ‘settlers' who again constructed 35 more houses. The police demolished the houses on 25 May. A few days later, on 14 June, the ‘settlers' again set fire to the temple and constructed 40 more houses. The Adibashi villagers submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding that their land seized by the ‘settlers' be returned to them. But no action seemed to have been taken. [7]

There have been other attempts at forcible seizure of land belonging to Adibashi s with direct support or at least connivance of the State. An important case involved the threat of eviction of more than 400 predominantly Khyang families in the Rajasthali upazilla , of Rangamati district, ostensibly for use of the area for industrial purposes. Their land was reportedly requisitioned by the Forest Department for afforestation with pulpwood trees in the late 1980s. But after protests by the Adibashis , the action was postponed. For reasons still not clarified by the concerned authority, the initiative was again revived in 2006, putting at serious jeopardy jhum cultivation which is a source of livelihood for all the families. [8] CHT residents, both Adibashis and Bangalis are threatened by a proposal of the Ministry of Environment and F to create new ‘reserved forests' on more than 200,000 acres of land in all three districts.

In a similar incident, 50 families from the Chak community in the Naikhyangchari upazilla of Bandarban district were, reportedly, threatened with eviction from their jhum land. The district administration without any consultation with the Chaks, in mid 1990s, leased about 200 acres of land to several individuals, including the British American Tobacco Company (BATC). [9] It started planting Acacia trees on the leased land on 25 June 2006 in the presence of the Upazilla Land Officer. They stopped their activities only after vehement protests by the Chaks. Although further tree planting was not resumed in the following months, the threat of dispossession of land continues to loom for the Chaks. [10]

Sexual Assaults on Women

Cases of rape and sexual assault were reported both in the media [11] and by some human rights organizations. During the violence between the ‘settler' Bangalis and the Adibashis, on 3 April 2006, following the land grabbing incident in Maheschari, several women were, reportedly, sexually assaulted and even raped. No official inquiry into any of these allegations has so far been conducted and the perpetrators have not been identified.

Freedom of Association


Freedom of association and expression remains restricted in the region, another legacy of the insurgency years. Nevertheless, consequent to the signing of the Peace Accord, the Adibashis have formed or activated socio-economic and development associations and organizations. The Hill Tracts' NGO Forum (HTNF) formed to coordinate their activities , however, was instructed by the Department of Social Welfare, Rangamati in a letter to suspend its activities since it was not a registered body, and the NGO Bureau wrote to the HTNF not to represent NGOs or use the name since the process of its registration with the Bureau had not concluded. HTNF had been denied registration since it was composed of organizations rather than of ‘persons'.

Ignorance and Misperception

Prejudice against the Adibashis is aggravated by the absence of information in text books or training programmes for Government officials serving in these areas. The episode regarding publication of a book by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khagrachari, ostensibly produced for promoting the tourism potential of the district, is one such example. In the book, the DC, made disparaging comments about the Chakma people , and described them as ‘outside intruders' and the ethnic Bangalis, including the ‘settlers' as ‘true indigenous peoples of the region'.



Institutional Developments

The Advisory Committee of the Ministry of CHT Affairs set up after the Peace Accord as an oversight body for public and administrative institutions in the CHT did not meet in 2006. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT Affairs met regularly in 2006, but some of its deliberations seemed antithetical to the spirit of the Peace Accord. [12] The nature or non-functioning of these institutions appeared to reflect a general disregard for the concerns of the Adibashis.

The other major set back relates to the CHT Development Board (CHTDB), set up in the mid-1970s to implement development programmes in the region. In clear violation of the Peace Accord stipulation, that ‘tribals' be given preference in appointment of Chairman of the CHTDB, the Four Party Alliance Government appointed the sitting MP of Khagrachari. [13] Furthermore, the CHTDB continued to receive the bulk of development funds, reportedly twice the amount allocated to the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils together. It was alleged that the overwhelming portion of this amount was spent for the ‘settler' population and that too, only in the Chairperson's own constituency in Khagrachari.

Plains Lands


The media reported on c ases of land grabbing and control of natural resources in the plains which led to violence and fatal casualties. Violence against women was also reported. In sharp contrast to the CHT, there were no specifically designated Government/public institutions, excepting the Special Affairs Division (SAD), under the Prime Minister's Office, to promote development or to provide services.

Land Grabbing and Control over Natural Resources

L and grabbing and loss of control over natural resources was the single most important issue for the Adibashis in the plains. The events surrounding the Phulbari Coal Mine Project in Dinajpur were most significant in this regard. Coal was first discovered in Phulbari in mid-1990s by BHP, an Australian company. The licensing and investment agreements that BHP subsequently entered into with the Government of Bangladesh were acquired by Asia Energy PLC in 1998.

The company planned to extract coal through the ‘open-pit' system, which would have led to displacement of half a million people, including 50,000 Adibashis , largely from the Santal, Oraon and Munda communities from Phulbari and adjacent upazillas of Birampur, Parbatipur and Nababganj, as claimed by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Electricity and Ports . [14] Asia Energy's own estimates put the number of potential displaced at about 50,000 persons, including 2,500 from the Adibasi groups.

In September 2005, the Environmental Assessment Report of Asia Energy was approved by the Department of Environment of the Government of Bangladesh, following which, in October 2005, Asia Energy submitted a full proposal to the Government for approval. From May 2005 onward, through a sub-contractor, Asia Energy started some pre-exploratory work in the area. This triggered massive protests from the local population and received support in other parts of the country. In one incident, on 26 August, the police opened fire on the protestors, killing four persons on the spot and injuring dozens. To date, the results of any investigation into the police firing have not been made public, nor have those responsible been brought to account. Asia Energy has currently suspended its activities.

Asia Energy claimed that it had compensated everyone affected by its activities on the basis of the Resettlement Plan and Adibashi People's Development Plan it had prepared, which incorporated the findings and recommendations of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, in accordance with international best practices, including the Equator Principles, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) guidelines. Asia Energy, however, never fully disclosed its resettlement package. It demanded from the Government special legislation for acquisition of land. Furthermore, any rehabilitation/ resettlement package needed to take into account the specific conditions of the Adibashis . For them, land is not only a means to produce crops for their livelihood, it is part of their collective identity. Any future resettlement initiative, however generous it may be in financial terms, would not only disrupt their livelihood security, it could also potentially result in jeopardizing their collective identity and lifestyles, particularly if the families were re-settled in scattered areas.

Other reports of land grabbing related to the Rakhaings in the districts of Patuakhali and Barisal. They perceive their lands as places of worship, yet as their population has dwindled being gradually forced to migrate elsewhere, mostly to Myanmar, they do not have the means to resist the local, influential groups of land-grabbers. [15]

Resistance to eco-parks and afforestation programmes by the Department of Forests has been strong in greater Mymensingh and Sylhet regions. When the Government undertook the construction of a boundary wall in order to demarcate and create an eco-park in 2002 in the Modhupur forests in Mymensingh, the Adibashis protested. The Government ignored their protests and continued to implement its plans. In the course of events, the armed forest guards together with police fired on a peaceful demonstration in January 2004 and killed Piren Snal, one of the protesters. Till date, no one has been held accountable for this killing. In another incident, on 22 August 2006, the forest guards fired on the Adibashi women who went into the forests to collect dry leaves and branches for firewood. A woman called Cecilia Snal received serious bullet wounds. Following the killing of Piren Snal, the Government postponed the eco-park project, but harassment and intimidation by the Forest Department officials, often in collusion with law and order forces, were reported in the media during the year. [16]

Similar encroachments on the traditional communal and individually owned lands of the Khasi community by the Forest Department continued in the greater Sylhet region. Many Khasi people faced forcible eviction from their traditional homesteads ( punjis ) where they grew betel leaves as their principal, and often only, means of livelihood. The eco-park project was merely postponed not canceled. In the meantime, harassment and intimida- tion of the community by mastans, in collusion with local police, has reportedly carried on. [17]

Institutional Representation

The absence of adequate institutional representation for the Adibashis in the plains was a continuing concern. The SAD has an annual budget for administration of specific development projects for Adibashis in the plains, which it channels through the office of the Upazilla Nirbahi Officer for areas with significant Adibashi populations. Unfortunately, the staff are generally unfamiliar with Adibashi cultures or languages, and at the same time, due to their disadvantaged and marginalized situation, the Adibashis lack access to SAD and other relevant Gov ernment departments. As a result, the SAD funds and other development benefits, are in most instances, squandered, misused or misappropriated. [18]

There is no specific training curriculae on the study of the Adibashi peoples that would familiarise the public sector field staff with their concerns. Therefore, most Government officials at Upazilla and at Union Porishod level, including the Upazila Nirbahi Officer, have, at best, only very stereotyped and superficial knowledge about their diverse cultures and life styles .

Recommendations

There is an urgent need to safeguard the fundamental rights of the Adibashi s, to uphold their human dignity and to promote a culture of diversity, pluralism and mutual tolerance, critical for the growth of any future democratic society.

The nature of discrimination, abuse and violation of fundamental rights of the Adibashis demands institutional interventions to prevent further erosion of rights and to hold the perpetrators to account . More important, it calls for pro-active initiatives by the Government in particular, by other relevant stakeholders and the civil society in general, to protect the rights of the Adibashis . Confidence building measures should include:



General

· Implement constitutional obligations under Articles 27, 28 and 29 to eliminate discrimination and incorporate articles into national laws ratified articles of ICERD, ICCPR and ILO Convention 111 against Discrimination in Employment.

· Evaluate the impact of development projects on the livelihood and lifestyle of Adibashis, based on their free, prior and informed consent.

· Adopt appropriate legal and policy safeguards for protection of the livelihood and identity of Adibashis in investment projects such as the Coal Mining project in Phulbari.

· Include Adibashi rights in the training curriculae of Government personnel, and hold orientation for senior office bearers.



In the Chittagong Hill Tracts

· Take immediate steps for implementation of the CHT Peace Accord, including activating the key conflict resolution mechanisms (e.g. Land Dispute Settlement Commission, Refugee Task Force, etc.)

· Hold impartial judicial investigation into the Mahalchari incident and prosecute those responsible.

· Take immediate steps to stop encroachment of land in Gamaridhala, Khagrachari, Maischari, Mahalchari, Dighinala and other parts of the CHT.

· Recognize the right to freedom of association (e.g. HTNF).

· Cancel lease of lands belonging to the Chaks in Naikhyangchari, ban any future leasing of land for commercial purposes.

· Withdraw order declaring a ‘reserved forest' in respect of land enjoyed by the Kyangs and other Adibashis in Rajasthali and in other areas as declared since 1990s in the CHT.

· Declare a ban on demarcating any more ‘reserved forests' in the CHT.

In the Plains

· Set up a separate Land Settlement Commission for the Adibashis in the plains.

· Constitute an ‘Advisory Committee' for SAD, with representatives from the Adibashis , in line with a similar Advisory Committee for MoCHTA, and more importantly, regulate its functions at Upazilla and Union level, and take immediate steps to set up ‘Sub-committees for Adibashis ', with the latter comprising the majority members.

· Cancel the eco park projects in Mymensingh and Sylhet and prosecute officials responsible for violence in these areas.

· Enquiry into the incident of shooting on Mandis, including Piren and Cecilia Snal, at Modhupur eco park and prosecution of those responsible.

Notes


[1] Such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, International Convention on Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on Biological Diversity and the ILO Convention No. 107 on Indidenous and Tribal Populations, etc.

[2] The Government of Bangladesh has preferred the term tribe/tribal in recent legal and policy documents but other terms have also been used, eg. Adibashi (in PRSP), Indigenous (in Finance Act, 1995, CHT Regulation, 1900) and Aboriginal Tribes or Castes (CS.97, EBSATA, 1950).

[3] The communities are Garo, Khiang, Mro, Bawm, Chakma, Chak, Pangkhua, Lushai, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Rakhaing, Khashi, Monipuri, Kuki, Ushal, Lauua, Khumi, Hajong, Banai, Koch, Dalu, Santal, Paharia, Munda, Mahato, Shing, Kharia, Khondo, Gorkha/Gurkha, Pahan, Rjuyar, Mushar, Hodi, Pall, Mikir, Rai, Bedia/Bede, Bagdi, Kol, Rajbongshi, Patro, Murer, Turi, Mahali, Malo, Khatria Barman, Gondo, Kachhari. There ae a few Riyang in the CHT although recent legislations (eg HDC ACts, 1989 and RC act, 1998) do not acknowledge these people.

[4] Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Mro, Tanchangya, Ryang, Khumi, Chak, Mro, Khyang, Bawm, Pangkhua, Lushai.

[5] Led by Minister Abul Hasnat Abdulla, the Head of the National Committee on the Chittagong Hill Tracts it included JB Larma, President of the JSS and Dipankar Talukder, member of Parliament and Chairman of the Task Force on Refugees and Displaced Persons.

[6] Shamokal , 24 August, 2006.

[7] http://www.angelfire.com/ab/jumma/settlers/land_grabbing.html

[8] Jugantor , 24 August, 2006

[9] Sangbad , 27 August, 2006

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. , 21 June, 2006

[12] Vide meeting held on 29 May whereby a member of the Committee, among other accusations, raised a motion accusing all development activities by the NGOs and the UNDP in CHT as anti-state, and alleged that the NGOs were involved in forcible conversion to Christianity.

[13] Mr Wadud Bhuiyan, a member of the Ninth Parliament from the BNP is a militant champion of the pro-settlement policy.

[14] See Reports of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Electricity and Ports.

[15] Sangbad , 29 June, 2006.

[16] Shamokal , 24 April, Prothom alo , 23 August, 2006, 15 May and 23 August, 2006.

[17] Prothom alo , 29 September, 2006.

[18] Albert Mankin, et al ., Study on the Special Affairs Division ( SAD), Bangladesh Adibashi Peoples Forum and Centre for Adibashi Peoples Research and Development (CIPRAD) , 2005-6.
Source: http://www.askbd.org/Hr06/Adibashi.htm
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Energy at What Cost? Protests Against Forced Eviction from US-Backed Coal Mine Continue in Bangladesh

Friday 8 April 2011

by: Kate Hoshour and Christine Shearer , Truthout





As the sun rose on March 28, 2011, roughly 2,000 people gathered to demonstrate against a mining project that would displace tens of thousands of people in northwest Bangladesh and establish one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world.





Located in an agricultural region that is home to thousands of farming and indigenous families, the Phulbari Coal Project has been fiercely opposed by Bangladeshi citizens for over six years. Regardless, the UK-based company pursuing the project, Global Coal Management Resources, or GCM (formerly the Asia Energy Corporation), is expressing confidence that the mine will go forward.



In their most recent action to halt the project, protestors enforced a six-hour blockade of Bangladesh's railways and highways that began at 6 AM, reportedly forcing railway authorities to reschedule seven intercity trains and disrupting roads between the northwestern district of Dinajpur and other parts of the country.



In Phulbari, educational and business institutions reportedly remained closed during the blockade.



The demonstrators built on a demand made exactly one month ago: for the government to halt the mine and expel GCM Resources from the country. This time, they said, they will allow 15 days for their demands to be met.



Responding to announcements of the protest, police and members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were deployed in advance to guard GCM's office, the Phulbari railway station and other key establishments.



RAB, set up as an elite anticrime and antiterrorism force, has become notorious for what several human rights groups describe as the routine use of torture and an alarming number of extrajudicial killings that occur in RAB custody.



Although RAB has been denounced by Human Rights Watch as a "government death squad," diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the UK has provided support to RAB, including training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement."



The Phulbari Coal Project is now at a critical juncture. It was stalled in the planning phase when political instability in the country and widespread protests led to the imposition of emergency rule in Bangladesh in 2007. Following national elections in 2008, a new administration began actively reconsidering the mine.



The recent release of another WikiLeaks cable shows that the US has been exerting diplomatic pressure for the project's approval, citing US corporate interests.



Forced Eviction on a Massive Scale



According to GCM's project plans, the Phulbari coal mine would have a lifespan of at least 36 years and extract 16 million tons of coal annually at peak production. Of this, three million tons would be used for domestic energy consumption, with the construction of at least one 500 megawatt coal-fired electricity plant. The remaining coal would be exported.



The project's draft resettlement plan calls for the open pit mine and associated infrastructure to acquire nearly 6,000 hectares of land.



Estimates of the number of people who would be evicted from their homes and lands in order to make way for the immense mega-project vary widely and are disputed.



According to GCM, the project would displace nearly 50,000 people (49,487 people and 11,247 households). However, a 2006 Expert Committee report commissioned by the Bangladeshi government concluded that nearly 130,000 people would be directly affected, and as many as 220,000 people would suffer reduced access to water for drinking and irrigation, with uncertain displacement impacts over time.



GCM's estimate of the number of indigenous people displaced is similarly contested. While GCM says some 2,200 indigenous people would be displaced, independent researchers and Bangladesh's Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (National Indigenous Union) estimate that 50,000 people belonging to 23 different tribal groups would be evicted.



"The project threatens some of Bangladesh's most vulnerable indigenous peoples, who trace their ancestry in the region back 5,000 years," says Paula Palmer, director of Cultural Survival's Global Response program. Indigenous leaders fear that their ancient cultures and languages would not survive forced displacement and dispersal of their communities. In a recent interview, Palmer noted that "the mine may mean ethnocide" for the indigenous peoples it would forcibly resettle, who "will not be able to maintain the cultural traditions, religious practices and languages that have sustained them for thousands of years."



Impacts on Food and Water



Over 80 percent of all land slated for project development is farmland. Due to its elevation and location, Phulbari is one of the few agricultural regions in Bangladesh that is protected from flooding. Project opponents are concerned that the loss of these agricultural lands will undermine efforts to overcome hunger in a country in which nearly half of all people currently do not have enough food.



Bangladesh is also one of the world's most densely populated countries. Displaced families would thus require significant support in regaining land and housing, yet project plans state that people displaced for the mine will not receive replacement land - nor will other vital resources, including fish ponds, timber and bamboo trees, be replaced.



"The company is offering displaced families cash, not equivalent land, because no land is available in Bangladesh," notes Palmer, yet, she says, "studies show that cash payments to such 'development refugees' results in their impoverishment."



Project impacts on water for household and agricultural use are also expected to be severe. According to the 2006 Expert Committee report, dewatering operations required to keep water from entering mine pits up to 1,000 meters in depth would result in a massive reduction of groundwater throughout a vast region and reduce access to water for 220,000 people.



The prospect of Phulbari's tube wells running dry has raised grave concerns there, where over half of all households report that they do not currently have enough water to meet their needs.



Environmental Risks



The Mangrove Action Project recently launched an international campaign to halt the Phulbari project, citing risks to the Sundarbans Reserved Forest (SRF), a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-protected mangrove forest and wetlands that contains over half of Bangladesh's remaining natural forest. The vast wetlands include three wildlife refuges - all of which are on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list - and support at least 58 rare and threatened species - including Bangladesh's last remaining population of the royal Bengal tiger.



Despite its protected status, plans for the Phulbari Coal Mine call for coal to be transported through the Sundarbans by a fleet of barges to a floating offshore loading facility, where it will be transferred to oceangoing vessels.



Significantly, the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project commissioned by GCM rates the risk that barge fuel could contaminate the SRF as "extremely high" and "one of the most significant issues associated with the Project."



In the event of a "worst case scenario" oil spill, the ESIA states, "it is likely there will be damage to the SRF shoreline" and "extreme mortality or severe damage to mangroves and other shoreline plant species."



There are also serious environmental and health hazards associated with coal mining itself. Although GCM maintains that local residents can continue farming some project lands during and after mining operations, this ignores the risks posed by coal. Mining coal unearths toxic heavy metals, including mercury and acid-forming sulphur, that contaminate soil, water and air, making lands that have been mined less than ideal for agriculture.



Protest and Resistance



The March 2011 demonstration was the latest protest in an ongoing battle to halt the project. Massive public protests involving thousands of citizens began in 2005 and continue through today.



August 26, 2006 is now commemorated as Phulbari Day, an annual day of mourning for those who lost their lives and suffered serious injuries when a government-backed paramilitary group fired indiscriminately on tens of thousands of people protesting the project. Three people were killed, including a 14-year-old child, and more than 200 people were wounded.



This indiscriminate use of violence generated nationwide protests and a four-day general strike, which were brought to an end only when the government signed an agreement calling for the permanent expulsion of Asia Energy from the country and a ban on open-pit mining.



GCM was forced to suspend its operations at that time, and its personnel fled the country under police escort after demonstrators burned down the company's project information office.



Within Bangladesh, national opposition to the project has been led by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources and Ports, whose local leader, Mr. Nuruzuman, was reportedly tortured by the Bangladesh military in 2008 for his activities.



"Despite violence and intimidation aimed at silencing opponents, some 100,000 people participated in the final rally, ending an incredible one-week, 250-mile Long March from Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, to Phulbari last October, notes Joanna Levitt, executive director of the International Accountability Project, a human rights organization working to halt the mining project.



On February 28, 2011, roughly 2,000 protestors gathered for the rally and highway blockade in Phulbari, stranding some 500 passenger buses and vehicles on both sides of the highway.



Opponents' key demands remain unchanged: the government must fulfill the agreement signed on August 31, 2006, which bans open-pit coal mining and calls for GCM to be permanently expelled from the country.



GCM Resources



Despite sustained opposition, GCM remains confident that it will be able to move the project forward. The government of Bangladesh plans to announce a new coal policy by June 2011, and GCM expects that the new policy will clear the way for them to secure the "green light" that their investors are impatiently calling for.



In January of 2011, Cultural Survival sent a letter to GCM Chief Executive Steve Bywater calling for an immediate halt to planning for the mine, saying that it would forcibly remove thousands of indigenous people from their homes and farmlands, in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).



In a reply dated March 8, 2011, Bywater disputed this claim, saying that, "Our resettlement programme will recognize the right of all affected people to free, prior and informed consent." However, Bywater's reply does not address the fact that no one in Phulbari is being offered the option of saying no to eviction and resettlement.



Bywater also notes that the project will bring the country needed electricity, and "roughly a third of the revenues generated by the Project will go to the Government in the form of royalties, corporate taxes, customs and duties, and taxes paid by employees, suppliers and contractors."



GCM's claims regarding financial benefits to Bangladesh are strongly contested by project opponents, who argue that the nation will lose, not profit, if GCM is permitted to extract the country's nonrenewable resources while paying only six percent in royalties and profits.



Taking Bywater's figures at face value, two-thirds of project revenues will go outside of Bangladesh - and, a recently released WikiLeaks documents suggests, toward wealthy investors in the Global North.



WikiLeaks Reveals Evidence of US Interference



In December 2010, WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable that revealed that the US ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty, has actively intervened to push the Phulbari Coal Project forward.



In the July 2009 cable, Moriarty cites 60 percent US investment in GCM and urges Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury, the energy advisor to Bangladesh's prime minister, to authorize open-pit mining as "the best way forward."



Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted that the coal mine was "politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land," but that Chowdhury agreed to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.



"WikiLeaks cables prove that US officials chose to ignore the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi people marching in the streets to oppose this mine. Behind closed doors, they aggressively pushed for a reckless coal project that would evict and impoverish thousands in Bangladesh - and line the pockets of a few hedge fund managers in the US," commented Levitt.



According to the international organization BankTrack, major shareholders in GCM Resources are Aurora Investment Trust PLC, Christian Leone, Credit Suisse First Boston Equities Ltd, LCG Holdings LLC, Luxor Capital Group and Polo Resources Ltd.







LCG and Luxor Capital Group are owned by Christian Leone, a US citizen and former Goldman Sachs employee who also operates a New York-based hedge fund in his own name.



Energy at What Price?



Over 100 civil society organizations from 31 countries have endorsed a letter to the Phulbari project's worldwide financial backers, detailing human rights abuses and environmental concerns associated with the project and calling on private banks to withdraw their support.



Their concerns include the potential for further violence against project opponents. The Expert Committee commissioned by Bangladesh's government shares these concerns, warning of "a high risk of social unrest and conflict" if GCM attempts to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of people, most of whom have land-based livelihoods.



Despite these warnings and sustained protests against the project, GCM continues to maintain that the project would be good for the people of Bangladesh and would bring needed electricity.



Coal, however, is not the only energy option. An alternative development model can be seen in the Indian state of Orissa, which recently installed decentralized solar power to provide energy to 2,000 villages without large-scale displacement of people or destruction of their lands and communities



Many within Phulbari regard the GCM's coal mine project as a violation of their rights. As one community member interviewed by the International Accountability Project said: "This movement is for human rights. This is against the aggression of the multinational companies. So, the international community should come forward to save the human rights, to save the community."



Kate Hoshour and Christine Shearer



Kate Hoshour is a cultural anthropologist and senior research fellow for the International Accountability Project, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that partners with communities in the Global South to challenge destructive development projects and promote accountability to upholding local people's human rights in international development finance and practice.



Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm, part of SourceWatch, and a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. She is managing editor of Conducive and author of the forthcoming book, "Kivalina: A Climate Change Story" (Haymarket Books, 2011).




Source:http://truthout.org/energy-what-cost-protests-against-forced-eviction-us-backed-coal-mine-continue-bangladesh/1302246000

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Energy at What Cost? Protests Against Forced Eviction from US-Backed Coal Mine Continue in Bangladesh

Friday 8 April 2011
by: Kate Hoshour and Christine Shearer , Truthout


As the sun rose on March 28, 2011, roughly 2,000 people gathered to demonstrate against a mining project that would displace tens of thousands of people in northwest Bangladesh and establish one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world.

Located in an agricultural region that is home to thousands of farming and indigenous families, the Phulbari Coal Project has been fiercely opposed by Bangladeshi citizens for over six years. Regardless, the UK-based company pursuing the project, Global Coal Management Resources, or GCM (formerly the Asia Energy Corporation), is expressing confidence that the mine will go forward.

In their most recent action to halt the project, protestors enforced a six-hour blockade of Bangladesh's railways and highways that began at 6 AM, reportedly forcing railway authorities to reschedule seven intercity trains and disrupting roads between the northwestern district of Dinajpur and other parts of the country.

In Phulbari, educational and business institutions reportedly remained closed during the blockade.

The demonstrators built on a demand made exactly one month ago: for the government to halt the mine and expel GCM Resources from the country. This time, they said, they will allow 15 days for their demands to be met.

Responding to announcements of the protest, police and members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were deployed in advance to guard GCM's office, the Phulbari railway station and other key establishments.

RAB, set up as an elite anticrime and antiterrorism force, has become notorious for what several human rights groups describe as the routine use of torture and an alarming number of extrajudicial killings that occur in RAB custody.

Although RAB has been denounced by Human Rights Watch as a "government death squad," diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the UK has provided support to RAB, including training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement."

The Phulbari Coal Project is now at a critical juncture. It was stalled in the planning phase when political instability in the country and widespread protests led to the imposition of emergency rule in Bangladesh in 2007. Following national elections in 2008, a new administration began actively reconsidering the mine.

The recent release of another WikiLeaks cable shows that the US has been exerting diplomatic pressure for the project's approval, citing US corporate interests.

Forced Eviction on a Massive Scale

According to GCM's project plans, the Phulbari coal mine would have a lifespan of at least 36 years and extract 16 million tons of coal annually at peak production. Of this, three million tons would be used for domestic energy consumption, with the construction of at least one 500 megawatt coal-fired electricity plant. The remaining coal would be exported.

The project's draft resettlement plan calls for the open pit mine and associated infrastructure to acquire nearly 6,000 hectares of land.

Estimates of the number of people who would be evicted from their homes and lands in order to make way for the immense mega-project vary widely and are disputed.

According to GCM, the project would displace nearly 50,000 people (49,487 people and 11,247 households). However, a 2006 Expert Committee report commissioned by the Bangladeshi government concluded that nearly 130,000 people would be directly affected, and as many as 220,000 people would suffer reduced access to water for drinking and irrigation, with uncertain displacement impacts over time.

GCM's estimate of the number of indigenous people displaced is similarly contested. While GCM says some 2,200 indigenous people would be displaced, independent researchers and Bangladesh's Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (National Indigenous Union) estimate that 50,000 people belonging to 23 different tribal groups would be evicted.

"The project threatens some of Bangladesh's most vulnerable indigenous peoples, who trace their ancestry in the region back 5,000 years," says Paula Palmer, director of Cultural Survival's Global Response program. Indigenous leaders fear that their ancient cultures and languages would not survive forced displacement and dispersal of their communities. In a recent interview, Palmer noted that "the mine may mean ethnocide" for the indigenous peoples it would forcibly resettle, who "will not be able to maintain the cultural traditions, religious practices and languages that have sustained them for thousands of years."

Impacts on Food and Water

Over 80 percent of all land slated for project development is farmland. Due to its elevation and location, Phulbari is one of the few agricultural regions in Bangladesh that is protected from flooding. Project opponents are concerned that the loss of these agricultural lands will undermine efforts to overcome hunger in a country in which nearly half of all people currently do not have enough food.

Bangladesh is also one of the world's most densely populated countries. Displaced families would thus require significant support in regaining land and housing, yet project plans state that people displaced for the mine will not receive replacement land - nor will other vital resources, including fish ponds, timber and bamboo trees, be replaced.

"The company is offering displaced families cash, not equivalent land, because no land is available in Bangladesh," notes Palmer, yet, she says, "studies show that cash payments to such 'development refugees' results in their impoverishment."

Project impacts on water for household and agricultural use are also expected to be severe. According to the 2006 Expert Committee report, dewatering operations required to keep water from entering mine pits up to 1,000 meters in depth would result in a massive reduction of groundwater throughout a vast region and reduce access to water for 220,000 people.

The prospect of Phulbari's tube wells running dry has raised grave concerns there, where over half of all households report that they do not currently have enough water to meet their needs.

Environmental Risks

The Mangrove Action Project recently launched an international campaign to halt the Phulbari project, citing risks to the Sundarbans Reserved Forest (SRF), a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-protected mangrove forest and wetlands that contains over half of Bangladesh's remaining natural forest. The vast wetlands include three wildlife refuges - all of which are on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list - and support at least 58 rare and threatened species - including Bangladesh's last remaining population of the royal Bengal tiger.

Despite its protected status, plans for the Phulbari Coal Mine call for coal to be transported through the Sundarbans by a fleet of barges to a floating offshore loading facility, where it will be transferred to oceangoing vessels.

Significantly, the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project commissioned by GCM rates the risk that barge fuel could contaminate the SRF as "extremely high" and "one of the most significant issues associated with the Project."

In the event of a "worst case scenario" oil spill, the ESIA states, "it is likely there will be damage to the SRF shoreline" and "extreme mortality or severe damage to mangroves and other shoreline plant species."

There are also serious environmental and health hazards associated with coal mining itself. Although GCM maintains that local residents can continue farming some project lands during and after mining operations, this ignores the risks posed by coal. Mining coal unearths toxic heavy metals, including mercury and acid-forming sulphur, that contaminate soil, water and air, making lands that have been mined less than ideal for agriculture.

Protest and Resistance

The March 2011 demonstration was the latest protest in an ongoing battle to halt the project. Massive public protests involving thousands of citizens began in 2005 and continue through today.

August 26, 2006 is now commemorated as Phulbari Day, an annual day of mourning for those who lost their lives and suffered serious injuries when a government-backed paramilitary group fired indiscriminately on tens of thousands of people protesting the project. Three people were killed, including a 14-year-old child, and more than 200 people were wounded.

This indiscriminate use of violence generated nationwide protests and a four-day general strike, which were brought to an end only when the government signed an agreement calling for the permanent expulsion of Asia Energy from the country and a ban on open-pit mining.

GCM was forced to suspend its operations at that time, and its personnel fled the country under police escort after demonstrators burned down the company's project information office.

Within Bangladesh, national opposition to the project has been led by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources and Ports, whose local leader, Mr. Nuruzuman, was reportedly tortured by the Bangladesh military in 2008 for his activities.

"Despite violence and intimidation aimed at silencing opponents, some 100,000 people participated in the final rally, ending an incredible one-week, 250-mile Long March from Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, to Phulbari last October, notes Joanna Levitt, executive director of the International Accountability Project, a human rights organization working to halt the mining project.

On February 28, 2011, roughly 2,000 protestors gathered for the rally and highway blockade in Phulbari, stranding some 500 passenger buses and vehicles on both sides of the highway.

Opponents' key demands remain unchanged: the government must fulfill the agreement signed on August 31, 2006, which bans open-pit coal mining and calls for GCM to be permanently expelled from the country.

GCM Resources

Despite sustained opposition, GCM remains confident that it will be able to move the project forward. The government of Bangladesh plans to announce a new coal policy by June 2011, and GCM expects that the new policy will clear the way for them to secure the "green light" that their investors are impatiently calling for.

In January of 2011, Cultural Survival sent a letter to GCM Chief Executive Steve Bywater calling for an immediate halt to planning for the mine, saying that it would forcibly remove thousands of indigenous people from their homes and farmlands, in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In a reply dated March 8, 2011, Bywater disputed this claim, saying that, "Our resettlement programme will recognize the right of all affected people to free, prior and informed consent." However, Bywater's reply does not address the fact that no one in Phulbari is being offered the option of saying no to eviction and resettlement.

Bywater also notes that the project will bring the country needed electricity, and "roughly a third of the revenues generated by the Project will go to the Government in the form of royalties, corporate taxes, customs and duties, and taxes paid by employees, suppliers and contractors."

GCM's claims regarding financial benefits to Bangladesh are strongly contested by project opponents, who argue that the nation will lose, not profit, if GCM is permitted to extract the country's nonrenewable resources while paying only six percent in royalties and profits.

Taking Bywater's figures at face value, two-thirds of project revenues will go outside of Bangladesh - and, a recently released WikiLeaks documents suggests, toward wealthy investors in the Global North.

WikiLeaks Reveals Evidence of US Interference

In December 2010, WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable that revealed that the US ambassador to Bangladesh, James Moriarty, has actively intervened to push the Phulbari Coal Project forward.

In the July 2009 cable, Moriarty cites 60 percent US investment in GCM and urges Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury, the energy advisor to Bangladesh's prime minister, to authorize open-pit mining as "the best way forward."

Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted that the coal mine was "politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land," but that Chowdhury agreed to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.

"WikiLeaks cables prove that US officials chose to ignore the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi people marching in the streets to oppose this mine. Behind closed doors, they aggressively pushed for a reckless coal project that would evict and impoverish thousands in Bangladesh - and line the pockets of a few hedge fund managers in the US," commented Levitt.

According to the international organization BankTrack, major shareholders in GCM Resources are Aurora Investment Trust PLC, Christian Leone, Credit Suisse First Boston Equities Ltd, LCG Holdings LLC, Luxor Capital Group and Polo Resources Ltd.

LCG and Luxor Capital Group are owned by Christian Leone, a US citizen and former Goldman Sachs employee who also operates a New York-based hedge fund in his own name.

Energy at What Price?

Over 100 civil society organizations from 31 countries have endorsed a letter to the Phulbari project's worldwide financial backers, detailing human rights abuses and environmental concerns associated with the project and calling on private banks to withdraw their support.

Their concerns include the potential for further violence against project opponents. The Expert Committee commissioned by Bangladesh's government shares these concerns, warning of "a high risk of social unrest and conflict" if GCM attempts to forcibly relocate tens of thousands of people, most of whom have land-based livelihoods.

Despite these warnings and sustained protests against the project, GCM continues to maintain that the project would be good for the people of Bangladesh and would bring needed electricity.

Coal, however, is not the only energy option. An alternative development model can be seen in the Indian state of Orissa, which recently installed decentralized solar power to provide energy to 2,000 villages without large-scale displacement of people or destruction of their lands and communities

Many within Phulbari regard the GCM's coal mine project as a violation of their rights. As one community member interviewed by the International Accountability Project said: "This movement is for human rights. This is against the aggression of the multinational companies. So, the international community should come forward to save the human rights, to save the community."

Kate Hoshour and Christine Shearer

Kate Hoshour is a cultural anthropologist and senior research fellow for the International Accountability Project, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that partners with communities in the Global South to challenge destructive development projects and promote accountability to upholding local people's human rights in international development finance and practice.

Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm, part of SourceWatch, and a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. She is managing editor of Conducive and author of the forthcoming book, "Kivalina: A Climate Change Story" (Haymarket Books, 2011).


Source: http://truthout.org/energy-what-cost-protests-against-forced-eviction-us-backed-coal-mine-continue-bangladesh/1302246000
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Displacing People For Profit: Obama Administration Supports Controversial Coal Project in Bangladesh

with Christine Shearer

While President Obama tours the country raising money for his reelection campaign, we are likely to hear well-crafted speeches that are supportive of clean energy and critical of big polluters. In West Virginia and Wyoming, he will no doubt talk glowingly of so-called “clean-coal” technology. In California, he might speak to solar’s great potential, and in the Midwest, perhaps the whirling future of wind power.

There will probably be little mention, however, of Obama’s rubber-stamping of coal mine leases on public lands, or his continued support for a nuclear power renaissance. He’ll also be unlikely to address how his administration is covertly pushing for an internationally opposed open-pit coal mine operation in Bangladesh.

The massive mine, which was originally proposed in the mid-1990s, has been met with a number of roadblocks along the way, mostly in the form of grassroots outrage. Located in the Phulbari area of northwest Bangladesh, the mine would involuntarily displace anywhere between 40,000 and 200,000 villagers — with 40,000 being the conservative estimate of the company pursuing the mine. The project would also displace indigenous populations who trace their ancestry in the region back 5,000 years.

Opposition to the mine has not always been met with a democratic response. In 2006 during a massive demonstration, three young protesters were shot by the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles. A leading opponent of the mine, Mr. Nuruzuman, was publicly tortured by the Bangladesh military in February 2007. WikiLeaks recently disclosed a US embassy cable on training Bangladesh anti-terrorism units in Britain on “investigative interviewing techniques.”

The bloody killings were followed by nationwide strikes, and eventually an agreement between the Bangladeshi government and the protestors that Asia Energy, the holder of the development lease, would leave the country.

Five years later, Asia Energy has refused to leave. Instead, the company changed its name to Global Coal Management (also referred to as GCM Resources) and has maintained being “fully committed” to the Phulbari project, despite ongoing opposition from people across Bangladesh. According to GCM’s project plans, the Phulbari coal mine would operate for at least 36 years and extract 16 million tons of coal annually at peak production. Of this, three million tons would be used domestically, including the construction of at least one 500 megawatt coal plant. The remaining coal would be exported. All in all, it would be a large source of new greenhouse gas emissions in an already warming world, as well as a humanitarian disaster for the people of Bangladesh.

“Thousands of families would be immediately removed from the mine site, losing their homes and agricultural lands,” Paula Palmer, director of the Global Response Program for Cultural Survival told journalist Jeff Biggers. “Independent researchers estimate that as many as 220,000 people around the mine site would eventually be affected by reduced access to water, forcing them to abandon their lands. There is no plan for compensating these people for their suffering and loss.”

An environmental assessment of the project by GCM notes that the mine would dig up over 5,100 hectares of land, most of which is fertile farmland. Being one of the world’s most densely populated countries, the loss of productive farmland would be particularly hard felt in Bangladesh, especially for residents who rely on the land for their daily needs. The project would also divert the current flow of the Khari Pul river, and would use explosions to unearth the coal, letting loose toxic coal dust.

Huge pumps would run 24 hours a day for the 30 years of the mining project, pumping hundreds of millions of liters of water a day to prevent the mine from flooding. As a result, groundwater in an area covering about 500 square kilometers would be lowered, drying up wells used by farmers and residents. GCM says some of this water will be injected back into the ground at a distance from the mine, and can be used by residents for irrigation. But digging up coal uncovers heavy metals that can be toxic at certain levels, as well as acid-forming sulphur, posing potential health hazards.

The International Accountability Project notes that another mining operation in Bangladesh — Barapukuria — has destroyed roughly 300 acres of land and reduced available groundwater, impacting about 2,500 people in seven villages. This is due in part to the lack of government regulations over coal mining in Bangladesh.

Finally, the Phulbari project’s transport route would cut through the Sundarbans Reserved Forest (SRF), a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-protected site that contains over half of Bangladesh’s remaining natural forest, and supports at least 58 rare and threatened species — including the royal Bengal tiger.

Despite the widespread impacts, diplomatic cables revealed by Wikileaks show the Obama administration wants the mine to be built. The July 2009 cable includes comments by US Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty stating that “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment.” Moriarty also urged the Bangladesh prime minister’s energy advisor Tawfiq Elahi Chowdhury to authorize coal mining, saying “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward.”

Moriarty stated in the cable that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was “politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land,” but that the energy advisor had nevertheless agreed to build support for the project through the parliamentary process. Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: “Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months.”

GCM has stated that roughly a third of the revenues generated by the project would go to the Government of Bangladesh in the form of royalties, corporate taxes, customs, and duties. This number is disputed by many people in Bangladesh, who say the figure is inflated and does to take into account the health and environmental costs of the project. Further, GCM’s claim suggests that the other two-thirds of the revenues would be siphoned out of the country.

According to the international organization BankTrack, major shareholders in GCM Resources are Aurora Investment Trust PLC, Christian Leone, Credit Suisse First Boston Equities Ltd, LCG Holdings LLC, Luxor Capital Group and Polo Resources Ltd.

LCG and Luxor Capital Group are owned by Christian Leone, a US citizen and former Goldman Sachs employee who also operates a New York-based hedge fund in his own name. Leone founded Luxor with another former Goldman Sachs employee, Larry Buchalter. According to a March 2011 Morningstar Investment Report, Leone, Luxor, and LCG make up over half of the shareholders of GCM (54%). Luxor Capital includes Luxor Capital Partners Offshore, Ltd., a Cayman Island exempted company.

People in Bangladesh continue opposing the project, with thousands taking to the streets in both February and March of this year to protest GCM and demand that the government of Bangladesh honor its agreement to expel the company from the country. On its Web site, GCM states that it is awaiting approval for the project, which it expects to receive.

In response, the organization Avaaz has created a petition for people to oppose the mine. Meanwhile, over 100 civil society organizations from 31 countries have called on private banks to withdraw their support. Many of these organizations are concerned about the potential for further violence if a vast open pit mine that directly threatens the lands and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people is forcibly moved forward.

As President Obama tours the nation talking about a bright future of clean energy, we wonder: Obama, will you withdraw your support for this disastrous mining project?

Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm, part of SourceWatch, and a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. She is managing editor of Conducive, and author of the forthcoming book, “Kivalina: A Climate Change Story” (Haymarket Books, 2011).

This article was first published at Alternet.org

Source:http://greenmuckraker.com/category/land/
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari

The Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari ( in Bangla with English Translation )-1
Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnpEJAZiwf0

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The Blood-Soaked Banner of Phulbari ( in Bangla with English Translation )-2
Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhdO9gmuAuk&feature=related
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Bangladesh



Introduction

Bangladesh, in full, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, republic of southern Asia, in the northeastern portion of the Indian subcontinent, bordered on the west, north, and east by India, on the southeast by Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and on the south by the Bay of Bengal. The area of the country is 147,570 sq km (56,977 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Bangladesh is Dhaka.



Geographically, historically, and culturally, Bangladesh forms the larger and more populous part of Bengal, the remainder of which constitutes the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal. From 1947 to 1971 the area of Bangladesh was a province of Pakistan. As such, its official designation was changed from East Bengal to East Pakistan in 1955. On March 26, 1971, leaders of East Pakistan declared the province independent as Bangladesh (Bengali for “land of the Bengalis”), and its independence was assured on December 16, 1971, when Pakistani troops in the region surrendered to a joint force of Bangladeshi and Indian troops.




Land and Resources

Bangladesh, a low-lying country traversed by numerous rivers, has a coastline of about 580 km (360 mi) along the Bay of Bengal.





Natural Regions

Most of Bangladesh lies within the broad delta formed by the Ganges (Ganga), Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers and is subject to annual flooding. Much fertile, alluvial soil is deposited by the floodwaters. Most of the land is exceedingly flat and low-lying. The only significant area of hilly terrain, constituting less than one-tenth of the country’s territory, is the Chittagong Hill Tracts District in the narrow southeastern panhandle of the country. There, on the border with Myanmar, is Mowdok Mual (1,003 m/3,291 ft), the country’s highest point. Small, scattered hills lie along or near the eastern and northern borders with India. These areas, which receive among the heaviest rainfall in the world, provide the headwaters of the Meghna and its tributaries. The eroded remnants of two old alluvial terraces—the Madhupur Tract, in the north central part of the country, and the Barind, straddling the northwestern boundary with India—attain elevations of about 30 m (100 ft). The soil here is much less fertile than the annually replenished alluvium of the surrounding floodplain.

A huge tract of mangrove swamp, the Sundarbans (Sunderbans), lies along the coast of Bangladesh and West Bengal between the estuaries of the Meghna and Hugli (Hooghly) rivers. The Sundarbans extends about 274 km (170 mi) along the Bay of Bengal and about 100 km (62 mi) inland. It contains a vast number of tidal rivers and innumerable islands, but very little development or agriculture.



Rivers

Rivers are a prominent and important feature of the landscape in Bangladesh. The country includes about 200 navigable rivers. Two of South Asia’s largest rivers, the Ganges and Brahmaputra (locally known as the Jamuna), flow into Bangladesh, where they join to form the Padma. The Padma merges with the Meghna southeast of Dhaka; the combined rivers then empty into the Bay of Bengal. In the dry season other deltaic distributaries that lace the terrain to the west of the Meghna may be several kilometers wide as they near the Bay of Bengal, whereas at the height of the summer monsoon season they coalesce into an extremely broad expanse of silt-laden water. In much of the delta, therefore, homes must be constructed on earthen platforms or embankments high enough to remain above the level of all but the highest floods. In nonmonsoon months the exposed ground is pocked with water-filled borrow pits, or tanks, from which the mud for the embankments was excavated. These tanks are a chief source of water for drinking, bathing, and small-scale irrigation.



Climate

The climate of Bangladesh is of the tropical monsoon variety. In all areas about 80 percent of the annual rainfall typically occurs in the monsoon period, which lasts from late May to mid-October. Average annual precipitation ranges from about 1,400 mm (55 in) along the country’s east central border to more than 5,080 mm (200 in) in the far northeast. In addition to the normal monsoonal rainfall, BangladeshBay of Bengal, in the periods of April to May and September to November. Often accompanied by surging waves, these storms can cause great damage and loss of life. The cyclone of November 1970, in which about 500,000 lives were lost in Bangladesh, was one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century. Tornadoes, which also accompany the monsoon season, can cause devastation as well. is subject to devastating cyclones, originating over the

Bangladesh has warm temperatures throughout the year, with relatively little variation from month to month. January tends to be the coolest month and May the warmest. In Dhaka the average January temperature is about 19°C (about 66°F), and the average May temperature is about 29°C (about 84°F).



Plant and Animal Life

With the exception of the Chittagong Hill Tracts District, portions of the Madhupur Tract, and the Sundarbans, few extensive forests remain in Bangladesh. The forested and wooded area amounts to about one-eighth of the country’s total land area. Broadleaf evergreen species characterize the hilly regions, and deciduous trees, such as acacia and banyan, are common in the drier plains areas. Commercially valuable trees in Bangladesh include sundari (a type of mangrove for which the Sundarbans is probably named), gewa, sal (mainly growing in the Madhupur Tract), and garyan (in the Chittagong Hill Tracts District). Village groves abound in fruit trees (mango and jackfruit, for instance) and date and areca (betel) palms. The country also has many varieties of bamboo.

Bangladesh is rich in fauna, including 109 indigenous species of mammals, 295 types of birds, 119 kinds of reptiles, 19 different amphibians, and 200 varieties of marine and freshwater fish. The rhesus monkey is common, and gibbons and lemurs are also found. The Sundarbans area is one of the principal remaining domains of the endangered Bengal tiger; although the tiger is officially protected, illegal poaching is known to occur. Herds of elephants and many leopards inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts District. Other animals living in Bangladesh include mongoose, jackal, Bengal fox, wild boar, parakeet, kingfisher, vulture, and swamp crocodile.



Natural Resources

With the exception of natural gas, the mineral endowment of Bangladesh is meager. Vast reserves of natural gas—both onshore and offshore in the Bay of Bengal—have been discovered in Bangladesh since the mid-1990s. Total proven reserves amount to 142 trillion cu m (5 trillion cu ft), but actual reserves may be much greater. Natural gas is the principal energy resource in Bangladesh and an important ingredient in the manufacture of nitrogenous fertilizers. Other natural resources include a coalfield in the northwest and large peat beds that underlie most of the delta. Limestone and pottery clays are found in the northeast.



Environmental Issues

Waterborne diseases such as cholera are a serious threat to public health in Bangladesh. Until the 1970s, many of Bangladesh’s people became sick from drinking polluted water drawn from surface rivers. Aid agencies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) built shallow wells throughout the country to help provide a safe source of drinking water to Bangladesh’s poor. In the 1990s, however, it was discovered that many of these wells were contaminated by arsenic, a poison that occurs naturally in Bangladesh’s alluvial soils. In 1998 the World Bank granted Bangladesh a $32.4 million credit to identify contaminated wells and develop alternative sources of safe drinking water. UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other international agencies joined efforts with the government to address the problem. About 30 percent of the wells tested have been contaminated to some degree by arsenic. The health problems associated with arsenic poisoning are compounded by the lack of access to health care in many rural communities.



Population

The estimated population of Bangladesh (2008) is 153,546,901, making Bangladesh one of the ten most populous countries in the world. The population growth rate is 2 percent. The overall density, 1,147 persons per sq km (2,970 persons per sq mi) in 2008, is much higher than that of other countries except for microstates such as Singapore. The distribution of the population is relatively even, except in the sparsely populated Chittagong Hill Tracts District and the almost totally uninhabited Sundarbans. Bangladesh supports a large rural population, with only 25 percent of the Bangladeshi people classified as urban in 2005. Most of the people are relatively young, nearly 60 percent being under the age of 25 and only 4 percent being 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth is 63 years.





Principal Cities

Among the major cities of Bangladesh are Dhaka, the capital, with 5,378,023 inhabitants (2006); Chittagong, the leading port, with 1,360,000 inhabitants; Khulna, a rapidly growing center for small-scale industry, with 546,000 inhabitants; Nārāyanganj, the inland port for Dhaka, with 268,952 inhabitants; and Rājshāhi, located in a silk-producing area, with 324,532 inhabitants.



Ethnic Groups

More than 98 percent of Bangladesh’s inhabitants are Bengalis, who are largely descended from Indo-Aryans (speakers of the parent language of the Indo-European languages). The Indo-Aryans began to migrate into the Bengal region from the west thousands of years ago and mixed within Bengal with various indigenous groups. The remainder of the population includes Bihāris, non-Bengali Muslims who migrated from India (principally from the state of Bihār) after the 1947 partition, and various indigenous ethnic groups (locally known as tribal groups). Although Bihāris constitute the largest minority group, a large proportion of their original population repatriated to PakistanBangladesh. Other tribal groups include the Marmas and Tripuras, who also live in the Chittagong region; the Garos and Khasis, whose populations in northeastern Bangladesh are the southernmost extensions of tribal groups living in adjacent Indian states; and the Santals, who also live in northeastern Bangladesh and form, with Santals living elsewhere, South Asia’s largest tribal group. after 1971. The Chakmas, who live in the southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts District, constitute the largest tribal group in



Languages

The official language is Bengali, also known as Bangla. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family and is, along with Assamese, the most eastern of these languages. Its script is derived from the Devanagari script of Sanskrit. The cultural and national identity of ethnic Bengalis is closely associated with their language. Bengali has two distinct variants—a formal written form that developed during the 16th century, and a more casual spoken form that became an accepted literary form in the 20th century.

Although the vast majority of Bangladeshis speak Bengali, other languages are spoken in the country as well. Urdu, an Indo-Iranian language, is spoken by the Bihāris; Sino-Tibetan languages are spoken by the Garo and Santal peoples, among others; and Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken by the Chakmas, Marmas, and Tripuras in the Chittagong Hill Tracts District. English is widely used in higher education and government.



Religion

Islam, the state religion, is the faith of 88 percent of the population. Almost all of the country’s Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch; however, there are also a small number of Shia Muslims, including members of the Ismaili sect. Hindus make up most of the remainder of the population, but the country also includes small communities of Buddhists, Christians, and animists.



Education

Public education in Bangladesh generally follows the model established by the British prior to 1947. The government provides free schooling for the first eight years, including five years of primary education, which is compulsory and begins at age six. While most children are enrolled in primary schools, only 47 percent go on to secondary schools. Poor school attendance contributes to a literacy rate of only 44 percent for Bangladeshis aged 15 and older. Bangladesh lacks sufficient numbers of schools, even though facilities have increased substantially since the 1970s.

Bangladesh has several universities, the largest of which is the University of Dhaka (1921). Others include Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (1962) and Jahangirnagar University (1970), both in Dhaka; Bangladesh Agricultural University (1961) in Mymensingh; the University of Chittagong (1966); and the University of Rājshāhi (1953). Colleges include Bangladesh College of Textile Technology (1950) in Dhaka, and Chittagong Polytechnic Institute (1962). The country’s colleges and universities together enroll more than 500,000 students.



Culture

Bangladeshi culture is, in many respects, inseparable from that of greater Bengal. Beginning in the early 19th century a majority of the most widely read and admired Bengali writers and artists, Hindu as well as Muslim, worked for a time in the Indian metropolis of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Thus began the Bengal Renaissance, a cultural movement among Bengalis in Calcutta that reached its height in the early 20th century. After the capital of British India was moved from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911, Calcutta continued to be a center of Bengali culture.

The writers of the Bengal Renaissance were the pioneers of modern Bengali literature. Poet Michael Madhusudan Datta broke with established tradition to write Bengali poetry in the blank verse style, and the novelist and essayist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote what is considered the first Bengali novel, Durgeshnandini (1865). The Hindu writer, artist, and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore (in Bengali, Ravīndranātha Thākura) earned distinction as the first non-European writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, in 1913 for his volume of poems Gitanjali (Song Offerings, 1910). Several contemporaries of Tagore also gained recognition for their works. Most notably, Kazi Nazrul Islam became the first widely acclaimed Muslim Bengali writer. Today he is revered in Bangladesh as the voice of Bengali independence and nationalism. Common themes in many Bengali works include rural life, class conflict, and human struggle. See also Indian Literature.

Painting, sculpture, and architecture were strongly influenced by Muslim rule in the region during the 16th and 17th centuries (see Islamic Art and Architecture). Modern painting was pioneered by Zainul Abedin, Kamrul Hassan, and S. M. Sultan, among others. Their abstract and realist paintings achieved international renown, including Abedin’s black-and-white sketches of the Calcutta famine of 1943. Many of their works are part of the permanent collection of the Bangladesh National Museum.

Classical, light-classical, devotional, and popular music enjoy a wide following in Bangladesh. Classical forms include Hindustani devotional songs (see Indian Music). The principal schools of classical Indian dance, including bharata natyam and kathakali, are performed by professional dance troupes of Bangladesh (see Indian Dance). The manipuri is a traditional and widely popular devotional dance that has both classical and folk forms. Bengali folk dances are commonly performed during festivals and other special occasions. Folk music styles include baul, devotional songs that often combine Hindu and Muslim themes and are performed by wandering mystics. Traditional musical instruments of Bangladesh include the banshi (bamboo flute), dhole (wooden drums), and dotara (a two-stringed instrument).



Libraries and Museums

Cultural institutions are concentrated in Dhaka, which is the site of the Bangla Academy (1972), devoted to the promotion and development of the Bengali language and literature. The country’s largest library is part of the University of Dhaka, and the Bangladesh National Museum, also in Dhaka, is noted for its art and archaeology collections. The Varendra Research Museum, controlled by the University of Rājshāhi, is an important center for archaeological, anthropological, and historical research.



Economy

First as part of British India and then of Pakistan, the area now constituting Bangladesh suffered from chronic economic neglect. The region produced large quantities of agricultural goods, including most of the world’s jute, but received little investment in such basic items as transportation facilities and industrial plants. Much of the industrial investment, particularly in jute manufacturing, was made by West Pakistani-owned firms. After Bangladesh gained independence, the government took over most of the assets owned by West Pakistanis. Today most of these firms remain government-owned; a program to privatize them has made little progress.

Bangladesh’s vast reserves of natural gas, many just recently discovered, hold great potential for the country’s future economic development. However, the government’s reluctance to sanction gas exports to India and its reputation for rampant corruption have tended to discourage foreign investment. Foreign direct investment in Bangladesh has been minor relative to most other countries in Asia.

Bangladesh’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $61.9 billion in 2006. Agriculture contributed 20 percent of the GDP, industry (including manufacturing) contributed 28 percent, and services contributed 53 percent. In 2004 Bangladesh’s budget included $5.58 billion in expenditures and $4.90 billion in revenues.



Labor

The civilian labor force of Bangladesh was estimated in 2006 to include 71 million people. Agriculture (including fishing) employs 52 percent of the workers, while 14 percent worked in industry and 35 percent in services. Unemployment and underemployment are significant problems in the country.



Agriculture

Agriculture in Bangladesh consists mostly of subsistence farming on small farms. Per-capita output tends to be low. Rice, of which two or three crops can be grown each year, is the leading food crop in all areas and accounts for most of the cultivated area. Some 44 million metric tons were harvested in 2006, placing Bangladesh among the world’s leading producers of rice. High-yielding varieties of rice are cultivated as part of a government initiative to increase the country’s self-sufficiency in food grains. Other cereal crops, notably wheat, have grown in importance since the 1980s, and the area of land under wheat cultivation continues to increase. Pulses, an important source of protein in most Bangladeshi diets, are also cultivated. Other crops include various oilseeds (mainly for cooking oil), potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, bananas, mangoes, and pineapples.

The principal cash, or export, crop is jute (a plant used to make burlap and twine), grown throughout the annually flooded portions of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta; the amount of jute harvested in 2006 was about 801,000 metric tons. Tea, also a valuable cash crop, is grown almost exclusively in the northeast, around Sylhet. Cattle and buffalo are numerous, raised for dung (a source of fuel), hides (for leather), and meat.



Fishing, Forestry, and Mining

Aquatic animals provide a major source of animal protein in the Bangladeshi diet. Hilsa (a kind of herring) and prawns are among the principal commercial species. The amount of fish caught in 2005 was 2.2 million metric tons, mostly consisting of freshwater varieties. Most freshwater fish are raised in farm ponds throughout the country. The leading commercial types of trees are wild sundari, gewa, and teak. Bamboo is also an important forest product.

Natural gas production is the primary mining activity in Bangladesh. Extensive development began in the 1990s after vast reserves were discovered both onshore and offshore in the Bay of Bengal. Apart from natural gas production, mining and quarrying are of negligible importance in Bangladesh.



Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is made up principally of small-scale enterprises. The chief manufactures of the country are jute products (such as cordage and sacks), textiles, garments, processed food, beverages, tobacco items, and goods made of wood, cane, or bamboo. Large-scale factories process jute and sugarcane. Much of the nation’s heavy industry, including a small steel mill, is in the port of Chittagong.



Energy

The greatest share of Bangladesh’s electricity, 94 percent in 2003, is generated in thermal plants using either coal, natural gas, or petroleum products. Most of the rest is produced by hydroelectric facilities, including a large installation on the Karnaphuli River. In 2003 Bangladesh consumed 16.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.



Currency and Banking

The principal unit of currency in Bangladesh is the taka (68.90 taka equal U.S.$1; 2006 average); the taka is divided into 100 paisa. The government-run Bangladesh Bank handles central-banking operations. Some banks are government-owned, but there are many privately owned banks, as well as branches of foreign banks.

The Grameen (Village) Bank has pioneered innovative approaches to providing credit to the rural poor in Bangladesh. The bank’s successful approach has been used as a model in many other developing countries. Because the bank does not require collateral, it can extend credit to individuals who traditionally were excluded from the banking system. Borrowers, the majority of whom are women, use the credit to improve their standard of living through small-scale enterprises such as pottery, basket making, and textile weaving. The bank was founded in 1983 by university economics professor Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. By 2006 the bank had more than 2,000 branches nationwide and had made loans to more than 6.5 million people, helping them break out of poverty.



Commerce and Foreign Trade

The per-capita volume of Bangladeshi internal and foreign trade is low. Domestic trade in rural areas is conducted largely through thousands of periodic markets called hats. Since independence in 1971 the value of Bangladesh’s annual imports has usually been at least twice that of exports; in 2003 imports cost $8.7 billion, and exports earned $5.8 billion. The principal exports are jute products and raw jute; clothing, seafood, tea, and hides and leather goods are the other important exports. Imports include foodstuffs, basic manufactures, mineral fuels, machinery, and transportation equipment. Exports go mainly to European countries (especially Germany and Italy), the United States, Hong Kong, and Japan; imports come chiefly from India, European countries, China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and the United States. Only a relatively insignificant number of tourists visit Bangladesh each year.



Government

Since the nation’s formation in 1971, the government of Bangladesh has undergone many changes. A democratic, parliamentary form of government was established by the 1972 constitution, but constitutional amendments in 1975 set up a presidential form of government. Bangladesh again became a parliamentary democracy in 1991 after voters approved new amendments to the 1972 constitution to abolish the near-absolute powers of the presidency.

Bangladesh has an unusual electoral setup. Prior to parliamentary elections, the prime minister and his or her government must resign so that a neutral caretaker government can take over. The caretaker government assumes responsibility for running a fair and impartial election. Citizens aged 18 and older may vote.



Executive and Legislature

The president, elected by parliament to a renewable five-year term, is head of state. The prime minister, or head of government, is appointed by the president following parliamentary elections, based on a majority nomination of parliament. Bangladesh has a unicameral (single-chamber) parliament, the Jatiya Sangsad, with 300 members. All members are directly elected by voters to serve five-year terms.



Judiciary

The highest tribunal in Bangladesh is the Supreme Court, which is divided into a high court and an appellate division. The chief justice and the other justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president.



Local Government

For administrative purposes, Bangladesh is divided into six divisions—Barisāl, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rājshāhi, and Sylhet. Each division includes a number of districts, or zillas, which are the largest and most important units of local government in the country. The country’s 64 zillas are comprised of upazillas (subdistricts), which in turn are made up of unions, or groups of villages with popularly elected councils.



Political Parties

The principal political parties in Bangladesh are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which favors centrist policies and a free-enterprise economic system; the Awami League, which advocates a secular state and limited socialist economic policies; the Jatiya Party, similar to the BNP in its platform; and the Jamaat-e-Islami Party, an Islamic party advocating a greater role for Islam in public life.



Social Services

Health and welfare services in Bangladesh are limited. In 2004 the country had one physician for every 3,889 residents and one hospital bed for every 3,333 inhabitants. Much of the welfare work in the country is administered by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and Bangladesh is a major recipient of assistance from abroad.



Defense

Military service in Bangladesh is voluntary. In 2004 the nation had an army of 110,000 members, a navy of 9,000 members, and an air force of 6,500 members. There are also paramilitary forces, including the 40,000-member Bangladesh Rifles that serves as a border patrol unit. Bangladesh has been a frequent contributor to international peacekeeping forces. The country has served as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council.



International Organizations

Bangladesh is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and was admitted to the United Nations and its affiliated organizations in 1974. It also belongs to the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development, headquartered in Sri Lanka. It is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was formed in 1985 largely at the initiative of Bangladeshi president Ziaur Rahman to provide a forum for regional issues, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which promotes solidarity among nations where Islam is an important religion.



History

For the history of present-day Bangladesh prior to the partition of British India in 1947, see India.

In 1947 British India was partitioned to form two new independent states: India, comprising the predominantly Hindu areas of the former British colony, and Pakistan, comprising the predominantly Muslim areas. Pakistan was divided into an east wing (present-day Bangladesh) and a west wing (present-day Pakistan). The two wings were separated by 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of Indian territory. Differences between the two wings of Pakistan soon developed, in part because their distance made governing difficult, but also due to substantial cultural differences. Chief among these was language. The West Pakistan-dominated government insisted that Urdu be the sole national language. Bengalis insisted that Bengali (Bangla) be accorded the same status. Riots ensued, one resulting in the death of a number of students in Dhaka. In 1954 the national legislature agreed that both Urdu and Bengali would be national languages. In 1949 Bengali leaders founded the Awami League to fight for the autonomy of East Pakistan.

The 1956 constitution of Pakistan decreed that each wing would have the same number of representatives in the parliament, even though East Pakistan had a larger population and was thus underrepresented. East Pakistan accepted this arrangement on the assumption that other inequalities would be remedied. These included underrepresentation in the civil and military services and the much lower rate of new economic investment in East Pakistan. Although the east wing earned a greater amount of foreign exchange than the west, largely as the result of its exports of jute and other products, the bulk of the foreign exchange was expended in the west. In addition, the central government and military were based in West Pakistan.

In 1966 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (“Mujib”), leader of the Awami League, set forth a political and economic program that aimed to redress these inequities. The six points of his program were intended to secure the autonomy of East Pakistan. The main demands were for a parliamentary government elected by universal adult suffrage, with legislative representation on the basis of population; a federal government with responsibilities limited mainly to foreign affairs and defense; and provincial autonomy in fiscal affairs and domestic policing. To the central government, the most dangerous of the six points was the one that provided for taxes to be collected only at the provincial level, as this would have forced the central government to operate under subsidies from the provinces.

In 1969 President Ayub Khan of Pakistan was replaced by General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan. Yahya announced that a parliamentary election would be held in 1970 and decreed that the equal representation of the two wings would end. Instead, parliamentary seats would be determined by the population of each of Pakistan’s five provinces, giving East Pakistan, the largest province, 162 of the 300 seats in the National Assembly. In the elections, Mujib and the Awami League ran on the platform of the six points and won 160 seats.

The Awami League’s overwhelming victory surprised Yahya and his advisers, who had underestimated the support for the Awami League. Yahya had expected no single party to win a majority, an outcome that would have given him more power over the parliament.

Mujib claimed the prime ministership and asserted that the six points would be enacted as the basis of a new constitution. Leaders in the west, headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, objected to these assertions. Demonstrations in the east were followed by a military crackdown. Mujib and other leaders were arrested; many were killed. A civil war ensued. Large numbers of Bengalis were massacred by the Pakistani military, and some 10 million Bengalis fled to the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal.

In early December 1971 the Indian military intervened in support of Bengali forces in East Pakistan. India’s intervention was brief and decisive. The Pakistani military surrendered in mid-December. On December 16 of that year East Pakistan became the sovereign nation of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was soon recognized by most other nations, although Pakistan withheld diplomatic recognition until 1974 and China did not recognize the nation until 1976. The United Nations admitted Bangladesh in 1974.



Independent Republic

Bangladesh’s initial government was formed in January 1972 under the leadership of Mujib, who became prime minister. His immediate tasks were to rebuild the war-ravaged nation, reestablish law and order, and reintegrate the numerous Bengali war refugees returning from India and those repatriated from Pakistan. A longer-range goal was to foster economic growth in order to raise the very low living standards of the densely populated nation. In the first years of independence Bangladesh received much aid from abroad, and Mujib nationalized major industries as part of his program of developing the country along the lines of democratic socialism. He had little success, however, in improving the economy, and lawlessness prevailed.

In mid-1974 the country was devastated by floods that destroyed much of the grain crop and led to widespread famine. At the same time, political disorder was increasing, and in late 1974 the government declared a national state of emergency. In early 1975 Mujib became president under a remodeled constitution that granted him virtually dictatorial power. He immediately implemented a one-party system that allowed only his newly formed party, the Bangladesh Krishak-Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), to participate in government. He was unable to stabilize the political situation, however, and was killed in a military coup d’état on August 15, 1975. (In 1998 15 former army officers were convicted of his assassination and sentenced to death.)

In November military leaders ousted Mujib’s successor, Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed, who had initiated martial law, and installed Abusadat Muhammad Sayem as president. General Ziaur Rahman (“Zia”) assumed the presidency when Sayem resigned in 1977. Martial law was lifted in 1979, following parliamentary elections in which a party that formed to support Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), gained a majority. Despite a continuing food shortage, the nation made considerable economic progress in 1980 and 1981.

President Zia was assassinated in May 1981 as part of an abortive military coup. He was succeeded by Vice President Abdus Sattar, who won election to the presidency in his own right in November. However, a military coup in March 1982 brought Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad to power.



Other Developments

Bangladesh contended with some of the worst natural disasters in its history in the 1990s. In 1991 more than 120,000 people were killed and millions left homeless when a powerful cyclone struck the coastal areas in the Ganges River delta. In 1998 the country experienced the worst monsoonal flooding in a decade. Seasonal flooding continues to be a recurring problem in Bangladesh, an exceptionally low-lying country. Floods regularly cause loss of life as well as extensive infrastructural and agricultural damage. Rising sea levels attributed to global warming threaten to intensify flooding in the country.

In the early 1990s Bangladesh’s already devastated economy was further strained by an influx of an estimated 270,000 refugees from the Arakan province of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The refugees were Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority in Arakan, who claimed to be fleeing political persecution under the new military regime of Myanmar. Many of the refugees were subsequently repatriated to Myanmar, but some returned to Bangladesh in the late 1990s.

In 1996 Bangladesh and its most powerful regional neighbor, India, reached an agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Ganges. Relations had been strained since 1975, when the Indian diversion barrage at Farakka, just inside the Indian border, began to route water from the Ganges into the Hugli (Hooghly) in order to alleviate a siltation and salinization problem at Kolkata. During the low-flow months of April and May, the diversion of water created a problem for irrigation systems in southwestern Bangladesh. The treaty, designed to facilitate more equitable water sharing, thus addressed one of Bangladesh’s most prolonged and troublesome foreign relations issues.

In 1997 the government took steps to resolve a longstanding insurgency in the eastern Chittagong Hill Tracts District. Some minority ethnic (or tribal) groups, primarily Buddhist Chakmas, had demanded autonomy in the region since the 1970s, often resorting to guerrilla warfare. In the early 1990s the insurgency resulted in a flood of Chakma refugees into India. Most returned to Bangladesh after a 1997 peace agreement guaranteed the tribal groups in the Chittagong region greater powers of self-governance.

Bangladesh’s continuing economic problems, combined with its status as one of the world’s most populated countries, poses one of its biggest challenges in the years ahead. Widespread poverty has remained a pervasive problem in Bangladesh, as successive governments have generally failed to attend to the welfare of the people. Although the economy has grown regularly since the late 1970s, the benefits of that growth have not filtered down to the average person. Bangladesh remains at or near the bottom of almost all international lists measuring economic and social development, while being placed at the top of lists for corruption in government. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has received only minor foreign direct investment in comparison to other Asian countries.

Source:http://www.photobyfahad.com/fahadnew/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31&Itemid=20
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