Vol. 4 Num 219 Tue. January 06, 2004  
Front Page

Garos issue ultimatum to cancel Modhupur eco-park scheme
Environment minister's removal demanded

The Garos of Modhupur yesterday gave a seven-day ultimatum to the prime minister to implement a five-point charter of demands, including cancellation of a forest conservation and eco-tourism plan that they fear would threaten their traditional lifestyle.

The removal of Environment and Forest Minister Shajahan Siraj and transfer of Tangail's deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and divisional forest officer also took centre stage in the charter of demands.

The demands came from a demonstration of several thousand incensed indigenous people who blocked Tangail-Mymensingh Highway, flew black flags and carried the body of Piren Slan, killed in fire from forest guards on Saturday.

Police and forest rangers opened fire on a group of Garos, killing 25-year-old Piren instantly and injuring 25 others including women and children, as they raced to resist the conservation project the forest department took up in 2000.

"The government is implementing the project violating the rights of citizens," said Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain who attended a protest rally at Talki Bazar, 50 kilometres north of Tangail town.

Dr Kamal, throwing his weight behind the Garo community in their resistance, said some ruling party men would benefit from the Modhupur project that made the Garos victims.

Demonstrators will be flying black flags atop their houses and wearing black badges until the government meets their demands, and will enforce hartal and other programmes in Modhupur if their demands go unmet.

The Garos submitted a memorandum to the prime minister through Deputy Commissioner of Tangail Kouser Tohura, who also addressed the rally and assured the Garos of suspension of the project.

Gono Forum leaders Saifuddin Ahmed Manik and Pankaj Bhattacharya and Secretary General of Bangladesh Forum for Indigenous People Sanjeeb Drong also addressed the rally, chaired by Ajay A Mri, local community leader.

The demonstrators also demanded trial of the killers of Piren and compensation to his family and the wounded.

The district administration formed a committee to probe Saturday's incident that created widespread outrage.

Chittagong Hill Tracts Student Council, the student wing of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity, brought out a protest procession in Rangamati yesterday evening.

The 11-party left alliance in Dhaka demanded a judicial investigation into the killing of Piren.

More than 20,000 people have been affected because of the eco-park in Modhupur, President of the Communist Party of Bangladesh Monjurul Ahsan Khan told a press conference.

Bangladesh Forum for Indigenous People scheduled a protest meeting at the Central Shaheed Minar for January 8.