Ignoring Section 144, several thousand people of Phulbari upazila in the district yesterday evening held a brief rally at Nimtola More protesting the government decision to let Asia Energy resume its survey in coal mine area.
The upazila administration had imposed Section 144 yesterday, from 12:00pm to midnight, fearing deterioration of law and order.
The restriction on gathering stood in the way of a scheduled rally of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports to protest the government move.
In the face of the restriction, the oil-gas protection committee called a dawn-to-dusk strike in Phulbari for today. Prof Anu Mohammad, secretary of the committee, announced the strike at a press conference in Nimtola More around 3:30 pm.
Minutes later, the Phulbari Chamber of Commerce and Industries called an indefinite strike and blockades in the upazila from today at a press conference saying that Section 144 had hampered businesses in the upazila.
Sources said the Phulbari upazila administration decided to impose Section 144 in the scheduled meeting area around 11:30am. Initially, Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Moniruzzaman imposed the restriction on gathering from 12:00pm to 7:00pm which was later extended until the midnight.
Protesting the action, Prof Anu Mohammad alleged at the press conference that the government had proved that it wanted to sell national resources through a chaos. “But the people of the country will thwart the attempt as they are the real owner of the resources,” he added.
He demanded that the government cancel the decision of allowing the Asia Energy resume its survey. He also announced a demonstration for November 28 and warned the government of a tougher agitation if it did not meet their demand.
Tension brewed up in the area after the announcement of the hartals. Around 4:30pm, local traders led by Md Manik Sarker, Mayor of Phulbari municipality and president of Phulbari Chamber of Commerce and Industries, brought out a procession ignoring Section 144.
Police dispersed the procession triggering more tension in the area. Around 500 policemen had been deployed in Phulbari to maintain law and order.
As of midnight yesterday, Phulbari police were preparing to file a case against those who violated Section 144.
Earlier on August 26, 2006, thousands of people of Phulbari led by leaders of the oil-gas protection committee staged demonstration centring the coal mine issue.
Three persons were killed and around a hundred injured in the demonstration when members of then Bangladesh Rifles [now Border Guard Bangladesh] opened fire at the protestors.
The deadlock ended following a negotiation between the locals and representatives of the then BNP government. A six-point agreement was signed.
Locals allege that the agreement is yet to be implemented.
Meanwhile, Workers' Party of Bangladesh, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Samajtantrik Dal of Bangladesh, Gonotantrik Bam Morcha and Gonosonghati Andolan in separate statements condemned the imposition of Section 144 in Phulbari.
The Gonotantrik Bam Morcha and the oil-gas protection committee are to organise protest rallies and processions in front of Jatiya Press Club today at 3:00pm and 3:30pm, respectively.