Ansar Ahmed Ullah
On Thursday, 26 August, a large number of transnational anti-mining and climate justice campaigners held a 2-hour long protest outside the Bangladesh High Commission in London, where they honoured the victims of the Phulbari Massacre, where three young people were killed and hundreds injured protesting against British financed coal mine. From the Remembrance rally, marking the 15th anniversary of Phulbari Day, forty-one climate justice organisations called on the High Commissioner to push for the de-listing of GCM Resources from the London Stock Exchange and the banning of new coal projects in Bangladesh.
The rally in London was organised by the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network, with support from Foil Vedanta, Fossil Free London, Bibortan, Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network, Global Justice Bloc, Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity, Coal Action Network, and Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike.
Activists from XR Youth UK, Global Justice Bloc, and Fossil Free London joined the Phulbari Solidarity Group and London Mining Network and occupied the entrance of the Bangladesh High Commission for two hours. The rally marked the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Massacre. The gathered activists laid sunflowers, candles, and banners outside the High Commission, accompanied by mournful cello music by Clary XR Youth Solidarity artist. The memorandum to Bangladesh High Commissioner was shared and read out loudly by seven activists, led by Rumana Hashem, the coordinator of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and eye witness to the 2006 massacre. A three-minute silence was held in memory of Al Amin, Mohammad Saleqin and Tarikul Islam. These three, aged 11,13 and 18 respectively, were killed on 26 August 2006 when a paramilitary force opened fire during a nonviolent demonstration of an estimated 80,000 people against the eviction of 130,000 people in Phulbari to make way for a 572-million ton open cast coal mine. More than 200 other demonstrators were injured.
A memorandum signed by 41 climate justice organisations, demanding that the High Commissioner put pressure on the London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM Resources, was accepted by First Officer on behalf of the Bangladesh High Commission.
Solidarity speeches were given by Richard Solly, network coordinator of London Mining Network, Sara Cordovez of Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity, and placards were read loudly by XR YouthUK activists. Activists said that they will come back to this venue until the day the Phulbari Verdict is implemented.
In the afternoon, 200 protesters from across the world joined the campaigners at a Live streamed witness and solidarity event hosted by the Phulbari Solidarity Group, Bibortan, and London Mining Network online, where speakers from Phulbari communities and Bangladesh National Committee were joined by Women of Colour, Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network. Artists and eco-feminists from Bibortan cultural group performed live music for ecological struggles.
Rumana Hashem, the coordinator of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye-witness to the Phulbari shooting said, “Bangladesh High Commission is fully aware that the London Stock Exchange is hosting a company that is responsible for gross human rights violations and that does not have a valid license for business in Bangladesh. But they are not taking action to prevent this crime. I have witnessed GCM’s violence in Phulbari. 15 years on, the company continues to grab money by selling deceitful shares on Phulbari’s name. The company does not hold any valid asset to operate in Phulbari and does not have permission for mining anywhere in the world. The Bangladesh’s state minister stated that the government will take legal action against GCM. That was in 2019. Its’ been two years since. It is now the High Commission and Bangladesh Government who should take action.”
Of the campaign to de-list GCM, Richard Solly (Network Coordinator of London Mining Network) said, ” It is utter madness for GCM to keep pressing on with a new opencast coal project which would displace tens of thousands of people dependent on rural occupations, with no guarantee that they could find alternative work, and at a time when we know we have to stop burning coal anyway. UK authorities should not allow London share markets to be used to finance this kind of destructive project. GCM should be delisted.”
Sara Calaway, Co-founder (Women of Colour) said, “The determined resistance of women in particular halted plans for a devastating coal mine. People of Phulbari — women, men and children, are acting also for us and we must act with them. Our thoughts are with the families of the children shot dead by paramilitaries and those injured. These brutal attacks did not to stop protests. Women, as often happens, were central — on marches, road- blocks, and even courageously chasing away paramilitaries with brooms and cooking utensils to protect lives. Grassroots women are the carers everywhere. They and all carers for people and planet de-serve a income to strengthen our struggle and win.”
Sara Cordovez of Extinction Rebellion Youth Solidarity said, “As XR Youth Solidarity, we stand with the Phulbari Solidarity Group in marking the 15th anniversary of the Phulbari Day shooting. For us at XR Youth Solidarity, Phulbari Day represents the undeniable link between people and the planet: our global fossil-fuel addicted economy is killing people, directly and indirectly, and driving us towards the ecological and climate collapse while leaving communities like Phulbari to mourn for the youth that stood against this fate. We stand united against GCM and emphatically condemn their continued listing in the London Stock Exchange.”
Speaking from Bangladesh, Professor Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary of the central National Committee to Protect Natural Resources said, “This is unbelievable that a fraud company like GCM which has no credibility even as a business house is still enjoying support from the British establishment to continue with these. This company has been cheating people in share business to make money in the name of Phulbari where they were behind killing people, on which they have no valid license, where they tried to implement a disastrous project, from where they were driven out in 2006 by a mass uprising and never allowed to enter.
Since 2006, in all these years they have been trying to incite violence in the area, tried to mobilize criminals against community leaders, made false cases against them, but could not enter into the area. Peoples resistance remains strong. These frauds should also be driven out by British institutions, including LSE. We are looking forward to seeing the trial of these criminals in Dhaka and London.”