Open Letter: We Condemn International Oil Companies in Bangladesh and State Violence against Bangladeshi Activists

On September 2, 2009, the members of a nationwide alliance in Bangladesh — the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports — were brutalized by the state police in Dhaka, Bangladesh. More than fifty members were injured. The national committee was conducting a peaceful demonstration and march as part of an announced program to protest the Bangladesh government’s anti-people offshore deals with international oil companies. Such deals, according to the protesters, would enable those companies to explore, extract, and eventually own those resources without the people’s consent. The deals in question reveal how the ruling classes in Bangladesh operate in close class cahoots with corporations and imperialism.

The particular occasion for this protest was the Bangladesh government’s recent decision to award gas exploration rights in the Bay of Bengal to international oil companies. The national committee announced the program in protest against the government’s decision to award three blocks to two international oil companies with a provision allowing them to export up to 80 per cent of gas. The committee and protesters feared such a move would threaten the country’s energy security and, by extension, the very sovereignty of the country. This national committee has long argued that the government’s drive for plundering its own people’s resources comes at a high price, and lacks forethought about how these resources might benefit the people of Bangladesh instead of multinational companies.

As the protesters were marching peacefully, police charged on the protesters, threw many of them to the ground, and brutally beat them with batons and kicked them with heavy boots. Over fifty protesters were injured, and a number of them suffered serious injuries. Certain key members of the committee were clearly targeted. Among the seriously injured was the member-secretary of the National Committee — Professor Anu Muhammad. His legs were broken by police batons. Anu Muhammad is not only chair of the Department of Economics at Jahangirnagar University and the leading political economist in Bangladesh — whose work has proven immensely influential among the youth — but he is also internationally known for committed political activism for democracy and justice and against imperialism, patriarchy, and many other forms and forces of oppression — local and global. We see the brutal attack on Anu Muhammad as an attack on democracy and progressive politics. Others injured included Saiful Haque, the general secretary of Biplobi Communist Party in Bangladesh, and Biplob Mondol, the Chhatra Front leader.

As teachers, students, writers, artists, and activists — who also consider ourselves citizens of this world believing in peace, justice, and democracy — we declare the following:

  • We condemn the police brutality against members of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh.
  • We condemn all international oil companies interested in exploiting the natural resources of Bangladesh. We think they should back out of any deals they have or wish to have with Bangladesh.
  • We demand that the Bangladesh government ensure the most appropriate and effective treatment of all who were wrongfully and seriously injured by the police.
  • We demand that the action plan and demands of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports be taken seriously rather than silenced through any form of brutality.

We express our deep solidarity with the people of Bangladesh who are struggling to protect their own national and natural resources from foreign companies. And we support the Bangladeshi people’s right to self-determination under all circumstances.


Concerned Teachers, Students, Writers, Artists, and Activists Around the World:

Melissa Hussain, DeVry University
Michigan, USA

Dr. Michael Lupro, North Carolina A&T
Greensboro NC USA

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