The United States?multinational?energy company?ConocoPhillips?will soon start looking for gas in a deep offshore area in the Bay of Bengal.
With a short fall in the supply of gas and with declining reserves, the?Bangladeshi?government is desperate to find new supplies of gas.?It is the first time that the government has opened up its offshore territory to foreign exploration.?However, some are criticizing the government for signing this new deal with an international oil company. David Bergman?hears?from both sides.
Bangladesh not only uses gas to fire its power stations to produce electricity; gas has also become essential for many other parts of its economy.
Ijaz Hossain, is one of the country?s leading energy experts and a director of the country?s own gas exploration company, BAPEX. Continue reading “Bangladesh opens its gas fields to US company”
One of the videos presented. A compilation from several videos on major protests in 2011
Long before CSR had become a buzzword and superstars and corporates began to find it essential to have pet social causes to support, we had set up Drik, a small organisation in Bangladesh, which made social justice its raison d’?tre.
Over two decades later, when my show on extra judicial killings at the gallery of Drik, was interpreted by a group of international curators as a ?fantastic performance?. It was time for me to take stock, and see where the art world situated itself and whether I belonged to this marketplace.
As collective movements go, the sub-continent has had its share. Colonial rule, oppression by the landed gentry, women?s struggle for equality in a patriarchal society and the injustice of caste have all been challenged. The solidarity of sustained groups, often against overwhelmingly stronger entities with far greater resources. had been a trademark for undivided India and for Bengal in particular.
It was the dynamics of a ruling class propped up by local agents who stood to profit from inequality, that led to the Gandhian strategy of non-violent resistance. Other methods had also been tried, and Subhas Chandra Bose, with a much more militant outlook, also had a huge following. The Tebhaga peasant movement by the Kisan Sabha had led to laws being formulated that limited the share of the landlords.
Partition did not cure these ills. The ouster of the British did not break up the class structure, but replaced one set of exploiters with another. The British, and other imperial powers continued to maintain unequal trade relations, sometimes in the guise of aid.
Cultural activists in Bangladesh had operated within this milieu. With the military under the control of the West wing, the more populous East Pakistan felt the weight of oppression. Military rule became the vehicle for continued repression but failed to quell the unrest and even the final genocidal attack on the people of East Pakistan, was repulsed by a countrywide resistance.
An independent Bangladesh, free of foreign occupiers, should have been a land free of repression. The reality was very different and cultural activists have had to find new ways of resistance. This has required documentation, articulation and tools of creative expression to deal with injustice in many forms. Having been failed by the major political parties (both government and opposition), cultural actors formed their own groups. Operating with minimum resources, we devised numerous initiatives to mobilise public opinion. Using both new and traditional media, as well as the networking ability of social media we formed lean and tenacious campaigns that chipped away at the establishment and its cohorts insisting on being heard and bent on achieving justice.
But the corporatization of modern Bangladesh has brought about many changes. I remember as a child that we used to respond to natural disasters by grouping together, singing songs, raising money, collecting food and old clothes and going out to affected areas to distribute them. We now leave such activities to the NGOs. Social movements are now sponsored by multinationals and protesters in rallies have sunshades parading the brand logos of telecom companies.
We had simultaneously taken on the hegemony of the west and its new southern accomplices, as well as the repressive regimes that operated within the nation state. But today we also need to examine how social movements have been appropriated, and our inability to operate without ?funding? regardless of the cause seriously limits our capacity for social and political intervention.
As an artist, as an activist, and as an organizer, I have along with my colleagues taken on technology, art, education and culture in its diverse forms and have presented a cohesive front that has challenged the military, major political parties and corporates, while continuing to operate independently within public and private spheres.
The presentation attempts to show how, by resisting not only the formal entities that have usurped power, but also the cultural norms that attempt to pigeon-hole cultural practice in terms of ?fine art?, I as an individual artist, as well as worker in a commune, have tried to ensure that our ?art? does not limit itself to admiration in a gallery. It breathes the gunpowder laden air of street battles with police, the dank vapours of the factory floor and pervades the silence of patriarchal inner chambers.
8th January 2012
In an exclusive interview with ShahidulNews, secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Minerals-Power-Ports, Anu Muhammad, professor of economics of Jahangirnagar University, speaking outside the Communist Party of Bangladesh office in New Paltan in Dhaka, talked of over 50 activists having been arrested by the police in the early hours of the hartal.
Professor Muhammad was amongst those arrested but was later released. Other activists who remain arrested include active member of the committee Zonayed Saki and Saiful Huq a leading member of Biplobi Workers Party.
They were arrested this morning as they were heading towards their office. The professor spoke of the police having used force and numerous activists being beaten up.
Sunday’s hartal was called on the 18th January in protest against the controversial government treaty (PSC) with the American power giant ConocoPhillips. Activists maintain the contract, which has not yet been made public, only allows Bangladesh to have 20 per cent of the explored gas from Bay of Bengal, allowing the company to export the remaining 80 per cent.
Eyewitness report from Nasrin Siraj:
Anu Muhammad, professor of economics of Jahangirnagar University and member secretary of National Committee to??protect oil-gas-mineral resources, power and port is arrested from Paltan today (3 July) at 6:53 a.m.. While he was walking towards the office of Communist Party of Bangladesh to join the other activists of National Committee for strike campaign, at least 40 anti riot police came forward, grabbed him and took him away in a prisoner?s van. During the arrest he was silent. Anha F Khan, Mehedi Hassan and I were accompanying him today morning while he was walking from his residence. Mehedi Hasan was also arrested.
Today, from the very morning police started arresting activists of the National Committee. First, at 5:45 a.m leader of Student Union of Jahangirnagar University was arrested from Paltan. All the central offices of left political parties in Topkhana Road and Paltan were surrounded by police from the early morning. Almost all the central leaders of the National Committee are under police custody now.
Breaking News: Nasrin Siraj has since been arrested.
Professor Anu Muhammad, speaking from Paltan Thana (Police Station) in Motijheel reported that except for a handful of activists, the rest of the people arrested were still in the police station. “The government is trying to lump our activists with the Islamic Movement to confuse the issue and divert attention from their controversial signing of the ‘sell-out’ contract.”
News update: 10: 10 pm July 3rd 2011.
All arrested activists at Paltan Thana have been released. Paltan had the highest concentration of high profile activists, including Mushrefa Mishu, Saiful Huq, Zonayed Saki and Ruhin Hussain Prince and a large number of women activists. Nasrin Siraj Annie had been earlier released at 7:30 pm.
Activists at Shahbagh Thana and Lalbagh Thana are yet to be released. A large number of respected citizens, as well as MPs of the ruling party campaigned for the release of the activists. Barister Sara Hossain and other lawyers were also present at Paltan Thana and demanded the release of the activists.
Except for one activist, all other activists from Shahbagh and Lalbagh Thana were also released by 10:30 pm. Jubilant crowds clapped as the leaders of the protest rally were released.
Rahnuma Ahmed was amongst around twenty people who were injured as police clashed with protesters at a rally held near the National Press Club in Dhaka on 14th June 2011.
Members of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports were protesting against the government bid to give lease of two deep-sea blocks to US oil company ConocoPhillips South Asia New Venture Ltd for oil-gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal, which they say is against the interest of Bangladesh and is designed to profit a few corrupt individuals.
The police blockaded the rally near the secretariat, and baton charged the protesters as they approached the barricade. Writer and anthropologist Rahnuma Ahmed was one of several protesters who were injured during the clashes. The government plans to sign a contract with Connoco Phillips on the 16th June 2011.