On 2 September, a demonstration through the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was proceeding peacefully until it reached a police blockade. After a standoff, sections of the police moved in on specific targets.
Professor Anu Muhammad, a leading economist and campaigner, was savagely beaten, both his ankles broken. Two women activists who ran forward to protect him sustained serious head injuries and remain in hospital. More than 50 other protesters were injured.
The protest had been called by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, a broad coalition of left groups, environmental campaigns and individuals.
Set up in 1998, it has campaigned, with some success, against the leasing out of Bangladesh’s main port to the US, the construction of oil pipelines, and other issues linked to the exploitation of Bangladesh’s natural resources and people by multinational corporations in the US, Europe and Britain, and their backers in Bangladesh.
The police violence provoked an angry response, with a four-hour general strike called for 14 September and public meetings taking place around the country. It was also the trigger for the London branch of the National Committee to call a public meeting in Whitechapel, east London, on 13 September.
Several members of the National Committee spoke from the top table, along with guest speakers from the campaigning group London Mining Network, and the Socialist Party, while others spoke from the floor in a lively discussion. The meeting’s stated objectives were to condemn the police violence on 2 September, support the protest marches and strikes, oppose the plunder of mineral resources by multinationals, and resist the plan for opencast mining in Phulbari, Bangladesh.
Manny Thain, east London