Diane Wilson launches the Worldwide Hunger Strike
17 July 2002

15 August protests at Seadrift and worldwide
Pictures of Diane outside Dow

Fisherwoman launches worldwide hunger strike outside Dow's gates

Even as the Delhi dharna ended, a lone woman wearing a cowboy hat settled herself in the back of an old pick-up truck outside the Dow (formerly Carbide) chemical plant in Sea Drift, Texas. She announced that she was taking up the hunger strike to support the demands of the Bhopal survivors.

Diane Wilson is an extraordinary woman. Mother and housewife, she is also a fourth-generation fisherman, and captain of her own shrimp boat. She used to make a quiet living from shrimping until she started seeing dead dolphins and pelicans. When the shrimp started coming up dead, she realised it was time to act.

Says Diane, "I have been battling the huge chemical corporations (Union Carbide/Dow, Alcoa, BP Chemical, Dupont, Formosa Plastics, Carbon Graphite) that made our county, Calhoun, the top number one county in the nation for toxic disposal since l989. I am founder of Calhoun County Resource Watch, a non-profit environmental group. Most of my members are Anglo, Vietnamese, and Hispanic commercial fishermen.

"To fight for the bays of our hometown, I have been
on four hunger strikes, two that were over 30 days, and attempted to sink my own 42 feet shrimp boat on top of an illegal discharge that was killing the bay while surrounded by 3 boatloads of US CoastGuard."

"I have won zero discharge agreements from two of the companies, Formosa Plastics and Alcoa and had zero discharge resolutions passed by both the Calhoun County Commissioners Court and Seadrift city council. The Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) Union also passed a national resolution for zero discharge."

For this work, Diane has won numerous environmental awards, and been featured on 48Hours and Lifetime TV. A children's book, Nobody Particular by Molly Bangs tells the story of her battle. She recently wrote her own account of her struggle against the polluters. The Seadrifter: A Tale of an Unreasonable Woman.

Diane says: “My life as a fisherwoman has taught me one thing, that there are no seas with lines and divisions. So similarly if there is a border that separates me as an American from the anguish and sorrow of my
sisters and brothers in Bhopal and their fight for justice, then that line is a false and lying one. All the great religions teach that we are one. One woman's pain is a pain to all. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Bhopal is a symbol of the unfinished business of justice that lies before all mankind and the struggle should never be abandoned.”


Fishermen in Tamilnadu go on hunger strike for Bhopal

Like Diane, Jayakumar, Kalaisekar and Arul earn their living, from the sea.

Their catch includes shrimp, which can earn them nearly four times as much as fish. But with marine resources being depleted, their catch grows smaller each year. They too are worried about pollution of the ocean, and like so many others around the world, they are touched by the injustice suffered by the gas victims of Bhopal.

One more thing to link us: The Tamil word katamarram for a boat made of two tied-together log hulls, has given the world the concept of the catamaran.

Support is growing around the world

More than fifty members of the Tamilnadu Women's Collective have joined the hunger strike, with women taking different days to fast.

Three organic gardeners from Maine, USA, are fasting each Wednesday between now and 27 August.

In New York, environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger said:
"It is unconscionable that after nearly 18 years, Union Carbide and its CEO Warren Anderson have not had to face charges.
How has Union Carbide Corporation managed to escape with total impunity? How has Mr Anderson managed to avoid extradition for the 11 years in which he and his Corporation have been thumbing their noses at the Bhopal Court, thus breaking the legally-binding undertaking they gave to a US court? Why does the Indian government now seek to reward him by diluting the charges against him?

"These are questions that will be asked in Bhopal on Wednesday. People who lost loved ones and have been
living with terrible illnesses for nearly 18 years will want to know, ‘how did the Corporation get away with paying
us such obscenely miniscule compensation’? ‘Would this have happened if 8,000 people had been gassed to death in the US or the UK on one single night?’ ‘Why is human life in developing countries so devalued?’ What answers shall we give them? Should we hold up our hands and talk about the importance of multinational investment in India? Or legal technicalities? Should we say that when President Bush talks about corporate accountability, he specifically excludes Union Carbide and its new owners Dow Chemicals?

"What happened in 1984 was an unspeakable tragedy, what has happened since is a travesty of justice, an abuse of fundamental human rights on a contemptuous scale. It cannot be allowed to continue. Whether or not the Indian government has its way on Wednesday, the fight for justice must go on. I call upon decent people all
round the world who believe in fairness and justice to join us in supporting the poor, the helpless, and the abused
gas survivors of Bhopal."

Venice, Italy

Deputy Mayor Gianfranco Bettin and members of his team went on hunger strike between 13 to 17 July in sympathy and solidarity with the hunger strikers in New Delhi.

Venice, California

Environmental activist Jodie Evans is rousing members of her group, Bad Babes and their Buddies which she described as "a group of women educated in non-violent direct action available to the greater community." Jodie is planning to fly out soon to join Diane Wilson outside Dow's gates in Sea Drift.

Kristin Rothballer from San Francisco has just completed two days of fasting with Diane.

Also heading for Sea Drift, noted environmental lawyer Carolyn Raffensperger from North Dakota.

What do the hunger strikers want?

In a word, justice.

The hunger strikes around the world, involving increasing numbers of people, aim to bring pressure on the Indian government to withdraw its application, and to put pressure on Dow Chemicals (of which Union Carbide is now a wholly-owned subsidiary) to accept Carbide's liabilities in India as it has in the USA.

The hunger strikers allege that the Indian government’s decisions are a direct result of behind-the-scenes pressure by Dow Chemical, who made Union Carbide a wholly owned subsidiary in February 2001. Until now, criminal proceedings against Union Carbide were difficult to enforce legally because, though the accused refuse to appear in Court, Union Carbide no longer has any assets in India. However, Dow's $10 billion acquisition of Union Carbide opened the possibility of enforcing criminal liability against the corporation as Dow has four subsidiaries and substantial assets in India. It is believed that an intensified campaign by the Bhopal survivors and their international supporters to hold Dow liable for the crimes of Carbide has caused Dow's insecurity and hence their pressure on the Government of India to effectively close the files.

The hunger strikers around the world strongly demand that:

The Government of India withdraw its application for dilution of charges before the 17 July hearings at the Bhopal Magistrates court and take immediate steps to extradite Warren Anderson.

The Government of India act rapidly to hold Dow Chemicals, Carbides new owner, responsible for the pending medical and environmental rehabilitation liabilities in Bhopal.

Dow Chemicals take full responsibility for Union Carbide’s liabilities in Bhopal

Here's what else you can do to help.