REPORT BY JAI SEN IN DELHI (See also, Allied Campaigns)
The Bhopal Demo in Delhi today staged a dramatic, theatrical ‘die-in’ on Parliament Street in central New Delhi for about an hour today at 5 pm, blocking and disrupting traffic and attracting a fair crowd of people. About 50-60 Bhopalis lay down randomly at the intersection of the street where they are camped, Jantar Mantar Road, and Parliament Street and covered themselves with white shrouds. Some women and some children sat down among them, mourning them – and this was not theatre because for so many, it was such a painful re-enactment of what happened that night twenty-one years ago in December 1984, and it could well have been their children or their parents who were there… and they cried, silently, remembering.
A George Bush with a massive head, almost like real, pranced around the dead bodies, accompanied by armed militia who menaced everyone
The demo then broke out into a rally towards the Parliament Street Police Station.
But then there was more theatre: not only is Jantar Mantar the only area in the whole of Delhi where you are allowed to scream (CDDB – Cacim Delhi Demos Bulletin 1 : THE SCREAM), but the way the state
has set up things, the whole act of protest – in this tiny cage, or stage, erected by the state – is itself now rendered as theatre.
The Bhopal rally – remembering, after all, the massacre of several thousand people – marched up to the barricades that the police had
set up (three rows of steel fencing, with rows of police lined up behind each one of them), and the police asked them whether they would like to court arrest. The rally had already decided that they would not (because they want to continue with their dharna, in particular the hunger strike starting tomorrow), so they said so, and so the police just looked on, looking rather bored; and the rally instead stood there with their banners, proudly and angrily chanting slogans. And then returned to their camp, continuing to sing slogans as they marched.
But what if they had said ‘Yes’ ? Presumably, the police would then have taken up battle positions instead of looking bored, and the rally
would have charged, and the batons would have fallen on their heads, and they would have been arrested and dragged into the police station. In other words, the whole act of protest in Delhi is now regulated, controlled, commodified.
How long are movements going to accept this ?!
The Jantar Mantar site looks different this evening. About 100
more Bhopalis have come in from Bhopal, and so their camp is now much bigger and spread out along much more of the footpath than they had been, so far. The Bhopalis lit candles in the median strip (where the play had taken place the other day), and gathered around, and sang.
And tomorrow morning, they go on an indefinite hunger strike.