More than 1500 students descended on Indian Consulates and Government offices nationwide yesterday, April 15, 2005, to demand action and justice for Bhopal. The protests, organized by Amnesty International Group 133 (Somerville, Massachusetts), the Association for India’s Development, and Students for Bhopal, made four key demands of the Indian Government:
• Enforce the clean-up of the contaminated Bhopal site by the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)/Dow Chemical Company;
• Ensure that Dow/UCC provide full compensation for the damage done to health and the environment by the ongoing contamination of the site;
• Supply clean, safe water for the affected communities; and
• Provide free healthcare for everyone affected by the disaster, including the children born of parents affected by the gas leak.
The flagship demonstration, organized by Amnesty International Group 133, brought 1500 students to the Indian Consulate in New York as a part of their 10th-annual “Get on the Bus” protest. Satellite protests were also held in Washington, DC; Houston; and Chicago (April 20th); while other satellite actions targeted the Indian Government in San Francisco; Delhi; and Chennai, India.
More than 1500 high school and college students from 10 states throughout the Northeast converged on New York to protest for Bhopal, Tibetan human rights and gay rights in Jamaica. As part of the “Get on the Bus” protest, the students watched the film “20 Years Without Justice” on the buses and part of the BBC film, “One Night in Bhopal”, once they arrived in New York.
Following speeches from activists involved in the struggle for human rights in Tibet and Jamaica, Gary Cohen spoke to the students about Bhopal, telling the story of the disaster and describing their struggle against chemical trespass and chemical terror. In a powerful moment, the students stood up en masse and put their hands over their hearts to declare their belief that children have a right to be born free of chemical poisons, and that their mothers have a fundamental right to breastfeed without passing on these poisons to their newborns.
Then the students marched to the Indian Consulate where they remained for over an hour chanting “Bring Dow to Justice”, “22,000 Dead; When Will it End?”, and making up their own songs for justice. Their chants reverberated down 5th Avenue and could be heard clearly through the thick stone walls of the Indian Consulate, where several Amnesty representatives, Bhopal campaigners, and students met with the Deputy Consul General, Mr. Ashok Tomar. Amid the roar of the protest, Amnesty International delivered a letter describing the violation of the Bhopalis’ human rights and asking the Indian Government to take action and comply with the recommendations made in Amnesty International’s recent report on the Bhopal disaster, Clouds of Injustice. Following the meeting Mr. Tomar promised to transmit our concerns to the Indian Government.
On April 15th, 2005, eight members of the Association for India’s Development-College Park and other Bhopal supporters gathered in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington DC to protest, shout slogans, and deliver a letter to the Indian Government demanding justice for the Bhopal victims. The protest was a satellite action carried out in solidarity with the massive “Get on the Bus” protest in New York City. Following the hour-long protest, the Bhopal supporters delivered a copy of the Amnesty letter to Mr. AK Gupta, the Community Minister at Indian Consulate. “Mr. Gupta looks angry in the photo, and was apparently upset with our slogan shouting for Bhopal.”
“Two people from AID-Houston went to the Indian consulate this morning. We requested an audience with the Consul General, Mr. Tayal, but were denied since we didn’t have an appointment. His Personal Assistant talked to us for a while and we enumerated the demands of the Bhopal campaign, particularly the need to decontaminate the site and provide clean drinking water, and handed him a modified version of the GOTB letter, which he promised to relay to the Indian government. He was a little disconcerted when we told him that we planned to protest outside the consulate, and he went in for a consultation with the CG and came back to tell us we couldn’t protest on the premises and hung around to make sure we left. We handed him a copy of the flyer we were going to hand out and left. However we encourage all the members of Amnesty International and AID chapters within the jurisdiction of this consulate to call in over the next few days (713-626-3153) so that this protest will gather strength. Their jurisdiction is the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississipi, Oklahoma and Texas.”
On April 20th, 2005, three members of Amnesty International and two members of the South Asian Progressive Action Collective met with the Consul General, Mr. Arun Kumar, and the Deputy Consul General, Mr. Jagdish Rai. In a meeting that lasted half an hour, they discussed what the Indian Government needs to do in Bhopal to comply with their human rights obligations to the people of Bhopal.
The AID-Bay Area chapter organized a mass call-in day to the Indian consulate to raise the demands in the Amnesty letter and pressure the Indian government. More than 100 people placed calls to the consulate, from AID chapters and other organizations throughout the Western US.
In Delhi, students and members from Jawaharlal Nehru University, We For Bhopal and AID Delhi organized a fax action which briefly deluged the Prime Minister’s office with demands that they comply with Amnesty International’s recommendations and take action for Bhopal.
On the afternoon of April 16th, 2005, several members of We Feel Responsible, a progressive action collective in Chennai and member organization of Students for Bhopal, hit the beach and collected signatures from evening joggers and walkers demanding justice for Bhopal and an end to the Indian Oil Corporation’s proposed deal with Dow Chemical. The signed petitions were faxed to the Prime Minister, and the event kick-started a campaign against the proposed Dow-IOC deal.