FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 16, 2007
Washington DC – Solidarity fasts by over 10 volunteers with Association for India’s Development and Students for Bhopal are being held in front of the Indian Embassy for the next 3 days (16th to 18th March) in support of the survivors in Bhopal who despite being on their 12th day of an indefinite hunger strike demanding basic amenities like poison-free drinking water and access to competent medical care, are yet to hear from the Madhya Pradesh government. The MP government has dragged its feet in fulfilling a Supreme Court order to provide clean water and full federal funding for the project.
Concerned citizens and members of the Indian diaspora also held a vibrant protest outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC at 4pm yesterday, demonstrating their outrage and alarm at the callousness and apathy of the governments of Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal and complete disregard for the life of the common citizen, as evinced from the recent happenings in Bhopal and Nandigram. The public fast starts this afternoon (~3-4:30pm) despite heavy rain and snow, fasters will sit in public at the Embassy each afternoon this weekend to demand action from the government. *** Contact Somu Kumar for exact location and times.***
The fasters in Washington DC are also strongly condemning the brutal killing of farmers in Nandigram, in an unprecedented act of inhuman violence unleashed by the state machinery on 14th March, 2007.
While the official estimate of the death toll at Nandigram is between 14 and 20, non-governmental sources on the ground are reporting that the death toll may have crossed 100. Many are reportedly missing and do not count in official death tolls. It is feared that several bodies may have been dumped in the sea so they cannot be identified .
Prof Mohan Bhagat, director of the Association for India’s Development and a faculty at the University of Maryland, says: “As Indians living in the diaspora we are truly hanging our heads in shame when people ask us what is wrong with India that claims to be a big player on the world scene but can only do so by spilling the blood of her own people?” He urges the Indian ruling elite to abandon all anti-people policies and devise methods that will lead to the betterment of the citizens from the bottom up.
Overwhelming concern and support for the Bhopali survivors has poured in from all corners of the world – over 2000 faxes have been sent to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan and over 350 phone calls made to various government offices in India, urging the government to accept the basic demands of the survivors.
Somu Kumar, a volunteer with Students for Bhopal, who is on a fast in Washington DC, says, “The fact that six Bhopal survivors are in a hunger-strike for last 11 days for the most basic of all needs — clean-drinking water — is appalling; more worrying is the fact that Madhya Pradesh Government is turning a blind-eye to their just demands. It makes me wonder whether we are living in a democracy.”
In a separate petition to the Chief Minister of West Bengal which has received over 400 signatures in less than a day, the advocates are demanding an independent probe into the killings of farmers in Nandigram, withdrawal of police and armed party cadres from the area, and immediate action by the state government to economically rehabilitate the bereaved and the affected.
An outraged Arun Gopalan, president of the Maryland chapter of AID, comments: “While people in Bhopal are waiting for justice for the last 23 years, people in Nandigram are being killed so that they do not even exist to seek justice! Do we want India to shine with the blood of it own citizens? Is this the sort of development we want to see? ” Arun will also join the solidarity fast.
In Bhopal, on the 14th day of the “Jeene kaa Haq” (Right to Live) campaign led by four Bhopal Chemical Disaster Survivors organizations, 6 representatives of survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster started an indefinite fast on March 5th, demanding medical care, economic and social rehabilitation and protection from Union Carbide’s poisons that have killed and maimed for 22 years. The survivors also work with those affected by ground water contamination from the abandoned Union Carbide factory site where the deadly 1984 accident occurred. Current Carbide owner Dow Chemical so far has refused to clean up the site. The hunger strikers include Goldman Environmental Prize winner Rashida Bee, who lost six family members to cancer, and herself suffers from chronic health problems ever since the disaster.
Somu Kumar, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-703-728-8987
Aquene Freechild, Aquene@gmail.com, 617-378-257
Nirveek Bhattacharjee, email@example.com, 410-627-7679