Injured Bhopali boy may lose his hand

Anger flares as crowds hold Dow and Coe responsible

“What I’m seeing is a very violent lathi charge against people lying on the tracks, and stone throwing against police, a full-on battle. I’m seeing more fires on the road, women with blood running down their faces from head wounds, cage-like structures full of people presumably under arrest, and some of the TV cameras now appear to be shooting from behind riot shields. There are clearly thousands of people on the streets.”

Spoke on the phone a few hours ago to a survivors’ leader in Bhopal. Sorry not to get this up sooner, a lot of things are going on. Everyone flying about crazily. Here’s what she told me:

15-year old Daoud is seriously injured in hospital and may lose his hand after it was badly mangled by a rubber bullet fired by police.

It happened at Barkhedi, one of five places where the survivors lay down on the tracks to stop trains.

The survivors had announced the places where survivors were to make their way in groups and the police in riot gear with helmets, shields and cudgels (lathis) were waiting.

Police attack and beat elderly women and men

Among the survivors in this place were several older women, among the Goldman Prize co-winner and co-founder of the Chingari Trust, Rasheeda Bi (55).

Police attacked her with cudgels and fists. Her brother in law, coming to her aid, had his leg broken in three places.

Among the other older ladies attacked by police with cudgels were Hazra Bee, a grandmother whose grandchildren suffer serious birth defects, and Bano Bee (60), whose hand is badly bruised and swollen. In 2006 in Delhi, Bano was knocked unconscious by a police kick to her ribs. In hospital she was threatened being cut open. 18 year old Rafat was dragged along the stony ground till her skin was scraped off. Nafisa was also beaten. Like Rashida and Bano, Nafisa has twice walked the 500 miles to Delhi (she is the first speaker in Daniel Gosling’s excellent video of the 2008 padyatra, where at 9′:43″ you can see Rashida, Nafisa and Bano together.).

Police attack sparks angry response

The attack on the women drove the younger boys and men to a fury and they began throwing stones at the police, who responded by throwing stones back at them.

The police then fired rubber bullets directly into the mass of survivors on the tracks. This is when Daoud’s hand was injured.

Until the police attacked the women the action had been peaceful. Pictures and footage from Barkhedi clearly show the police attacking with cudgels first, after which the situation grew increasingly violent.

The protests passed off peacefully at the other four locations.

Eight women were arrested but are now released after, as reported in the earlier post, survivors leaders met the Chief Minister, who agreed to all their demands (for details of these please see the rail roko pages links at right) and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The response to the rail roko call was overwhelming. Fifty thousand people turned out onto the streets.

“We had never expected so many,” said the survivors’ leader, “the people were angry about being lied to for years. They were angry that people in high places side with Dow, as the London Olympics are doing, and Lord Coe’s continual parroting of Dow PR … Even after the Chief Minister called us [the survivors’ leaders] to a meeting and agreed to all our demands – the people have learned not to trust politicians – they wanted to stay on the railway tracks.”

Even after the action was called off people were wandering with blood on their faces and clothes joined huge crowds milling in the centre of the city, who were horrified to see the state of them.

Huge public anger at Dow and Coe

Anger turned to fury when the TV networks began broadcasting reports that Dow Chemical had refused to appear before the Supreme Court and that Lord Coe was refusing to withdraw his support of Dow.

Dow’s statement, issued through its lawyers was so terse as to be insulting and its remarks dismissive, designed to provoke.

“The Bhopal victims have been more than adequately compensated.”

Really? Well, Lord Coe, check these figures. Then decide whether you’ll also start repeating Dow’s famous 2002 statement, made the year after it merged with Union Carbide:

“$500 is plenty good for an Indian”.


 

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