Graeme Neill, The Bookseller, June 12, 2008
Booker-shortlisted author Indra Sinha has begun a hunger strike in support of victims of the Bhopal gas disaster.
The Simon & Schuster author of Animal’s People, started the fast on 10th June in an attempt to bring American industrial company Dow Chemical to court in India to face criminal and civil charges relating to the tragedy.
In December 1984, Union Carbide’s pesticide’s factory released a cloud of toxic gases over the Indian city of Bhopal killing 8,000 people immediately. According to Amnesty International, the cloud injured half a million people, caused another 15,000 deaths since 1984 and injured a further 25,000 through contamination. Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide in 2001.
Sinha joined nine other Bhopal campaigners in New Delhi, seven of whom have been severely affected by water or gas contamination. His novel Animal’s People, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, was a fictionalised account of the Bhopal disaster. In the book three characters embark on a hunger strike in a bid to force government officials to ditch a deal with the company responsible for the disaster.
In a statement last night (11th June), Sinha said: “Those poisoned in Bhopal continue to sicken and die, without help, without compassion, without justice, because the politicians in Delhi want to do business with their killers. These canaille refuse to honour the law, blindfold themselves against justice, and, by their inaction, condemn thousands of the citizens they are sworn to protect to fear, pain, suffering and death.”
The Bhopal survivors’ campaign has gained strong support in Westminster with Desmond Turner, MP for Brighton Kemptown, tabling an early day motion that has been so far signed by 73 MPs. “It is morally totally indefensible that in a situation like this that many local communities are exposed to this toxic threat and the Dow Chemical Company continues to abrogate its responsibility for one of the greatest human tragedies in history,” he said.