FROM NITY JAYARAMAN IN MAYILADUTHURAI
We had a successful rally and demonstration today in Mayiladuthurai. At least 75 young people and and children braved the heat and oppressive humidity with irrepressible vigour and enthusiastic slogan shouting that would have soured Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s mood. The rally went through important streets of his home constituency. Mayiladuthurai is the town that elected him.
Nearly 30 young ones, many of them without footwear, waved their placards bearing a cartoon of Aiyar bearing Warren Anderson on his back, everytime they heard the slogan: “Is this justice? Is this justice? Mani Shankar MP carries Bhopal murderer Anderson on his shoulders. Is this justice? Is this justice?”
The rally ended on the busy No.2 Road in Mayiladuthurai, where supporters of the Bhopal campaign stopped buses and lorries and pasted stickers exhorting people to join the boycott of Indian Oil.
Led by the Thamizhar Urimai Iyakkam (Organisation for Tamil’s Rights) and Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, the gathering resolved to intensify the struggle in the coming weeks. Failing a favourable response — announcing the cancellation of the Indian Oil-Dow business deal — Mayiladuthurai activists have decided to launch a massive awareness campaign to educate the constituency about Aiyar’s role in bringing the criminal Union Carbide back into India.
The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has received a positive response from organisations working with Muslims and Dalits in Mayiladuthurai. The organisations have assured ICJB that they will do all that is in their power to ensure that Aiyar does not sell out the Bhopalis. Muslims constitute 22 percent of the total population in this electoral constituency. Along with Dalits, they form the foundation for Aiyar’s election successes.
Autorickshaw Drivers Association (Mayiladuthurai) too participated in the rally, and have promised their support in boycotting IOC. The Auto Drivers have prominently featured the Bhopal campaign and the Dow-IOC deal in their literary magazine — Kaalan (Mushroom) dated December 2004.
In an hour, the Bhopalis take to the streets. In 3 hours, four motorcyclists will arrive in Mayiladuthurai from Chennai in their swanky Royal Enfield “Bullet” bikes. The bikers, who are part of a Bullet enthusiasts club called “Madras Bulls”, have extended their solidarity to the Boycott IOC campaign by offering to advertise it through a bike rally from Mayiladuthurai to Chennai on 29 May. En route, the rally will halt at SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Cuddalore, where it will be greeted by residents of the pollution-impacted community with coconuts and petitions to be delivered to IOC. The “Bulls” will also halt at Pudu Nemmelikuppam, near the tourist town of Mahabalipuram, where local fisherfolk wish to greet them and hand over signed petitions addressed to Indian Oil.
“This is merely the beginning. This boycott will take the classic route of gradual build-up. If Indian Oil heeds our warning, it can save itself a lot of bad publicity and considerable amounts of money. There are other companies besides Dow Chemical that offer the same technology. We will not allow Indian Oil to do business with a killer company. That’s our final word,” said Shweta Narayan, a volunteer with ICJB who’s based in Chennai.
I hope Aiyar and the Ministry of Chemicals realise the errors of their ways. The Bhopal campaign is living testimony of grassroots globalisation. We can target local politicians, corporate directors and other baddies with equal effectiveness in their respective home bases. Profits over People may not be all that simple a philosophy for our leaders to live by after all.