Bhopalis Return Home, but still need your support
Please read this whole statement to supporters here, and visit https://www.bhopal.net/dharna2010/ to find out how you can help.
Dear Bhopal campaigners and supporters,
We have decided to suspend the dharna (sit in protest) at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi and are back in Bhopal. The dharna we started on April 15 succeeded in getting things moving with regard to the reconstitution of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal (GoMB) which is the final decision making authority with regard to issues on the Bhopal disaster. The negligent attitude of the Indian government towards the continuing disasters in Bhopal is evident from the fact that the GoMB that had approved the draft of the Empowered Commission on Bhopal (ECoB) in 2008 has not been reconstituted after the elections of 2009. We hope that the concerned officials in the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers (the nodal Ministry on the Bhopal disaster) will follow up on the letter that they have sent out in response to our recent protests in Delhi and that the GoMB would be reconstituted in six to eight weeks time.
The other big reason for suspending the dharna at Jantar Mantar is that unlike earlier years, we and other protestors were not allowed to put up tents to protect ourselves from the scorching sun. As a result quite a few children and adults suffered heat strokes. Unlike other years we and other protestors had to vacate the protest site at 6 in the evening. We were not able to find free/affordable accommodation for more than 80 people, which restricted the number of people participating in protest and direct action.
We were told that the prohibition against tents and night stay for the protestors were part of the government’s preparations for the Commonwealth Games scheduled for October. Local police officials handed us a copy of the order under Section 11 of the Criminal Procedure Code that prohibits: holding public meetings, assembly of five or more persons, carrying banners, shouting slogans, making speeches, demonstrations and dharna in any public place without a written permission. Violation of the order can be punished for imprisonment up to one month. We are challenging this draconian order in the High Court of Delhi on the basis that Article 19 of the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression and freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms.
The third reason for our suspending the dharna at Jantar Mantar is the need to be here in Bhopal to stop the proposed transport and incineration of 340 tonnes of hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory. The incinerator violates several rules governing the disposal of hazardous waste and lacks in basic monitoring and treatment facilities. Given the violations and the lacunae in the incinerator there is a significant risk that the population residing next to the incinerator at Pithampur will be exposed to high levels of dioxin and other toxic chemicals.
During our stay in Delhi we also met with leaders of the BJP which is the political party in the State government that is blocking the setting up of the ECoB. The leaders were far from sympathetic but have promised to set up a meeting with the Chief Minister in Bhopal so that we can present our case for the ECoB and hopefully convince him to stop opposing its setting up.
While we wait for the GoMB to be reconstituted, the prohibitory order to be struck down and the meeting with the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in the next 6-8 weeks we would much need your support to keep the pressure on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the matter of setting up the ECoB. The emails and faxes you sent and the calls you made to the PMO contributed significantly to our victory in 2008 (that alas remains to be realized). Please carry out one or all of the solidarity actions suggested at https://www.bhopal.net/dharna2010/ and let us know if you receive any response.
Thanking you and looking forward to your continued help and support,
Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi,
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Children Against Dow Carbide