Bhopalis who made 800km journey to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh instead find themselves flung in jail

New Delhi 28 March 2006: Frustrated by the Prime Minster’s reluctance to grant an appointment to Bhopal Gas Survivors who have marched 800 kms from Bhopal to New Delhi, more than 400 victims of American multinational Union Carbides poison have occupied the pavement outside the Ministry of Chemicals in New Delhi today amidst intense police security. The police resorted to use of force upon women and children, without concern whatsoever in order to move them out of the Shashtri Bhawan premises withouit any provocation from the protestors. Two women, Bano Bee 55 and Ashraf Bee 75, fell unconcsious after the police violence. (Four women are in hospital, see our March to Delhi blog for the latest news and updates.)
“Our Prime Minister does not care for the Indian people. He prefers kowtowing to American corporations rather than redress the long standing demands of the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster”, said Syed Irfan, a survivor and activist for justice in Bhopal.
The Ministry of Chemicals houses the Bhopal Cell and convenes the group of ministers on Bhopal and holds overall responsibility of addressing all issues emanating from the 1984 gas disaster. More than 20,000 people are currently forced to consume hand pump water contaminated with mercury and other cancer causing chemicals that have leached out of the thousands of tonnes of toxic waste that still lie exposed to the environment in and around the Union Carbide factory site. Despite the fact that Union Carbide is a criminal absconder in the eyes of the Indian Govt., the Prime Minister has been meeting with Carbide’s owner Dow Chemical’ CEO and has initiated steps to facilitate the company’s business expansion in India.
“The Prime Minister is ultimately responsible for the welfare of the Union Carbide’s victims in Bhopal, his refusal to address the demands exposes his insensitivity to the plight of the poor”, said Shahid Noor an activist – survivor who heads an organisation of youth who were orphaned by the disaster. “This time we will not accept empty promises. We are resolved to go on an indefinite hunger strike till all our demands are met”, he said.
Irfan and Shahid were speaking from jail via cell phones.
The Bhopal survivors are demanding clean water, environmental remediation at the cost of the polluter, setting up of a National Commission to oversee medical and economic rehabilitation, blacklisting Dow’s business in India and setting up a memorial in Bhopal.
More than 20 members of the United States Congress have written to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to address the demands of Bhopal Survivors and take action against the errant American multinationals Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Grievances has last week summoned the Indian Govt. to explain why the Bhopal disaster remains an unresolved issue.
For more information contact Nityanand Jayaraman in jail:
+91 9811138987 or Pragya Vats 41652451 or 41652452 or +91 9868424692

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