17 May 2005
This morning 300 women, men and children went to the Director, Bhopal Gas Rahat Cell (Manish Rashtogi) office demanding clean drinking water. They were severely beaten up and dragged out of the building by the police. The riot police were present in full force. Women and men were kicked and hit with dandas (thick wooden sticks that cops carry) on the stomach. 4 people have been hospitalised. 7 people are arrested. See press statement by survivors’ groups
After past police beatings of women protesters the Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh has had to make a public apology for police brutality (see for eg, Bhopal.net records for 25th November 2002), but nothing it seems will teach the despised pandus restraint.
A week after a report by research students revealed that 15% of Bhopal’s police are mentally ill (scroll down two stories) once again, women’s bodies are on the receiving end of their heavy batons.
What were the women protesting about? The fact that more than a year after India’s Supreme Court ordered the state government to provide them with clean safe water, next to nothing has been done and promises made by local officials have been routinely dishonoured.
The people of the communities from which these women came need clean water because their wells and stand pipes have been poisoned by chemicals abandoned by Union Carbide at its derelict factory. Twenty years after the night of horror, piles of deadly poisons lie rotting in the open air, washing deeper underground with each monsoon.
If you ever had any doubt that India’s politicians, both at local and at central level, regard the Bhopal survivors as an embarrassment, and basically side with the American multinational whose greed and negligence caused the problem in the first place, think of the bruised bodies of these women.
Will update this story. Meanwhile if you want to protest, ring the Chief Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh government to express your disgust and to demand that the Supreme Court’s order be obeyed. The man to speak to is Vijay Singh. His work numbers are +91 755 2441370 / 2441848 and his home number is +91 755 2443090.
India is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT, but if you felt like waking Mr Singh up at 3, 4 or 5am, who could blame you? Think of it as a wake up call.