CHENNAI, 12 JUNE, 2008 — Chennai youth and school students today formed a human chain to protest custodial violence against children of Bhopal gas tragedy victims in a Delhi police station on June 9, 2008. A total of 14 children were detained overnight at the Parliament Street police station along with 22 adults after they were arrested for their peaceful protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office. Frustrated by the Prime Minister’s silence over resolution of their decades-long demands, Bhopal survivors and victims of water contamination have penetrated the high-security zone around the Prime Minister’s house and office three times in the last 35 days in an effort to get heard by the PM. In a bid to “teach them a lesson” for protesting in restricted areas, police officials in the Parliament Street police station dragged survivors into the lock-up, strip searched and beat up one of the male survivors, and slapped, punched and belted several children who tried to prevent the police from abusing the adults.
Survivors and their supporters, including from Chennai, have made several phone calls to the Prime Minister’s Office only to be told that no such incident of violence took place. “I was shocked to find top government officials actually denying that the Bhopalis had been abused. I am rapidly losing whatever faith I had in the government,” said Manasi Karthik, a student from Chennai.
The Bhopal organizations have been on dharna on the pavement near Parliament Street in New Delhi since March 28, which is when they arrived on foot covering a distance of 800 km from Bhopal to New Delhi. Chennai resident Shweta Narayan, who joined the Bhopalis in solidarity through the length of the march, has now joined 9 Bhopalis on an indefinite hunger strike that started 10 June. Of the 9 Bhopalis, two women hunger strikers are carrying on their fast from the Tihar Jail, where they are currently under judicial custody along with 18 other Bhopali women and 2 men.
The Bhopalis are demanding for a Special Commission on Bhopal to look after economic, medical, social and environmental rehabilitation, provision of clean drinking water, and for legal action against Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. Union Carbide, Dow’s 100 percent subsidiary, is absconding from Indian courts. The company is charged with “culpable homicide” and the criminal case that is lodged against it has not progressed due to the company’s failure to appear in court. Union Carbide has also not come forward to pay for the clean up of the toxic wastes it has abandoned in Bhopal. These wastes have contaminated the groundwater. More than 25,000 people, mostly belonging to minority, oppressed and economically marginalized communities have been forced to consume this water for more than two decades. Community health workers from Bhopal are reporting a high incidence of birth defects – cleft lips, missing palate, mental disorders, cerebral palsy and congenital deformities – among children born in these communities.
“This Government has plumbed the depths of insincerity, unpopularity and insensitivity in the manner it is dealing with the Bhopal demands. Dow has offered $1 billion in investments in return for legal immunity for its Bhopal liabilities. If a nation can be bribed, this is what it would look like,” said Shweta Narayan, a long-standing volunteer with the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
For further details contact:
Nityanand Jayaraman – 94440 82401
42a, first floor, fifth avenue, Besant nagar, Chennai – 90
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal