From Nity in Delhi:
More than 300 Bhopalis arrived today. The last few days have been boring, with few Bhopalis at the camp. Today, the Bhopal camp was alive again with a sense of escalation of the campaign against the intransigent Government. About 350 people arrived today by several trains. Rachna had been worrying over how all these people would be brought from the station to the protest site. Thank God for the Delhi police. Rather than run the risk of letting a few hundred irate Bhopalis lose on the Delhi streets, they insisted on giving them a lift to Jantar Mantar. The spirits lifted despite the searing heat. The Bhopal camp is out in the sun. There is just one shaded spot. After the sun goes down, it doesn’t get any cooler, thanks to the concrete jungle that this part of Delhi has become.
The asphalt radiates heat well after sunset — not good news for the few hundred Bhopalis that lay down, covered themselves with a shroud and played dead as part of a die-in demonstration. Madhu had assured the police that we would peacefully, and in an orderly fashion, walk to the barricades on Parliament Street, and drop dead there.
But there was a last minute change, and the Bhopalis dropped dead right in the middle of a busy four-road junction in a classic Chakka Jaam action, where traffic came to a standstill. To their credit, the Bhopalis that were playing dead stayed dead despite the hot tarmac beneath them. All that separated them from the oven beneath was a newspaper.
The pictures will tell you in a thousand words about the dance of death played by a man dressed in spitting-image mask of George Bush and his cabal or armed marines.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who himself has contributed substantially to causing death and destruction around the country, however, was absent. One person dressed in a Manmohan mask was to join Bush in the dance of death around the Bhopalis. But he never showed up.
Death was the theme of the day, to highlight the 350-400 people that are reportedly dying each year due to gas-related illnesses. This is a Government figure — 2001 study by the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, Government of Madhya Pradesh. People working among the water contamination affected settlements have documented at least 70 children with congenital deformities. There are likely to be more, and only a thorough study will reveal that.
After about a half an hour of the die-in, the Bhopalis arose to continue their march, but were met just a block away by a massive show of force – several rows of barricades and reinforcement backed up by a huge water cannon truck. There was a 20-minute standoff that ended peacefully when we all decided to head back to Jantar Mantar.
The media was present in force, and I heard we made it to front page in The Hindu. The evening ended with a candle-light vigil, lots of singing. People and Delhi supporters were flitting back and forth between the Bhopal and Narmada camps. Yesterday, Arundhati Roy had put up a beautiful banner spanning the road dividing Bhopal and Narmada camps. I don’t know if she wrote the slogans, but they did the trick. About forty feet of banner space above the road blared: “No More Bhopals. Justice Now.” on one side, and “No More Narmada Dams. Justice Now.” on the other, with Hindi translations to match.
All in all, an auspicious beginning for the second phase of the campaign that will launch into an indefinite hunger strike by Bhopal victims and their supporters.