February 20th, 2008 – New Delhi
Press coverage of the event in the Statesman(pdf)
Report by Shalini Sharma
Connaught Place is the heart of the capital of India. While government is busy making it the commercial hub of the city, hundreds of students and Bhopal supporters made their way to the Central Park situated right in the centre of Connaught Place. The park is situated on top of the metro station and is surrounded by big showrooms and food joints from all sides. Suddenly, the visitors at the park found a number of college going students carrying placards, waving pamphlets, adjusting cameras, arranging exhibition slides and musical instruments. No matter they knew each other or not- mention Bhopal and there was an instant camaraderie. This drew attention from hundreds of others who were visiting the Park. Soon, the place was bustling with more than 300 people for one cause- No more Bhopals!
Immediately, students got busy with preparing the stage. Some put up the banners which said loud and clear- Prime Minister Walk your Talk while others did a quick round of pamphleteering and appealed to people to join the candle vigil in solidarity for Bhopal. Few others made sure that all things are easily available. And sure they did manage to have a chaos free event!
Amphitheatre soon became a live gallery. Pictures of the disaster, ongoing contamination, children born with severe birth defects were laid on the ground along with pictures of peoples’ action across the world in support of Bhopal. People began reading the slides first out of curiosity and then with sheer realization of what Bhopalis have been suffering. The look on their face said it all. And a usually subdued amphitheatre now echoed the sentiments of many who were shocked and bewildered at Government’s continued apathy.
The postcards addressed to Prime Minister have been doing rounds of various schools and colleges in Delhi for almost a month now. We were excited at the opportunity to talk directly with people and read the postcards to them. While few students went individually to people for postcard sign on, it was heartening to see a number of people walking up to us for the postcards. Around 100 postcards were signed in no time.
We were also joined by a number of youngsters who had generally come for a stroll in the Park. They not only volunteered to distribute the pamphlets on the roads outside the Park but in fact read the whole pamphlet to be able to explain the matter to any one. Many of them took our contacts and volunteered to organize Bhopal exhibition in their colleges. But most inspiring was the eagerness with which they joined us in our efforts. They kept telling us- let us get together on this, let us take the issue to one and all! The banner that we kept at the end of the exhibition was soon covered with messages to Prime Minsiter. Hard hitting reactions! But, the high point was when a very elderly person asked us- “When will you give it to the Prime Minsiter? Don’t forget to call me, I want to walk with you. 850 kilometers is no joke and that too second time!”
The response to pamphlets and postcards was overwhelming. And, our friends from Jigri and Kutumb made sure everyone has fun along with registering a cultural protest. They led the event further by songs on democracy and struggle. To name a few, Hille re jagjor duniya…jagiraa aarerra…and in true rang de basanti style-khoon chala! Only this time those singing it were real people who were well aware that the issue is serious and there is no retake. The crowd joined in chorus, lighted candles and cheered for Bhopal.
And amidst this, we also had some drama courtesy guards of Central Park. They had been quietly enjoying the event themselves, it’s only when they saw people reading the banner with Padyatra demands that they rushed in to pull them down.
Well, we outnumbered them in both count as well as spirit. Supporters held the banner tightly and refused to budge from the venue. Others took the pictures from the exhibition in their hands and made a chain. The hold was firm and stance clear- No matter what you do, you can’t stop us from supporting Bhopal. Prime Minister must represent people and not killer Corporations!
We did receive quite a lot of media attention- ANI TV and ETV were the first ones to reach and others soon followed. Students are writing updates for their college notice boards and magazines. Some captured the event on their camera and plan to screen in their class. The momentum is building and this is just the beginning.
Singing the songs in solidarity and holding candles for every Bhopali that decided to walk from Bhopal, Delhiites joined hands with a determination to drum greater support for Bhopalis’ demands.
After more than two hour or so we head off happy to know that we have given Government a shock, warned them that we are observing their stance on Bhopal closely and, informed people in Delhi how a government can force the old, sick and wailing to walk again. This on the very first day of the Padyatra, they should expect more noise from us because we will not accept anything less than a fair deal for the survivors this time.