Dharna day 17: gearing up for the Bhopal debate in parliament

Braving the humidity and heat all of us once again marched to Jantar Mantar in the morning from our night home, the shelter house at St’ Columbus School. Once there, Mamu, Vikas and others put up the temporary tent and we all sat down together for our morning tea. Sathyu soon left for Delhi Public School where a group of students had assembled to build their understanding of Bhopal and what it means today.

Meanwhile, Rachna, Shalini and Namdeo left for the Parliament for the usual round of MP endorsements on the Joint Petition addressed to the Prime Minister. ‘Today being the third day of our effort to get political support we had also become pretty comfortable with the staff in the Parliament. Many of them would recognize and smile encouragingly. A few others, like the Security Guard near the Rajya Sabha Gallery would give a thumbs up each time we would pass him,’ says Shalini. Both Rachna and Shalini would stand near the Rajya Sabha gate waiting for the Members of Parliament and as soon as they would see someone in white kurta and trousers, unofficial dress for the Parliamentarians, they would rush to them with the petition and supporting documents. The 7th June verdict has rekindled their interest into the facts of the disaster. With the debates scheduled for today in both the Houses of the Parliament suddenly facts have become sacred. That’s possibly why not a single Parliamentarian dismissed our Bhopal activists who seemed quite out of place in their very ordinary clothes and chappals.

In fact, Lal Krishna Advani, senior leader of Bhartiya Janta Party, who was on his way to the Lok Sabha was pleasantly surprised at being approached by these two ladies. He immediately arranged them to be taken to Sushma Sawaraj, a very eloquent speaker from BJP, who was to initiate the debate from opposition. She had already left for the house. Since we did not know the timings of the debate in the Loksabha we missed out on attending that. However, we heard parts of the discussion while sitting in the office of Telgu Desham Party (TDP). The staff at TDP is very friendly and supportive. They helped us not only with Lok Sabha Passes for later in the day but also made us meet their leader Mysora Reddy who immediately endorsed the petition and asked us to meet him again in the evening for detailed discussion.

Sushma Swaraj and other members of the opposition came down strongly on the Congress and asked for immediate intervention in the matters of remediation, extradition and the US Court Case. On its part, Congress MPs tried dissuading the opposition by citing the gaps in the legal system and emphasizing on the role played by the government and GOM. Similarly in Rajya Sabha members of opposition like Ravi Shankar Prasad of BJP and Brinda Karat of CPI (M) criticized the government for its pro-Dow attitude and demanded immediate action against the company. Ram Vilas Paswan appreciated the role of Bhopal activists and organizations in sustaining the struggle for so long and demanded Empowered Commission to look into all aspects of relief and rehabilitation. While Arjun Singh, who made a rare appearance in Rajya Sabha today, blamed Narsimha Rao for Anderson’s exit, Chidambaram would be responding to the Opposition tomorrow.

The debate in Lok Sabha started around 12pm and continued till the evening while the debate in Rajya Sabha lasted more than three hours creating quite frenzy outside the Parliament amidst the MPs and visitors as well as amongst the media.

Outside the Parliament at the pavement of Jantar Mantar, Sarita, Nidhi and Bhopalis were enjoying the rains which provided relief from the scorching heat for some time at least. Shalini, on the other hand, had a terrific time hitch hiking her way through water clogged city roads to IIT Delhi for a talk on Bhopal. Around 100 students attended the session, many being first year students, and pledged to support the struggle in all possible ways.

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