As Independence day dawned, it didn’t quite feel like an occasion to celebrate among the Bhopalis. Displaced from the pavement of Jantar Mantar, formerly the only site near Central Delhi where the people of this country could gather to voice their grievances. Displaced for the Common Wealth games that brings together athletes from countries whose only commonality is that they were all subjects of the British Empire.
The entire Bhopal gas disaster signifies how far we are from independence. We have gradually traded in formal political governance by the British for governance by rich entities – corporations and capital – globally. In some sense, our independence feels more like the globalization of colonialism – as if the British no longer deserved to have sole access to our resources, and labor. Now it is the Americans, the Europeans, and the Indian corporate heads who cheered on and financed our freedom struggle with an eye on all the possibilities for profiting in place of the British. The Congress party ushered out the British, and thirty seven years later, it helped usher out Warren Anderson in grand style after the Bhopal gas disaster for which is strongly responsible, having drastically cut safety measures at the Union Carbide plant to preserve profits despite previous deadly gas leaks. Elected representative after representative of our country, from many of our political parties, let Union Carbide and its subsequent owner, Dow Chemicals, leave behind its factory seeping poison into the soil, water and eventually the breastmilk of Bhopali mothers. Years of governmental negligence of this issue, and if unaddressed it undermines our very concept of our country as an independent democracy for the people, of the people, and by the people. Now is the time for us to attempt to create some semblance of justice for our long-suffering sisters and brothers in Bhopal.
For the Bhopalis there is much to mull over. All of you have seen the media outrage. We have seen the sympathy of the MPs. And we are still so far from justice. We struggle, we hope, and we will continue with all this.