from ANABRANCHED in Delhi:
DAY ONE – 11 April
Yesterday was the first day of the Bhopal hunger strike. Dr. Amol, who is doing our medical monitoring, arrived at 8am and took everyone’s vital signs. One had to drop out because of possible cardiac problems, and two others ended up shifting out as well.
However, that made room for Champa Devi, who was eager to join, and Sanjay, who had taken the train from Bhopal last night to join in the morning. Finally, the fasters were settled, and everyone was cheerful and in apparent good health (though Rachna has a headcold). At 11:30 there was a press conference, followed by the “last supper” of aloo paratha, yogurt and sweets (gulab jamin!), all served on leaf- paper plates.
The day, however, was oppressively hot. Once it got past noon they sky turned this blazing slate-grey and the press slowly dispersed. Everyone just slept all afternoon in the shade of a series of blue tarpaulins, ingeniously and mysteriously rigged up by Naseer with bamboo poles and twine. However, spirits were high, particularly into the night when the air began to cool. We had some strategy meetings, and then two local students arrived (as usual) to sing and play guitar. For a few hours our loudspeaker system alternated between their melodic and energetic singing, and the intense and sporadic chants of AMIR?, Shaheed’s son six year-old son. “AWAAAZZDDO!!” he would shout into the microphone, his face scrunched up with concentration. Everyone would respond, with smiles on their faces. It was a restful, musical, day.
DAY TWO – 12 April
The weather today is kinder, with a light breeze. The doctor came again this morning, and pronounced everyone well – though a bit lighter having digested the parathas! Each of the hunger strikers seemed ready to talk about their feelings – physical and otherwise.
Shahazadi: “I feel good today, not even hungry. Instead of hunger, I am sitting with hope.”
Champa Devi: “I feel great, and I’m not hungry either. I’m confident that we’re going to win because we’re getting so much support. But if there are supporters who are reading this I want to thank you, and tell you that we still need you. Without you we can’t finish this. Only all of us together can finally make this right. We can get justice for Bhopal, and prevent others from suffering what we have suffered.”
Satish: “Yes, I’m feeling great this morning. All I miss are my tea and my cigarettes. But actually, I slept much better last night than I have in a long time. Maybe it was because I did not have tea and cigarettes!”
Sebastian: “I feel very well today. Perhaps tired. But happy.”
Josh: “How could I not feel well? Last night we were sung to sleep by a group of Bhopali women who changed the words to traditional songs to denounce political corruption (“Rooster, go under Sonia Gandhi’s blankets and wake her up!”). There is so much camaraderie here, so much to learn about the best and worst of humanity. I’m already dreading ending my three day fast and leaving – I’ll miss everyone!”
Sathyu: “I’m hungry, but I’m hopeful.”
Rachna: “I have a headache, I have a cold.” But you’re confident about winning, I asked her? She fell over laughing. “Yeah…!” Then she provided us with “Rachna’s Fasting Flowchart for First-timers”, as below:
Sanjay: Not available for comment!
All in all, the Bhopal survivors and supporters are still celebrating, but there are certainly hard days ahead. Please – fax and email and generally yell at the Indian government. It has been too long. Our fasters and the hundreds of thousands of Bhopalis they represent are Hungry for Justice. The time is now – make yourself heard so that they can eat!