TIMES OF INDIA, MARCH 18, 2007
BHOPAL: Five hunger strikers, including four gas survivors – Rashida Bee, Rachna Dhingra, Jabbar Khan, Guddi Bee, and Shehzadi Bee – were forcibly picked up by two truckloads of policemen at 7 am on Saturday.
According to a press release by the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal district collector, B K Mishra, admitted to having issued the orders to remove the hunger strikers to Hamidia Hospital, and said charges of court-attempted suicide may be pressed on the strikers.
Ironically, at least two of the hunger strikers come from an area where people are forced to consume water contaminated by Union Carbide’s poisons due to the government’s refusal to provide clean water.
The hunger strikers were on the 13th day of an indefinite fast which was launched after thirteen days of dharna which began on February 20, marking the anniversary of the 800 kilometre padyatra from Bhopal to Delhi.
In April last year, the Prime Minister conceded to survivors’ demands for clean water, environmental rehabilitation, and economic and medical rehabilitation. Despite the availability of funds with the government for implementation of these demands and the constitution of the Coordination Committee on Bhopal involving the state and Centre officials and survivor representatives, the state has shown no progress in implementing any of these schemes.
The hunger strike, prompted by the state government’s inaction, underscores the following standing demands of the Bhopal survivors: proper medical care, clean drinking water, containment of toxic wastes, and pension for widows and families with congenitally handicapped children, and economic rehabilitation in the form of jobs for 10,000 survivors.
Reports from Hamidia Hospital indicate that attempts are on to strap the resisting hunger strikers to beds in order to force feed them. Over the last twenty-five days, international supporters of the Bhopal campaign have sent more than two thousand faxes to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
More than four hundred phone calls have been made to various state government officials. The Ministry of Chemicals indicated that the state government has not responded to repeated reminders asking for an update on the progress on commitments made by the state in the meetings of the Coordination Committee on Bhopal. Bhopal survivors have decided to call a nationwide agitation towards the Madhya Pradesh government, and have resolved to not end the strike until their demands are met.