Pragya Bhagat, Bhopal, March 15, 2007
One word is springing out of each newspaper, television screen, and radio speaker in India- Nandigram. Industrialization of a town that does not want factories to destroy their farms, it is not something we have not heard before. Then why has it become such a hot topic? Precisely because it is not something new, because history has not learned from its mistakes, and because the unfortunate realization is that the people who suffer the most in political violence are the innocent. Men are needlessly murdered, women are brutally raped, children are irresponsibly shot during crossfire. And while the police are supposed to bring order, they further aggravate chaotic situations by taking more lives. The situation is not much different in Bhopal.
Here in the City of Lakes, the police are not opening fire at angry mobs. Instead, they want to arrest six individuals who have been fasting for eleven days so that hundreds of thousands of others may live. Here, the police are not physically violating the women at the Tinshed. Instead, they are stripping them of their dignity by denying them proper medical care. Here, lives are not being taken by bullets. Instead, they are being taken by the criminal apathy and lack of concern by the khaki-clad men and women who are supposed to protect us, not plant seeds of death. It was this apathy against which fifty people gathered in the evening at the Tinshed.
Bathed in the dim glow of the light, shadows jumped on the canvas walls of the tent as Pranab wrapped his face tightly with cellophane, his face reflecting the anguish of those whose loved ones had died- in Nandigram, in Bhopal, in every place where a wife has been widowed, a child orphaned, a women violated. Suffering has become a norm in too many lives.
Representatives from different organizations sat in a circle and discussed what could be done in response to what happened at Nandigram. The evening ended in a flurry of activity with different tasks assigned to different people. While the activists at the Tinshed were busy writing press releases and painting posters, activists eight thousand miles away were doing everything in their power to make sure that the officials responsible for stretching the sit-in for twenty-four days now did not get an ounce of sleep.
More than three hundred calls have been made to the Madhya Pradesh government, and nearly two thousand faxes have been sent. One would think that after being the recipient of such pressure, shame, guilt, or anything remotely related to kindness might persuade the Chief Minister to rethink his obstinate take on denying the survivors the right to live. Apparently he wants to continue being sleep-deprived. Don’t you worry Shivraj Singh Chauhan, there are plenty of people who will ensure that you get bombarded with compassion for the Bhopalis. Maybe some of it will rub off on you.