Pragya Bhagat, Bhopal, March 13, 2007
Where are they? The question has been asked by the doctor, the police, and general visitors to the tent. The six fasters are nowhere to be seen. As we wait for news from their end, groups of men, women, and children socialise amongst themselves. A light drizzle seeps through the thin cloth roof. What follows is a frantic rush to shelter all things dry under the sheets of blue plastic, only to have the rain stop three minutes later.
As the six fasters plan out the future of the ‘Right to Live’ campaign, the Tinshed is overflowing with supporters from all walks of life. Students from Muskan, women from Mahila Manch, teachers from Eklavya, and the passion-ridden youth from Yuva Samwad offered their support through numerous acts; some fasted in solidarity for the day, while others participated in singing which has become inevitable in the twenty-two days the survivors have occupied the tent. The headline maker of the day was the visit of Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar. As soon as word got out that Medha Patkar was at the Tinshed in support of the Bhopalis’ dharna, the press promptly arrived and flooded her with questions and flashing cameras as phone microphones were thrust in front of her. “The gas peedit symbolise the affected… This struggle, indauntable, gives inspiration and strength to all who are fighting imperialist forces.” She also said that through Sangarsh 2007, she will raise the issue with hundreds of organisations.
Along with national support, international support is starting to pressure the government from another front. The phone lines are being flooded by callers from America and the United Kingdom. More than a hundred calls a day flood the phone lines of the secretaries and personal assistants of the Chief Minister, the Collector, and the Prime Minister, to the point that they know by now that a call from America or the UK is regarding the fast. Some of the secretaries say they will convey the message to their boss, while others simply hang up. I suppose getting a hundred and fifty calls late in the night could possibly lead to immense frustration. The receptionist at the fax machine does not have it any easier. About 1500 faxes have been sent to the state government. That is fifteen hundred more people all over the world who will not stop until the government ceases its insensitive idiocy and for once, does what it is supposed to do. Because twenty-two years of negligence is much too long.