Friday, March 31
Champa Devi and Sathyu spoke at an afternoon press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club for a group of reporters from the BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and The Hindu, among others. The press conference was hosted by John Elliott, who writes for the Economist and The New Statesman.
Champa Devi at the press conference
Sathyu addresses the press
The last appointment of the day was with Prithwiraj Chavan, Minister of State and advisor to the Prime Minister. Attending were Irfan Bhai, Madhu, Sathyu, and Champa Devi.
Mr Chavan reads the letter from Congressman Pallone and colleagues
Mr. Chavan was most interested in what he deemed to be the most immediate and urgent needs of the people of Bhopal – the supply of safe water and the clean-up of the contamination.
Sathyu explains the Bhopalis’ position
We had a discussion about estimated costs of clean-up and what would be the most practical and cost-effective methods for at least halting the spread of the contamination. Mr Chavan suggested we prepare a proposal of how the entire 5,000 tons could be reasonably contained, along with cost estimates.
A thoughful Mr Chavan said that a policy of promoting foreign corporate investment in India at any cost or compromise of standards is very unwise
Mr. Chavan told us that after the Prime Minister received our letter, he asked for and received letters from all relevant ministries. After advising us to meet with the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Law, he said he would send another request to the Prime Minister to make an appointment with us.
The group ended the day with a meeting just before going to bed. During the meeting we went over everything that had happened during the day. We also went over what was planned for the next day, which includes the arrival of about 20 gas and contamination affected supporters from Bhopal as well as a late afternoon meeting with Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress Party. Also discussed was the number of people who would be able to remain in delhi indefinitely and how many could partcipate in a hunger strike.
Several people have issues and problems that they need to attend to at home in Bhopal as soon as possible, and many Bhopalis have been advised by doctors not participate in the hunger strike because their health situation makes it too dangerous.
Saturday April 1st
At about noon a few representatives of the Bhopalis met with student leaders of local activist groups who are interested in planning events in support of the Bhopalis. A wealth of great ideas and plans came out of the meeting.
Meeting with student leaders
The whole group then went to see a screening of a short film made of the padyatra that is going to be aired on the local television station Janmath People’s Opinion on Saturday the 7th at 10 p.m. and every hour on the following Sunday. Several Bhopalis were interviewed at the studio where the screening took place.
The day took an unexpected turn when the Delhi police viciously attacked our friends and neighbours, the people fighting for Narmada justice. The Narmadan campaigners decided to walk to the Parliament building in support of two of their number who are in their fifth day of a hunger strike to protest against the intransigence of the government. Raising the Sardar Sarovar dam still higher as planned will drive further people out of their homes. For more on the Narmada issue, please follow our “Allied Campaigns” blog.
Police at the Narmada protest
Only a few blocks away they were confronted by the police, who attacked many of them, throwing them on the ground and threatening them with water cannons and other weapons. The Bhopalis were horrified by the mistreatment and as soon as they realized what was going on they jumped up and walked the several blocks to where our Narmada friends were staging an impromptu sit-in. The scene was very tense, with a huge group of heavily armed police standing over them.
The Bhopalis joined them in a spirited song and Shehzadi gave an impassioned speech on their behalf before almost all of them were arrested.
Shehzadi speaks on behalf of the Narmadans
The Narmada campaign’s supporters include some well known people such as Arundhati Roy, Surendra Mohan, B.D. Sharma, and V. P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India, who has been several times in the past week.
Arundhati speaking at the Narmada demonstration
They are being held at the same Parliament Street Police Station. All Bhopalis will join the other Narmada activists outside at Jantar Mantar (including those on hunger strike) in solidarity all night tonight.
With you, for you
Sadly, several padyatris, including Irfan Bhai, had to leave Delhi by
train tonight take care of problems back home in Bhopal.
Tired, sick, packing up to go home