From Anabranched in Delhi:
Yesterday Shehazadi got sick and vomited in the afternoon. The flies were thick, settling over everything that wasn’t fanned continuously. The sky turned white.
In the afternoon the call came that we could go see the Prime Minister today (the 14th), and that his office would call in the morning with a time. In the morning, however, as the slow process of waking up and the visit of the doctor, we heard that the PM in fact has “the flu.” Hungry till Monday at least. Our friends on strike have less and less to say about it. They look up at the sky and conserve energy. Josh has lost six kilos and everyone’s blood sugar is dipping. There is more sleeping.
Today would hardly allow for it though. It was a constant parade of the difficult and the absurd. At about noon a group of men representing a Dalit organization swept through across the median strip and ignited an effigy of Sonia Gandhi that popped with firecrackers. It is Ambedkar Day, a National to commemorate the Dalit leader. We are worried about our Dalit friends just down the sidewalk, who are also on hunger strike. One was sent to the hospital yesterday. Their twenty year old temple was violently destroyed, and many people beaten badly by local thugs, because they were trying to make it pluralistic. They call their group the Mafia Removal Organization.
Then suddenly the madness really began. The hunger strikers moved away from their normal camp under the blue tarp to a more open space – for better visibility to the press! Amir Khan was coming. The police were afraid of a mob. All the hunger strikers sat in a row in the open, and the banner above said “Bhopal: 20,000 dead and counting” in both English and Hindi. It was calm and beautiful for about two minutes and then the hordes descended. Amir Khan fought his way into the center of the group of Bhopal survivors, and valiantly attempted to have a conversation with them while dozens of photographers fought literally tooth and nail to get a look at him. With admirable calm he listened to Sanjay, Shazadi, Champa Devi, Rashida Bi, Sathyu and Rachna. He read the demands and looked at the Amnesty report, with studied, eyebrow-raised calm. He probably spent twenty minutes. Meanwhile four security guards, a group of policemen and women, and most seriously and significantly, a bunch of volunteers, struggled to hold back the crowd. Pushing and shoving was the least of it, and at any moment it seemed like the cameras would surge and simply envelope the vulnerable group on the ground. Honestly it was vile and I could tell that it sapped the energy of our hunger strikers. The plain stress of it was enough, but a number of them were actually physically in there struggling and straining.
Later, Sathyu and Nity made it into a press conference that Amir was giving behind one of the fancy hotels. He did mention Bhopal to the press, but only briefly. He has promised to follow up with us.
Shehazadi is still sick and now has insomia. Please keep the pressure on the Indian government. Justice has been so long, too long coming. One of the padyatris just got some news from home — her water-affected daughter in law just gave birth to a child with a face but no head … everything beyond the forehead was missing. Can we imagine the pain of another destroyed generation?
Here on the street the hunger striker’s faces are beginning to go pale. It is very difficult to watch, but today it is still easier than thinking about giving up.