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A smiling Dow Benelux executive accepts a jhadoo (and thus liability for Bhopal clean-up) from Rashida Bi


BELGIUM 29 OCTOBER Smiles and affability were the order of the Dow as the Bhopal survivors' siege of Dow Europe continued this week. It is scarcely a week since Dow's European CEO ran from the room when presented with a Bhopali broom by Champa Devi and only a few days since the public humiliation of Dow CEO Michael Parker at an environmental luncheon in Houston when he was presented with a broom and told to clean up his act by Bhopal activists.

Parker pointedly refused to accept the broom, creating a glorious photo-opportunity for reporters - the sight of an Indian woman with her arms outstretched while he studiously ignored her - yes, Greenpeace has the pictures.

It seems that Dow has now realised that cowardice and petulance are unlikely to do it any favours and so their PR geniuses have issued instructions to jhadooable Dow executives round the world that they must accept the brooms - and pretend to enjoy it!

In accepting the jhadoos they are also, in the eyes of survivors, accepting Dow's liabilities in Bhopal.

All last week and this, Bhopali gas-survivors Rashida Bi, leader of one of the most active of the Bhopali survivors' organisatsions, and Dr Mohammed Ali Qaiser, who works providing free care to gas-affected people, have been touring Europe seeking out Dow executives to award the Order of the Jhadoo. The tour, coming just days after Pranay and Champa Devi's jhadooing of Respini in Switzerland, took in Italy, Belgium and Holland.

Dow executives swept up by Rashida and Mohammed Ali Qaiser include Luc de Graef, Operation & Site Leader at Dow Haltercustom processing, Kallo; Patprick Bogaerts, Business Operations Executive at Dow's Edegam petrochemicals plant; Wimvan Noten of Dow Zwijndrcht and the site leader of Dow Tessendel - all in Belgium.

Said Dr Qaiser, "Rasheeda explained our situation and then handed over the brooms. They accepted them very politely and assured us they would pass on the message to their higher authorities."

But the top brass, the cowering Respini and sullen Parker, have already got the message, and although the cheesy grins are out in these pictures, the bonhomie cannot drown out the sound of grinding teeth emanating from the direction of Midland, Michigan.

In India to be hit with a broom is a supreme insult, worse even than to have chappals (slippers) thrown at one. Dow employees in India, their futures surely uncertain now that the company is about to be dragged into the ongoing criminal case in Bhopal, know this all too well.

The jhadoo is not just an insult, it carries a serious message. Says G. Krishnaveni, who handed the Bhopali broom to Parker, "I remember, by the time I walked up to Parker, I was quite angry. and I couldn't help saying some sarcastic thing like '......this is for your fantastic environmental work in Bhopal....from the women whose breast milk has been poisoned by lead and mercury...' He was so pissed off, I could sense him seething.

Yes, you can hear him quietly seething too, as he drones Dow's PR mantras, and catch Kinnu's remarks and interjections by listening to Jackson Allers' recording of the event, here.