the realm of sleep at 3:00 am and were soon bearing North with our
potent cargo. By the time we reached Cambridgeshire a glorious dawn
had risen over the fens: it was a fine day to jhadoo.
Dow Agrochemicals at Kings Lynn, Norfolk has been around for
46 years, muddying its hands with the on site production of Dursban,
the widely disseminated neuro-toxin chlorpyrifos - or crop
protection system, as Dow would have it.
factory squats on the mouth of the Great Ouse River, discharging
its output into ships, trucks and we know not where else. Itll
all come out in The Wash, we laughed darkly, before setting
about our first task of the day, the leafleting of Dow workers during
the early morning shift break.
Our first encounter brought jolly results. Oh yes, Union Carbide:
I still dont understand why we bought them out, it was a big
mistake. We have enough trouble with Agent Orange in our history.
We do try to be a responsible company, but this sort of thing really
Security trooped over warily. Now, erm, you know as well as
I do that we cant stop you being in this car park, but
but if you start harassing workers or damaging their cars or anything
then thats different. We had that SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty) here and there were women and children screaming at us
and setting about the cars
Dont worry, were not from SHAC. Were here
because of people, not animals. Read our leaflet: there are serious
implications for Dow workers too. Wed like to discuss them
with your managing director. After that, we intend to present him
with a gift from the people of Bhopal.
Oh, well, er, I can tell you now that, er, he doesnt
see anyone without an appointment.
Over the last year, Dows Public Affairs drones have made the
phrase Union Carbide remains a separate legal entity
a central riff of their
pre-programmed Bhopal mantra. Some legal observers have commented
that - for the 100% shareholder that Dow is - this feeble, disingenuous
and hypertechnical argument for Dows lack of responsibility
is as absurd as if Dow were to make the same claim of any of its
other subsidiaries: for example, Dow Agrochemicals. When security
returned from their consultation with management, the reply was
Look, we are only a manufacturing unit here, and
as you know, Dow is an American company. We cant say anything
without it going through Michigan first. The managers we have here
cant comment on anything to do with this, they cant
enter into debate. This is an American company.
At which point
the cops arrived. After being reassured that we were only peoples
rights activists, they left us with the hope that the weather would
hold out.We decided to signal our intentions to security.
If the manager will not see us, we have no choice but to demonstrate.
Our gift has travelled 6,500 miles, and we have come to deliver
it in all seriousness. We have to remind you that 53 members of
parliament are behind our campaign, and will be informed about the
attitude of the management here at Dow.
Who are you, anyway?
We are the UK wing of the International Campaign for Justice
When we next
talked to security, their tone had changed.
Ive been told to step back a bit from you lot. Youve
set up sandwich boards now, and you're the people who dumped those
drums on us - all those drums. I have to step back a bit. They cant
talk to you.
Please tell your bosses this: if they want to redeem themselves
of their discourtesy, they dont have very long. Were
being interviewed by the BBC shortly, and will have to explain that
Dow wont speak to us.
They werent quick enough. The interview had been done by the
time the Environmental Health and Safety manager made his way over
Wed like to meet and talk with you. We have heard of
you but we didn't expect you to see you here! I have to say here
that we are limited in terms of what we can say; we cant speak
for Dow, were not allowed to enter into any debate, but we
will listen to what you have to say though we can only give you
ten minutes. If its ok with you there will be three of us,
and well meet in the pink house at 1:00 pm.
The pink house,
according to its plaque, was 15 years older than the Dow Chemical
Company, and when it was built in 1882 would have looked out across
the estuary plains onto a world relatively free of the tentacles
of corporate power. Now it faces the gates of a complex of tanks,
pipes, and chimneys spewing sickly smelling white vapour that makes
your head feel light and causes your glands to swell.
When they filed out, the public affairs, environmental health and
safety and plant manager looked across sheepishly, and arrowed straight
for the pink house with hesitant, flickering half-apologetic smiles
in our direction, as if trying to convey that they had never expected
to be playing this game with us. We joined the uncomfortable procession
and followed them inside.
They sat marvelling
at us as if we were beings from another galaxy. Or had stepped from
a TV documentary about some faraway disaster right into their lives.
But Dow has obviously trained its managers. They knew what they
were supposed to do. The game of activist appeasement was afoot.
themselves, reiterated that they couldnt say anything, that
they were very aware of the issues, but they were there to listen
to what we had to say.
We declared that we were acting as witnesses, testifying to the
massive injustices faced by survivors, that we wanted a message
to reach Michigan that wherever Dow operated the ICJB would be there
and would not go away until justice was done to the satisfaction
During the course
of our twenty minute presentation through which we showed
photos of the factory contamination, explained the daily poisoning
of local residents, the outstanding charges of culpable homicide,
the legal necessity of Dows pending liabilities, the foreknowledge
of these issues by Dow prior to the merger, their mis-declarations
to the Securities and Exchange Commissions of north America and
Europe, Dows deceit towards its workers, shareholders and
the survivors, the danger to stock value and therefore workers posed
by its dishonesty and stonewalling, the inescapability of lawful
process the managers sat mutely nodding, wincing, evincing
sympathy and bashful impotence, like three liberal vicars in a moral
quandary. They could not have been more effectively gagged had there
been gaffer tape across their mouths.
mentioned that we had a gift.
Erm, no, we really cant, we
WE CANT TAKE
Ah, we see. We assume that a directive has come from on high
over this? The three exchanged conspiratorial smirks of mutual
embarrassment, and agreed to accept the 1999 Greenpeace report instead.
The inscrutable power of the jhadoo remaining in our hands for other
days such as this, we left Norfolk with our hearts in gladness.
Edwards, UK Campaign for Justice in Bhopal