Central Chronicle, Bhopal
Tuesday April 25, 2000
Expat Indian youths join survivors' chorus of protest
BHOPAL: Second generation expatriate Indian youths and African American students enthusiastically joined in as the betrayal in the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 echoed from New York to Washington DC in the USA on April 16 and 17 last.
Curiously, gas tragedy survivors' groups and activists opposing big dams in Narmada Valley, both from Madhya Pradesh, were the only people's movements that represented India at the Washington DC demonstration against World Bank-IMF combine and trans- national corporations.
Held on April 16 and 17, the demonstrations were a sequel to the Seattle agitation recently where the WTO talks were opposed by environment, labour and people's groups from all over the world. On April 13, the Mahesh Mathai movie `Bhopal Express' starring Nasiruddin Shah and Zeenat Aman was premiered in Greenwich Theatre in New York. A saga set in the backdrop of the Bhopal chemical catastrophe, the movie opened to a packed house.
"Audience spilled over into the aisles. The response to the movie was tremendous," said Satinath Sarangi, a functionary of The Sambhavana Trust that produced the movie along with South Asian Journalists Association.
The Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal accident, declined an invitation by the director of the movie to attend the premiere. "A panel discussion after the show was widely publicised in broadcast, electronic and print media," Sarangi said.
The continuing suffering of the gas victims has only met with increasing Government and public apathy back home. The survivors' groups were most buoyed by the show of solidarity by expat Indian youths and African American students who joined the agitation on their own volition.
"It was a heartening sight when they rent the air with slogans against Union Carbide," Sarangi said. The placard-carrying demonstrators distributed pamphlets, one of which demanded arrest and extradition to India of US-based Union Carbide's former chief Warren Anderson.
He has been declared absconder in a criminal case of culpable homicide by a Bhopal court in connection with the Tragedy. He went into hiding upon issuance of summons by a Manhattan Court in a related civil suit.
The Washington DC agitation has been described on the web-site of an alliance of people's groups as `convergence of the world's most impoverished countries that have suffered under the World Bank-IMF policies for decades with runaway debts, unemployment and environment devastation'.
The agitation was to press for a waiver of `odius debts' by the WB as poor countries had paid their dues many times over, Sarangi said.
The alliance web-site alleges that the WB's current policy was to insidiously promote setting up of hazardous chemical industries in the impoverished South.
And who better than Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors to make a point on that count. They have been witness to the worst ever chemical disaster as a deadly mixture of MIC and Hydrogen Cyanate fumes leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, killing 5000 persons and maiming 150,000 others, some of them permanently.