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Delhi University, India

We for Bhopal
(visit their website!)

We for Bhopal (WFB) began in 2003 as a forum created by a small group of students based in Hindu College, University of Delhi with input from support groups like International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal (ICJB), and The Other Media. Today we have growing membership from other colleges and universities.

The group not only fights for justice for the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy but its objectives as defined by students are as follows:

We are a young and dynamic group that seeks to:
- To break the illusion of urban metropolis' existence which blinds the youth to issues, which they think do not directly influence them. Our motto being "Bhopal can happen anywhere until and unless we become aware citizens."
- Be sincere about the issues we have taken up and to be as innovative as possible in our methods. We are not just another students' social work organization, we do 'real' work."
-We do not plan to sit back and crib about the bureaucracy. We aim to make inroads into the system, crack it and be heard, heard as youth ought to be heard, not only passionately but sensibly.
-To reach out to a larger body of students with an aim to make them think and encourage them to express their opinions in public to influence the decision making powers of this country.

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Petitioning the Prime Minister

For our Feb. 25, 2004, day of action, twenty students had given in their names as volunteers but many more joined spontaneously and groups formed to fan out to different colleges. We distributed black bindis and black ribbons (tied around the wrist) to wear as marks to symbolise the "blots" on shining India. Juhi made some lovely posters and Aditi and her friends put black 'blots" on the map of India. We carried around a petition to the Prime Minister and it was signed by over 650 students. Many have given their email id and want to join the "We for Bhopal" group.

Individual experience of students is worth capturing in some detail. I had spoken to a teacher in CIE (this is the B Ed institution where students are being trained to become school teachers) and they had invited the "We for Bhopal" group to come and address their students at the morning assembly. A special half an hour slot was kept for Bhopal including a meditative prayer in remembrance. Then the students spoke. They got over 200 signatures and ran out of black ribbons and bindis. They were invited to a special class where a Q/A session on Bhopal was followed by a discussion on whether and how academics can create space for activism. CIE wants to work jointly with us on future students action plans.

Students had varied experience in other colleges. They were asked whether this was an NSUI propaganda and their answer was prompt ,"Ours is not cheap politics. We are serious about our issue." In Ramjas they were asked, "Why has the northeast not been included as one of the blots?" Serious engagement and they were answering questions like this for the first time. Some met a student who was from Bhopal and he said, "I should be the first one to sign for this cause." At Miranda house boys were not allowed to enter without principal's permission but the girls managed to get over 140 signatures! In Hindu some teachers refused to sign. The challenge and the thrill was part of the learning experience.

At the press conference PTI, AFP, writer's bureau and the Hindu came. Three students addressed them, each from 1st, 2nd and 3rd year and the level of confidence and commitment was amazing. Syeeda Hamid who presided over the entire event later told me that she is taken aback at the level of engagement. "How do you address the issue to make it so alive. I find that even Gujarat is forgotten. How Bhopal?" she asked me. Shivani at the end of the press conference summed up her experience and her comment is telling on what we need to address. "Watching the press I have just begun to feel Bhopal on my pulse as though something is pressing on my nerves." Vaibhav told me, "I know what I would not want to become years down the line. It is watching people's blank response that has taught me what Bhopal must really mean to those who are at the receiving end of systems that oppress."

Read about the action in The Hindu.

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Meeting with the President of India

At a meeting with New Delhi-based youth supporters of the struggle for justice by the survivors of the Bhopal disaster, the President of India said the lack of remediation of the toxic wastes and contaminated lands and groundwater in and around Union Carbide’s Bhopal factory site is a "matter of serious concern." Assuring youth from the Hindu College’s Bhopal support group “We for Bhopal” of quick action, he said: “A process for cleaning up of the site has to be set in motion and I agree that this is a neglect that has to be rectified.” Four student representatives – Pawas Bisht, Shivani Mutneja, Vaibhav Patel and Aditi Rajvanshi -- of “We For Bhopal” and their teacher Suroopa Mukherjee met the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan for 45 minutes on 25 March, 2004.

“We for Bhopal conveys its shock and dismay at the manner in which the disaster continues to affect the lives of people, and emphasized that the toxic contamination and poisoned groundwater left behind in Bhopal by Union Carbide should be cleaned up without delay and at the cost of the polluters,” the student group said.

The President was briefed of a recent landmark decision in the Appeals Court in New York in an appeal filed by survivors and survivors organization which would make it easier for the Indian Government to make Union Carbide clean up in Bhopal. In reinstating the Bhopal survivors’ case to the District Court of New York, the US Appeals Court has directed the Court to remain open to the survivors’ request for injunctive relief for clean-up of Carbide’s factory site by the company. However, the Court has said that such a request can only be considered if the Indian Government or Madhya Pradesh government also indicate that they support the survivors’ request for clean-up by Union Carbide.

"This is such a simple request that we cannot understand why the Indian government would not do it without any hesitation," said Aditi Rajvanshi of "We for Bhopal". “This is an immense opportunity for India to stand tall before the world we won’t hesitate to make a US multinational clean up its mess," she added. The president promised to look into all the legal and human ramifications of the matter without any delay.

Other demands put forward by the students, include the immediate provision of piped water supply for those forced to use poisoned water; prompt distribution of the Rs. 1505 crore balance of compensation funds, resolution of the criminal trial against Union Carbide Corporation, setting up of an independent People’s Commission on Bhopal, and the release of ICMR’s medical reports on Bhopal.

Commenting on the meeting with the President, We for Bhopal said “The President’s assurance that he would use his office to get justice in Bhopal done will be the first step towards hope for the survivors of Bhopal.”

Read more about the meeting in the Asian Age.

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20th Anniversary Vigil, Protest
(click here for photos!)

“We for Bhopal” organized multiple events to mark the 20th anniversary of Bhopal. These include:

1. We had a morning meeting "THE LESSONS OF BHOPAL: Corporate Crimes, Accountability, State Collusion And their Impact on Women", organised by The Other Media, Jagori and Amnesty International-Delhi. Champa Devi Shukla represented the Bhopal Survivour groups at the meeting. Usha Ramanathan (legal researcher), Roma (political activist), Amarjeet Kaur (trade unionist) and Kalyani (feminist) spoke at the meeting.
2. In the afternoon from 3 pm onwards, a peaceful demonstration at the India Gate was organised by ICJB members- We for Bhopal, The Other Media, Greenpeace and Association for India's Development. We had long banners demanding Dow to Clean up, which were publicly signed/hand printed by students, activists, passers-by, tourists (this spot is one the major tourist spots of Delhi). We also got the Dow Declaration signed by people. The banners and the declaration are being sent to the Dow's Corporate office in Bombay. As the evening descended, we lit candles...we had "No More Bhopals" written with candles in the middle and stood around holding candles. We observed 2 minutes silence to pay homage to the dead after which, along with Champa didi, we all took pledge to fight for justice in Bhopal. Villagers from Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand along with Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance for People's Movement leaders Medha Patkar, Sanjay Sanghwai, Sanjay MG, Surendra Mohan, Aruna Roy and many others joined us during the candle light vigil. We sang songs, shouted slogans, held hands...it was beautiful. We all felt united in our diverse struggles for justice from different parts of the country.
3. Students also put up posters in different colleges and favourite haunts.
4. In Mid December we had a concert fundraiser in Delhi.

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Student Fact-Finding Report & Film

In October 2004, a dozen students from We for Bhopal visited Bhopal on a Fact Finding Mission to Bhopal. They met with survivors, toured the factory grounds, and interviewed government officials, including the Gas Minister and the Chief Minister of the State Government. The students then compiled their findings in a report, called "Closer to Reality," which they intend to deliver to all the government officials concerned with Bhopal, as well as the President and Prime Minister of India.

We for Bhopal also produced and edited a film by the students who participated in the Fact Finding Mission, documenting their visits to the factory grounds, government officials and others. The film includes interviews with the students, taken both before the trip and after its conclusion. Like the Fact Finding report itself, students intend to deliver copies of this film to the President, the Prime Minister, and other government officials.

On Oct. 26th, 2005, We for Bhopal hosted the official launch of their report and film at Hindu College, Delhi University. Featured at the event were Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla (Joint Winners of the Goldman Environment Award 2004); Irfan Bhai; Shahid Noor and the members of Bhopal ki Awaaz (a youth survivor group of those orphaned on that night); and Sathinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra and Terry Allan of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic. The release was followed by a panel discussion called “Youth Awareness and Bhopal Today” and a Quawalli on the Bhopal Saga by Layeek ‘Theekre’.

Copies of the report and film can be purchased here.

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Students Gherao Tata Building Against Ratan’s Offer to Bail Out Union Carbide

NEW DELHI, 2 March, 2007 -- More than 40 student supporters of the struggle for justice for Bhopal from Delhi colleges, and youth organizations including We For Bhopal and Tarunima, today protested against Ratan Tata in front of the Tata office in the crowded Connaught Place market. The students were outraged at Ratan Tata’s offer to lead a charitable clean-up of the toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in Bhopal in order to clear Carbide’s liabilities and enable it and its new owner Dow Chemical to expand their businesses in India. Union Carbide fled India after the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster abandoning thousands of tons of toxic wastes. It has failed to honour court summons in the criminal case against it in Bhopal. As a result, it was declared absconder in 1992. In 2001, Dow Chemical took over all of Carbide’s assets. But Dow has failed to produce Union Carbide to face trial in India, and refused to take responsibility for cleaning up the toxic contamination. Because of these unresolved liabilities, Dow Chemical has put investment plans on hold. Ratan Tata’s offer will allow Union Carbide to go scot-free, and even allow the company to resume business in India.

Clean-up is the responsibility of the polluter, and the Government of India has demanded Rs. 100 crores from Dow for clean-up. “Ratan Tata's offer is a slap on the face of survivors of the worst chemical disaster in the world who have been pitched in a battle for justice against one of the largest chemical corporations. Tata's offer will let Dow off the hook and set a precedent where clean-up after contamination will not be mandatory but a matter of choice,” said Shalini Sharma, student coordinator of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. Incidentally, Ratan Tata is co-chairman of the US India CEO Forum, an elite group of corporate executives from India and the United States who are engaged in recommending wide-ranging policy changes to make India more friendly to investors.

Suroopa Mukherjee, advisor to the student-led We For Bhopal said, “A government-aided clean-up retains the possibility of recovering the money from Dow-Carbide depending on the outcome of the ongoing case in Madhya Pradesh High Court. However, Tata's offer of a "charitable" clean-up would make it impossible to pin liability and recover the costs from Dow-Carbide.”

A student protester emphasized that if Tatas were serious about their commitment to a clean environment, they would start by cleaning up the sites polluted by Tata Group companies, in fact they have a lot to choose from- Mithapur in Gujarat, Patancheru in Andhra Pradesh, Sukhinda in Orissa, Jugsalai, Jamshedpur.

Students and supporters formed a human chain in front of the main Tata Service office and distributeda list of places polluted by Tata group of industries. They took signatures from people against this proposal and pledged to boycott careers in Tata group companies until Tata withdraws from Bhopal. The protesters were demanding a public withdrawal of the proposal and urged Mr. Tata to use his position to pressurize Dow to assume the liability of Bhopal. Mr. Sanjay Singh, Vice President, Tata Services spoke to a delegation of students and accepted the letter of demands on behalf of Mr. Ratan Tata.

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Bush Come Back with Warren Anderson - A Report

At the twilight on March 1st, 2006, about a motley group of hundred-fifty youths gathered to awaken the conscience of the society. The order of the day was to expose the flawed notion of progress that rewards the already rich and further marginalizes the poor. What is common between Dubya’s visit to India and the delayed justice to the Bhopalis? The answer is in the title of this report and in the countless posters, banners and signs around the open air theatre of the National School of Drama campus in Delhi. The youths represented organizations such as We for Bhopal, NDS student union, Peopletree, Association for India’s Development and the Jan Natya Manch.

The program began with a satirical street play illustrating the imperialistic designs of the Bush administration. The street play was an unprecedented collaboration between three different colleges in the Delhi University helped by the Jan Natya Manch. It was followed by a chilling performance called ‘Children of the Fog’, a poignant account of an unborn child during the Bhopal gas tragedy, using three different mediums. The narration was accompanied by a bharatnatyam performance by Rashika Ojha, with the visual footage of the disaster, news blurbs and photographs in the background. It was written and narrated by Pawas Bisht (Final Year, Mass Communication, Jamia Milia Islamia). Another brilliant street play – ‘Nahi Kabool (not acceptable)’ – by Jan Natya Manch followed on the effect of new trade and privatization policy by Bush and his cohorts. It communicated how in spite of the ‘booming economy’, the actual food grain consumption has gone down.

The three main performances were interlaced by enthusiastic songs by the NSD students and poetry readouts by Sudhanva Deshpande of the Jan Natya Manch. He also read out excerpts from "Bhopal Gas tragedy, a book for young people" by Suroopa Mukherjee to introduce the gathering to the Bhopal issue. Towards the end, Madhumita Dutta urged everyone to support the ongoing march through actions, and also by physically joining the march in Delhi.

The members from We for Bhopal, collected close to 100 signatures on the petition in support of the march addressed to the Prime Minister. Two main news channels, NDTV and TV 18 (CNN-IBN), filmed the entire proceedings while broadcasting some live action. In the end, the TV channels organized a forum with a few students to talk about the various issues presented in various modes during the evening.

The event was the first in a series of efforts to mobilize the public and media for the Bhopal march in the national capital region. It was meant to elucidate the connected challenges that we face in the light of several struggles for justice around us. Once the cameras went silent, the crowd dispersed resolving to reshape the future of this world in the paints of colors of justice and equality.

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Rachna, Ryan, Shivani Talk to Students


Shivani Speaks

On July 26, 2006, students at Delhi University were treated to an unusual convergence of three dynamic speakers: Rachna Dhingra, the India Coordinator for ICJB, Ryan Bodanyi, the Coordinator of Students for Bhopal, and Shivani Mutneja, an Executive Member of the Delhi-based "We for Bhopal". Each spoke in turn, Rachna leading things off with an impassioned introduction to the Bhopal struggle and an update on the current status of the campaign. Ryan spoke about the student campaign, based mostly in the United States, and student power generally, and Shivani finished by talking about We for Bhopal's efforts, inviting students to become involved. The talk, held at Hindu College, attracted about 30 well-wishers, and it was followed by a screening of the We for Bhopal film "Closer to Reality".

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"Expressions" Essay Competition

In December, 2004, We for Bhopal and AID-Delhi jointly organized an essay competition amongst college students in Delhi. The author of the winning essay was given a small reward.

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Documentaries, Discussion, Protests

Besides screening of Bhopal and other social justice documentaries, the students of Hindu College at Delhi University also organised a signature campaign, a poster with room for people's handprints, a discussion with Shahid Noor, a youth from Bhopal, and are engaged in efforts to meet the President of India as a Youth Delegation in support of Bhopal. The students call themselves "We for Bhopal (Delhi University)."

"By all counts things went off very well. The student response was unbelievably spontaneous. A huge no. saw the photo exhibition and so many paused and lingered. We got 154 signatures for the petition and many more hand prints. We sold a special issue of a student magazine called Hinterland focusing on Bhopal, as well as badges worth rs. 3000. Shahid's interactive session with the students was quite memorable. He spoke intensely and what he said was startling for them. To a question 'what do you plan to do in the future?' his answer was, 'one of us will self immolate. We will die and if that does not work others will die'. It was so raw that there was a shocked silence. We tried to watch Bhopal Express but it did not work on our dvd. But by then students
were not quite in a mood for a feature film. We also screened War and Peace by Anand Patwardhan - totally brilliant, and tied up well with the issue of crime against the people.

"Today there was some event on Bhopal at Gargi College and they wanted to know whether some students from Hindu would talk about their experience. Four of them went and spoke and sold 18 copies of Hinterland! The activism here is certain to continue and spread as we approach the 20th anniversary."

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The international student campaign to hold Dow accountable for Bhopal, and its other toxic legacies around the world.
For more information about the campaign, or for problems regarding this website, contact
Shana Ortman, the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Last updated: April 30, 2008

WE ALL LIVE IN BHOPAL

"The year 2003 was a special year in the history of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. It was the year when student and youth supporters from at least 30 campuses in the US and India took action against Dow Chemical or in support of the demands of the Bhopal survivors. As we enter the 20th year of the unfolding Bhopal disaster, we can, with your support, convey to Dow Chemical that the fight for justice in Bhopal is getting stronger and will continue till justice is done. We look forward to your continued support and good wishes, and hope that our joint struggle will pave the way for a just world free of the abuse of corporate power."

Signed/ Rasheeda Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Employees Union
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal