We for Bhopal
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
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
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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
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
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(click here for photos!)
“We for Bhopal” organized multiple events to mark the
20th anniversary of Bhopal. These include:
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
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
4. In Mid December we had a concert fundraiser in Delhi.
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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
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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
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.
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.
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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
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
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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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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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