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Education

Back to Campaigns

Many students – and many people in general – know very little about what happened in Bhopal. In a tragedy layered with injustice, this is one of the gravest of all, for ignorance can hide the most heinous of crimes and allow even the most basic justice to be denied to those who desperately need it. However when people learn about Bhopal and the chemical terror that continues there, many become outraged, and determined to support the cause of justice. Make sure that ongoing education is the foundation of all your efforts, and continues throughout any other campaigns you may undertake.

Why Education? Action Ideas
How it Makes a Difference Resources
Campaign Outline  


Why Education?

Do you remember the first time you learned about what happened in Bhopal? How did you feel? Angry? Shocked? Outraged? Would you be here, now, if it hadn’t been for that moment? Although only a few people may become active in the Bhopal campaign, those that are involved have significantly improved the condition of the people of Bhopal – and further progress depends on continued outreach and education.

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How it Makes a Difference

Education is the critical foundation upon which to build all your future efforts. Do you want students to call the Indian Government? They’ll want to know why. Are you trying to organize a protest? Only those who are aware of the issue are likely to come. Are you trying to pressure your school to expel Dow? Why should they do so? Education is the root of all future action you’re likely to take for Bhopal, and all future progress that you’ll make.

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Campaign Outline

Vision

Widespread public support and participation in the Bhopal campaign fosters a strong local movement capable of organizing and winning significant victories.

Goals
  1. The majority of your campus or community understands and supports the need for justice in Bhopal.
  2. Your educational efforts inspire the members of your campus or community to contribute to the campaign for justice in Bhopal.

Strategies

  1. Reach a wide audience by organizing a broad array of educational events that appeal to diverse constituencies.
  2. Proactively identify and outreach to specific communities that you want to support your efforts.
  3. ALWAYS ensure that your events foster participation in your other campaign efforts.

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Action Ideas

Host a Film or Video Screening
A dozen short documentaries and at least one full-length feature film about the Bhopal disaster are available for FREE. Show them on your campus, and follow up the screening with a discussion about what people can do. Then get involved!

At the University of Colorado

Host the Bhopal Photo Exhibit
"We are not Flowers, We are Flames!", a powerful exhibition of photographs by Raghu Rai and Maude Dorr, is touring the United States and available for exhibition on your campus. "We are not Flowers, We are Flames!" documents both the horror of the disaster and the perseverance and determination of those who survived to demand justice, corporate accountability, and their basic human right to an environment free of chemical poisons. Thumbnails of the 24-piece exhibit, as well as comments from those who have seen it and other details, are available here. Shipping costs are estimated at $90-$120 dollars.

At the AID Conference in Pittsburgh

Host a Speaker, Teach-in, Panel Discussion, or Debate
Invite a speaker from the Bhopal campaign to come and discuss the disaster, its aftermath, and the ongoing struggle for justice. Then invite your friends, classmates, professors, and members of the University administration to attend or participate. Browse the Bhopal Speaker’s Bureau to find out more.

Perform Bhopal, a Play by Rahul Varma
Bhopal, first performed at the Teesri Duniya Theatre in Montreal in November 2001, “tells the story of how complex forces struggled to bury the truth, expose it, or shape it to the needs of self-interest, and how an unspeakable disaster ended all speculation. Ultimately, though, it is about - and for - those without means or influence, whose voices are seldom heard and yet who are made to pay the cost.” More information, including reviews, is available here.

Coordinate an Anniversary Vigil or Commemoration
On Dec. 3rd, organize a vigil on campus, in your community, or near the home of a Dow Boardmember or a Dow facility. Invite participants to remember the dead and vow to fight for those who still suffer today. Consider including speakers, music, survivor testimonials, poetry readings, and candle-lighting.

At Brown University

Recitation of Names
Among all those who died in Bhopal it’s easy to lose track of the individuals that Carbide killed. Reminding everyone that 20,000 deaths is more than just a number can be a powerful event. Organize a public reading of the names of some of those who gave their lives. Alternately, you could do so visually, by chalking a list of names on your campus crossroads. You could also build gravestones (relatively easy) or human-size silhouette cut-outs in black and print the name and story of a Bhopali killed by Carbide.

In Togo, West Africa, 2005

Build A Bhopal Memorial
The only memorial ever built in Bhopal was designed by a descendant of the Holocaust. Inscribed on its sides are the words “No Hiroshima, No Bhopal – We Want to Live.” Design your own Bhopal memorial in your community. You might want to include a list of names, or it may be more symbolic (like a dry ice “gas leak” surrounded by a swathe of body outlines in chalk, a pile of body bags, or a funeral procession).

An art competition in Bhopal

Organize a Poetry/Art Contest
Invite the students from your school to participate in a poetry or artistic competition with a Bhopal theme. Organize an exhibition/recitation that’s open to the public, and hand out prizes donated by area businesses. Consider sending the winning entries to Dow.

Spread the Word
Write an article about Bhopal for your campus newspaper, ask the paper to do a story on your group’s activities, or submit an op-ed column with a local angle (sample articles are available on the Students for Bhopal website). Or set up an interview for yourself or a member of the campaign on campus radio!

Seattle, 2004

Organize Public Bhopal Readings
This is easy to plan; all you need are things to read and people to read them! Host a regular reading session about the Bhopal disaster and campaign, perhaps at a local coffee shop, and invite the public.

Hand out “Bhopal Water”
Concoct a nasty brew of foul-tasting ingredients and hand it out to students on a silver platter. Dress up as a waiter and approach people on your college green or in your school’s cafeterias. Invite them to try the Bhopal water but insist that they sign a liability waiver in case of injury or death. Educate yourself beforehand about the toxins found in actual Bhopal water.

A creative twist: befoul (but do no damage to) a public fountain. Dress up as Dow executives and angrily assert that the water is clean, and fine for drinking. Refuse to drink the water yourselves but insist that others do so.

Summon the "Dow Grim Reaper"
Dress up as the Dow Grim Reaper by painting or taping Dow's symbol on the front of a Grim Reaper costume. Then cull your student body by handing them “death slips” that explain how and why your victims have died. It’s a fun way to spread the word about Bhopal - and let everyone know who’s responsible!

Petitions
Petitions are the time-honored way of demonstrating public support for your campaign and can also be a useful tool for introducing people to an issue.

Rather than assigning a few people to sit at a table and collect signatures, it’s more efficient for everyone in the group to get in on the act, and collect 20 or so signatures per week (or more if you can) from friends, folks in their dorms, etc. Give people a basic rap to say, hand out the blank petitions at a meeting and send them off!

As with other kinds of sign-up sheets, it’s good to put yourself and a few friends at the top of the sheet so nobody has to be the first. Keep the original petition and send copies of it to your target(s).

Add everyone who signs up to a low-traffic “action alert” email list, so that they’ll know about other opportunities to support your efforts.

Balloon Petition
As a creative variation on traditional petitioning, write a brief slogan (such as “Justice for Bhopal Now”) on helium balloons and collect signatures on the balloons before tying them all over campus.

A thousand bloody handprints of Bhopali children

Bloody Handprints
Build a toxic waste drum out of chicken wire and paper mache (if you can’t find a real one), paint it white (red for Dow’s symbol) and then plant it in a major thoroughfare. As people pass through, you can ask them to leave their bloody handprints in red fingerpaint. Then take photos to send to Dow or even send the real thing. Or deliver it to a key member of your college with a demand for action. The same can also be done with a large cloth banner.

Organize a Run for Your Life!! Race
Organize a short race to dramatize and re-create the disaster. Begin with a (dry ice) gas “leak” (outside a Dow building if you have one on campus, or a nearby Dow facility) and urge the runners to dash for safety. Dress up as the Grim Reaper, catch people as they flee, and give them death certificates at the end. Award the “survivors” (the winners) with “metals” symbolizing the continuing chemical and heavy metal contamination that burdens the people of Bhopal.

View more photos from the race!

At the University of Michigan, the “Run for Your Life!!” race served three purposes: raising awareness about the disaster among the student body in an engaging and participatory way; drawing attention to the University’s unacceptable association with Dow, and garnering valuable publicity for the campaign. Participants were asked to sign away their rights by a "Dow representative" sporting a Pinocchio nose. The Dow rep spoke grandly about Dow's discussions with survivors and attempts to develop a philanthropic strategy for Bhopal, but the runners weren't buying it. Instead they signed allegations of liability, charging the company with ignoring its clear legal responsibilities in Bhopal.

The race began with a dry ice "gas leak" outside of the Dow Chemistry Laboratories on Central Campus. Participants began to cough and soon they fled, chased by a resolute Grim Reaper sporting a nasty scythe. Before the runners reached the vicinity of the University Hospitals, more than 40% had been culled by the Reaper. Death certificates and stickers reading "I DIED: Ask Me How" were distributed to those who were caught; the winners were granted lead and mercury “metals”, symbolizing the continuing contamination that even the survivors of the Bhopal disaster continue to face. Water bottles reading "CLEAN WATER - What Bhopal Lacks" were distributed to all the participants, who had braved the weather and turned out to run in spite of near-freezing temperatures. The race received coverage in the local section of Monday's Ann Arbor News.

Put Dow On Trial
This is a creative and engaging way of educating the campus community about the Bhopal disaster. It involves a presentation of evidence, a prosecution and a defense, and an impartial jury which can convict Dow on the basis of the evidence presented. You can invite law students, the mock trial group, or Dow representatives to participate, and notify the media - and Dow - of the outcome.

Alternately, you could empanel a group of students as a Grand Jury and ask them to issue an indictment. A Grand Jury would differ from a full trial in that:

..........• The standard of proof is lower. The Grand Jury simply needs to conclude that a "preponderance of the evidence" suggests that a party is guilty. A conviction requires reasonable doubt.
..........• In a trial, there is a prosecutor and a defendant. However the Grand Jury is simpler: there are no judges or opposing lawyers, only the prosecution and an impartial body of citizens. Evidence is presented, and on the basis of that evidence the Grand Jury decides whether or not to indict. A Grand Jury can also subpoena witnesses and evidence.
..........• An indictment leaves open the interesting possibility of a response from the company. In the indictment, you can demand that a Dow representative appear to stand trial at your school. In the unlikely event that one does appear, then you could have an actual trial - and that would certainly be interesting. However what you'll likely receive instead is a letter from Dow, espousing their PR talking points, which you'll be able to post for the whole school to read. If they fail to appear, you can declare them "absconders", just like the Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Bhopal, and issue arrest warrants for the Board. These can then be “served” on Dow executives nationwide.

The whole process is interactive theater from start to finish, and it lends itself to media coverage: "Blah University Students Indict $40 Billion Company for Corporate Manslaughter". You can even give interviews "in character" as the prosecutor or as a juror.

At Brown University

Chalkings
Get a couple buckets of sidewalk chalk and decorate campus. Chalking is cheap, fun, creative, and effective. Some schools don’t like it, but it’s pretty harmless and if you do it late at night, you’ll avoid scrutiny. You can use it to educate, advertise, or put pressure on your administration (Ex.: by chalking the night before a lot of alumni or parents are visiting campus).

One possibility: sketch body outlines around campus (particularly around the Dow Building, if you have one, or the President’s house) and write the names of Bhopal victims inside, or Bhopal slogans.

Present Dow with an "Award"
Give Dow an “award” for its infamous legacy in Bhopal. The award can be as fancy as a plaque or as easy as a certificate made from construction paper. Or, present a Pinocchio nose to congratulate Dow on their lie-ability. Give the award to a Dow representative at your school, a recipient of Dow funding, or to the Dow Grim Reaper, on hand to “represent” the company and accept the award. You can then send on the actual award and photographs of the ceremony to Dow headquarters in Midland.

University of Michigan, 2002

Leaking Barrels
Dramatize the gas leak with toxic waste barrels and foaming dry ice. Makes a great spectacle!

Fasts or Hunger-Strikes
Public fasts and hunger strikes can be a powerful way of demonstrating your commitment, generating media coverage, and winning supporters to your side. Consider a day-long collective hunger strike, a rotating hunger strike, or an indefinite hunger strike (although most people can go without food for several days, consult your doctor). If you’re planning an indefinite hunger strike, make sure that some of your leaders don’t join in – they’ll need their energy to organize support behind your struggle. Be sure to drink lots of water. Fasting is a traditional non-violent tactic that has been used by women suffragists, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, political prisoners and others. If you are going on a prolonged hunger strike (more than 1-3 days), read up on it first, so you know what you’re doing.

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Resources

..........Request an educational resource or prop
..........Handouts and fact sheets about Bhopal
..........Draft Media Advisory/Press Release
..........Draft Op-eds
..........Bhopal Posters & Graphics
..........Draft advertising poster
..........• Draft Bhopal Quartersheets: One & Two
..........Survivor testimonials
..........Partial list of dead & injured
..........Bhopal poetry
..........Bhopal slogans
..........Understand your rights
..........• Amnesty International report: Clouds of Injustice
..........In-depth background information
..........Bhopal books
..........Order a plaque online for as little as $40
..........Order candles online
..........Effective Campus Petition Drives: A Strategy
..........• Sample petitions for students and faculty to sign
..........Health facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against Sweatshops)
..........• Publicity fliers (One & Two) about the Bhopal Photo exhibit at the University of Michigan
..........• A bus advertisement about the Bhopal Photo exhibit at the University of Michigan
..........• Check with university or city officials to see whether your "Run for Your Life!" race needs a permit.
..........• You may require insurance for a "Run for Your Life!" race. K&K Insurance offers reasonable rates.
..........• Publicity fliers (One & Two) about the "Run for Your Life!" race at the University of Michigan
..........• A "Run for Your Life!" ad that ran in the Ann Arbor News
..........• A bus advertisement about the "Run for Your Life!" race at the University of Michigan

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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: May 1, 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