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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.
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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Widespread public support and participation in the Bhopal campaign
fosters a strong local movement capable of organizing and winning
- The majority of your campus
or community understands and supports the need for justice in Bhopal.
- Your educational efforts
inspire the members of your campus or community to contribute to
the campaign for justice in Bhopal.
- Reach a wide audience by
organizing a broad array of educational events that appeal to diverse
- Proactively identify and
outreach to specific communities that you want to support your efforts.
- ALWAYS ensure that your
events foster participation in your other campaign efforts.
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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
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
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.
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.
an Anniversary Vigil or Commemoration
On Dec. 3rd, organize a vigil on campus, in your community, or near
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,
testimonials, poetry readings, and candle-lighting.
At Brown University
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
bloody handprints of Bhopali children
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
of Michigan, 2002
Dramatize the gas leak with toxic waste barrels and foaming dry
ice. Makes a great spectacle!
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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an educational resource or prop
and fact sheets about Bhopal
Media Advisory/Press Release
Posters & Graphics
..........• Draft Bhopal Quartersheets:
One & Two
list of dead & injured
..........• Amnesty International
a plaque online for as little as $40
Campus Petition Drives: A Strategy
..........• Sample petitions for
students and faculty
facts for hunger-strikers (courtesy of United Students Against
..........• 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
..........• 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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