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University of Michigan

Justice for Bhopal at the University of Michigan has been so active that we've divided this page into three sections:

..........Targeting Dow
..........Targeting the University

Bhopal Survivors Visit the University of Michigan
(click here for photos!)

On May 6th, 2003, approximately 50 University students and faculty attended an open discussion with two survivors of the Bhopal disaster, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi. Both Rashida and Champa suffered exposure to Union Carbide’s deadly gases on December 3rd, 1984; speaking through an interpreter (longtime Bhopal activist Sathyu Sarangi), Rashida and Champa described the panicked flight of thousands of Bhopal residents, and their own desperate dash for safety. Both survivors spoke about the losses that their own families had endured—Rashida lost five gas-exposed members of her family to cancers, while Champa lost her husband—and discussed their eighteen-year-long struggle for justice from the company. Rashida and Champa—who were both on their sixth day of an indefinite hunger strike, leading up to the Dow Shareholder meeting on May 8th—were able to speak and take questions for a little over an hour. At the end of the session, the attendees gave both women a standing round of ovation.

Read more in the Michigan Daily.

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Bhopal Performance Reenacts Disaster

Choking on the burning gas

The living and the dead

Mouring the murdered

Vowing to fight for the living

On December 2nd, 2005, the Ann Arbor chapter of the Association for India’s Development, EnAct, Environmental Justice and Students for Bhopal co-sponsored several performances of a powerful Bhopal performance on the Diag, the central crossroads of the University of Michigan campus. The event was covered in the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily, and over the course of the day several hundred people watched the performance.

Writes the Daily: “LSA junior Joseph Mathias and LSA senior Deetti Reddy rolled on the ground while smoke emitted from a large black barrel in the Diag on Friday. The performance was a part of the Students for Bhopal's re-enactment of the Bhopal Tragedy, a chemical spill that killed thousands of Indians nearly two decades ago.

The University of Michigan flag flew at half-staff

"’Not a lot of people know that the Bhopal disaster ever happened,’ said performer Jeff Collins, a University alum who works with Students for Bhopal, a student group that supports reparations for victims of the disaster. ‘There is still responsibility that has not been taken,’ Collins said. ‘Union Carbide just picked up and left. (The chemicals are) all still there.’ Students for Bhopal wants Dow to clean up the toxins, face a trial, provide long-term health care and provide economic support for the victims.”

The five-minute silent skit is an abstract reenactment of the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster. Its purpose is to remind the public that Dow's liability in Bhopal remains unresolved as people continue to die from the effects of the toxic gas. The Dow Grim Reaper represents Dow's culpability in these deaths. The person in white represents those who have died. The person in red represents the injured, who carry the legacy of the disaster in their blood. The person in gray represents the rest of us, who are neither criminals nor victims, but nonetheless must bury the dead, care for the injured, and demand justice from Dow. Read the script and watch a video (Quicktime: 24 MB) of the performance!

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Bhopal Memorial Donated to University of Michigan

Julie Peterson accepts the gift on behalf of the University of Michigan

On December 3rd, 2005, several students and supporters of the Bhopal campaign joined together in the creation of a public art project, memorializing the catastrophic disaster that happened 21 years ago. Entitled “Bhopal”, the project featured seven large “toxic waste” drums, each of which was covered with stencils, writings and images representing such themes as “THAT NIGHT,” “The Women’s Union,” and “Compensation”. Each barrel also contains a sound installation, which will continue to play this 3-minute clip of powerful quotes and damning Carbide lies set against the mournful backdrop of the Indian sitar.

A closeup of one of the stencils

The project was presented to the University of Michigan at the home of its President, Mary Sue Coleman. President Coleman was out of town and unable to accept the gift in person, but Julie Peterson, the University’s Vice President for Communications, was on hand to accept the gift on behalf of the school. Jayanthi Reddy from AID-Ann Arbor and Ryan Bodanyi from Students for Bhopal spoke briefly about the disaster, its importance, and the local movement to ensure that Bhopal is not forgotten. Julie Peterson also spoke, echoing the importance of remembrance and thanking us for the gift to the school. The barrels themselves will be displayed separately in seven different buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

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"Indecent Acts - Demanding Corporate Accountability"

On April 5th, 2003, the Association for India's Development, Environmental Action, Environmental Issues Commission, Environmental Justice, Justice for Bhopal, Ecology Center, Environmental Health Watch, Greenpeace, and Lone Tree Council all sponsored "Indecent Acts - Demanding Corporate Accountability: A Conference On Dow Chemical and Organizing Skills." Approximately 100 people attended to learn about Dow's dioxin contamination in Midland, its liability in Bhopal, and its global impact on the environment and human health. Training workshops were also held to help teach students the skills that they'll need to organize around Dow's contamination and liability issues; Corporate Research, Greenwashing, Corporate Control of Science and Education, and Radical Cheerleading sessions were only a few of those featured. The keynote address was delivered by Sheldon Rampton, the editor of PR Watch and author of, among other works, "Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry." Other environmental luminaries that attended and presented included Gary Cohen and Joe DiGangi of the Environmental Health Fund, David Wood of the GrassRoots Recycling Network, Nity Jayaram and G Krishnaveni of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Terry Miller of the Lone Tree Council, Casey Harrell of Greenpeace, Monica Rohde Buckhorn of the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, Phil Mattera of the Corporate Research Project, and Mary Beth Doyle and Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor. The evening closed with a special reception at the Raghu Rai photo exhibit on North Campus.

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"Exposure: Portrait of a Corporate Crime"
(click here for the news advisory!)

On March 30, 2003, "Exposure: Portrait of a Corporate Crime. Photographs of Bhopal by Raghu Rai" opened for its American debut at the Pierpont Commons Piano Lounge on the University of Michigan's North Campus. The exhibition, which features photographs that were taken in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal disaster, captures the horror of the tragedy and documents a community in trauma. Raghu Rai's photographs of Bhopal have become famous worldwide, and his exhibition has been shown around the world. The exhibition was on display at the University until April 12; as the photos were exhibited in a high-traffic area, several hundred people are estimated to have seen the exhibit during its time on campus. The exhibition was sponsored by Justice for Bhopal, the Ecology Center, Greenpeace, and the Association for India's Development (Ann Arbor), official members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

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Anniversary Protest on the Diag
(click here for photos!)

December 2nd and 3rd were the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal accident, and Justice for Bhopal organized a two-day protest/re-enactment on the Diag to educate UM students about the tragedy. Actual toxic waste barrels, stenciled with a bleeding Dow logo, were roped off with biohazard caution tape. Foaming dry ice simulated the gas leak while coalition members dressed in biohazard suits set up tombstones, held up banners, and displayed photos of the victims. Read our coverage in the Michigan Daily!

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Justice for Bhopal attends the AID Conference
(click here for photos!)

On May 24-26, 2003, approximately a dozen members of the Justice for Bhopal group traveled to Pittsburgh to participate in the Association for India’s Development (AID) annual conference. There, Shivani, Ryan, Dave and others spoke about the successful campaign that had been launched at the University of Michigan over the past year. Ryan also participated in a panel discussion on the Bhopal campaign, which featured Rashida Bi and Champa Devi, two survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak. Rashida and Champa each spoke for half an hour about their own experiences in the gas leak, and the collective effort by the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh (Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationary Employees Union) to win the same wages and benefits as other state employees—an aim that took over a decade to achieve. The members of AID were all exceptionally supportive, and many offered to help the campaign in whatever way they could.

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"Bhopal Express" Showing

On Thursday, March 6 and on Sunday, March 9, 2003, Justice for Bhopal sponsored two screenings of Mahesh Mathai's Bhopal Express, the only feature film ever made about the Bhopal tragedy. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Zeenat Aman, Vijay Raaz, and Nethra Raghuraman, the film is a human drama set against the Bhopal gas tragedy, and unravels through the eyes of a newly wed couple and their friend. The film had only been shown once before in the United States; it is now touring in select cities around the U.S. Approximately 20 people attended the Thursday showing of the movie and 50 people came to the Sunday screening. On both occasions people stayed afterward for discussion and Q & A about the Bhopal tragedy.

More details about the movie can be found at www.bhopalexpress.com.

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"Bhopal Legacy"

The acclaimed filmmaker Nadeem Uddin came to campus on November 5th, 2002, to show his documentary, Bhopal Legacy, and speak about his own experiences in Bhopal. Mr. Uddin was born in Bhopal, and has spent years filming the site of the accident and interviewing the people that it’s affected. Fifty people turned out to see his film, planned for wide release sometime next year, and many of them stayed afterward to watch the videotaped footage of our confrontation with Michael Parker.

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"India and Free Trade: A Closer Look at Bhopal"

On November 6th, 2002, Justice for Bhopal began the process of educating the UM campus by showing two videos about the ongoing catastrophe in Bhopal. The first film was an 18 minute informational video about the tragedy and recent efforts to expose the contamination. The video combined interviews with survivors, scientists and others with stunning visual footage of the contamination. The second film, India and Free Trade: A Closer Look at Bhopal (a documentary by Pavithra Narayanan) focused on “free trade” and on “winners and losers” in a free market economy. As a case in point, it examined the Bhopal gas disaster and its implications for developing economies all over the world. Thirty people turned out for the showing and participated in the discussion afterward about what could be done to win justice for Bhopal.

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Bhopal Survivors Speak at the University of Michigan

In early May, 2004, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla again spoke at the University of Michigan, to a standing-room only crowd of more than 50 students and supporters. Speaking through an interpreter (longtime Bhopal activist Sathyu Sarangi), Rashida and Champa described the panicked flight of thousands of Bhopal residents, and their own desperate dash for safety. Both survivors spoke about the losses that their own families had endured—Rashida lost five gas-exposed members of her family to cancers, while Champa lost her husband—and discussed their long struggle for justice from the company, as well as the road ahead.

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Radio Interview: "Focus on the Issues"

On Nov. 22nd, 2002, Shivani and Rob were rocking the airwaves in an interview with Christian Knudson on “Focus on the Issues” on WCBN 88.3. A Dow representative had been scheduled to debate the two, but (not surprisingly) turned out to be a no-show.

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Radio Interview: Montana

On December 5th, 2002, Shivani, Nadeem Uddin (a filmmaker from Seattle), and Nupur Modi (a Greenpeace activist who was arrested and beaten in Bhopal for attempting to contain the leaking Union Carbide site) followed up our successes with an interview on a radio station in Montana (of all places).

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Radio Interview: "Alternative Press Review"

On April 1st, 2003, Shivani, Ryan, and Becca were all interviewed about the Bhopal tragedy, the dioxin contamination in Midland, and Dow's other bad acts on WCBN 88.3 FM. We discussed the upcoming Dow Conference and the "Run for Your Life!" with Alex Sergay of the "Alternative Press Review".

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Feature in the Daily

On January 9, 2003, the campaign for Justice in Bhopal at the University of Michigan highlighted by a series of articles in The Michigan Daily, all under the headline of "Bhopal's Chemical Winter". The coverage, which was spread across a full page of newsprint, included articles on the tragedy itself, the state of the site today, the University's association with Dow Chemical, and the need for student action. The Daily articles can be found online at:

..........Viewpoint: A Firsthand Account of the Site
..........Viewpoint: University is Tied to Dow and Bhopal Disaster
..........A Sketch of Bhopal's Tortured Legacy
..........Bhopal's Chemical Winter
..........Connecting the Dots: The University and Dow Co.
..........Viewpoint: The Stains of Bhopal

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Halloween: Dow is Death

On October 31st, 2005, students from the Ann Arbor Chapter of AID, EnAct, Environmental Justice, and other student organizations raised awareness about Dow's crimes in Bhopal on a paticularly appropriate day: Halloween. "We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made," said Deepa Pendse, a member of AID-Ann Arbor. They did so by dressing up as the "Dow Grim Reaper" and haunting the Dow Laboratories, partly funded by Dow Chemical. Body outlines were also sketched in chalk around the building, hundreds of fliers distributed, and giant banners hung from kiosks around campus.

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Bloody Love

On Thursday at noon, in a demonstration of solidarity with the Bhopal survivors’ march to Delhi, eight rowdy members of the Ann Arbor Coalition for Justice in Bhopal stormed the University of Michigan campus. Mounted on a shiny red bicycle-built-for-two, the Dow Grim Reaper and the Personified Indian Government road in circles around the main square in front of the graduate library, pursued by the jeers of a few sign-brandishing hecklers. Armed with an Indian hand drum, I led the group in a caustic variation of the well-known schoolyard refrain:

Dow and the Government, sittin’ in a tree,
First comes BLOOD, then comes DENIAL,
then comes Dow absconding from trial!

Meanwhile, two participants handed out flyers with information about the March to Delhi and instructions for faxing the Prime Minister’s office.

After fifteen minutes, student traffic had settled down and our supply of flyers was depleted. Launching the second stage of our demonstration, we embarked on the “Minimarch for Justice”. Dismounting from their mechanical steed, the Reaper and the Gov joined hands to prance at the head of the procession, followed by the hecklers, the drummer, and a valiant marcher who trudged under the burden of an industrial-size steel barrel. At the end of our short trek, we deposited this rusty titan in a small library at the East Quad dormitory, where it will be on display for the next couple weeks. The barrel is painted in fiery hues with images and facts related to the Bhopal disaster. A collage of liquid sitar tones and human voices, juxtaposing quotes from survivors, activists, and Dow-Carbide spokesmen, issues from within the metallic cavern.

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Confronting NEERI

On September 14, 2006, Rishi Singh, the former director of India's NEERI (the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute), came to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources to give a talk on environmental policy in India. After some invaluable priming from Indra on NEERIs role in exacerbating the post-1984 Bhopal fiasco, I went to the conference prepared to ask some pointed questions.

Mr. Singh's talk basically centered on the glorious ideals of the Indian constitution, the many applications involved in trying to realize these ideals, and NEERI's crucial role in making India's strong environmental standards a reality. Needless to say, one of the important steps he emphasized towards making environmental policy work was making sure that it wasn't too strict for industry to keep up. Poor industry...

Anyway, when he finally stopped talking, I asked my question, which went something like this:

In 1997, NEERI released a study claiming that the groundwater near the site of the 1984 for Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal was safe for drinking. However, only a few years later Greenpeace did their own study and found that the water was extremely contaminated, and not at all safe for drinking, and to this day it is generally accepted to be toxic.

More recently, NEERI was involved in a failed cleanup effort of the Union Carbide site in which local people were brought in to clean up the toxic chemicals with bare hands and feet, after which many of them were severely ill.

What effect do you think NEERI's involvement in such fiascoes has on its credibility as an environmental research organization, and even on your own credibility as an expert on environmental policy in India?

Mr. Singh was silent for a moment. Then he began to explain that he thought the research had been well done (even though it was obviously wrong), that neither of these actions had taken place during his time at NEERI, and that maybe I should read the 1996 report to understand the idiosyncrasies of the researchers conclusions. He talked for quite awhile and seemed to be well aware that everyone in the room was aware of the inadequacies of his answers.

I replied: So then, NEERI accepts no responsibility for the many people who are now extremely ill from drinking the water which they claimed was safe?

Mr. Singh was silent for a long time. He looked at me and I looked back at him. He didn't seem to be able to remove his gaze from my own, and I was quite enjoying dragging the silence out as long as possible. He kind of stuttered or murmured a bit a couple of times, but no words came out. Finally, the host of the event, another hydrological scientist who had invited him to give the talk stepped in and recounted how, in his many decades of work, he had occasionally also done studies that turned out to be flawed. After all, environmental science is complex stuff, and everyone makes mistakes.

That was enough for me. The elephant was thoroughly in the room, and I let Mr. Singh move on to other questions. Unfortunately for him, he didn't seem to be able to get over the fact that he'd been stumped. When other people asked him questions about entirely unrelated things, for example the right to information act, he kept coming back to the Bhopal issue as if maybe relating it that could somehow put him in the clear. It was nice to see that, at least for those 15 minutes or so, he was having trouble shaking the issue.

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Confronting Dow's CEO
(click here for photos!)

On Tuesday December 3rd, 2002, in the highlight of that week’s events, Greenpeace activists and students from Justice for Bhopal and AID - all members of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal - confronted the CEO of the Dow Chemical Corporation, Michael Parker, outside his home in Midland, Michigan. The visit, organized by Justice for Bhopal to commemorate the anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy, interrupted a lavish Christmas party at the Parker home. Although the vigil candles, Bhopal banners, tombstones, Parker “Wanted Posters” and other props didn’t seem to distract the gleeful party goers, Michael Parker did step outside and spar with us for approximately twenty minutes. The entire event was videotaped and a local television station also filmed the action and broadcast it on the 11 p.m. news.

Mr. Parker emphasized to the group that he remembered the exact day on which the tragedy took place, and that he and others in the chemical industry were deeply sympathetic to the plight of the victims in Bhopal. However when we offered to buy him a plane ticket to go to India to meet with the survivors and those still suffering, he refused. When asked why, he replied, “there are a lot of things that I have to do.”

The activists made it clear to Mr. Parker that we hold him personally responsible for cleaning up Bhopal. Shivani Anil Patel, a student from AID, attempted to give Mr. Parker a list of demands (including that Dow clean up the site and properly compensate the victims), but he refused to accept them. Mr. Parker continued to deny all responsibility for cleaning up Bhopal, and told the activists that he had no legal responsibility “whatsoever” to do so. When Mr. Parker was reminded that courts both in the United States and India were still considering the case, he assured everyone that they would not decide against his company.

Mr. Parker made clear to the activists that he had “interfaced” with several of the victims from Bhopal and lamented the poverty that could be found throughout all of India. Jackie Downing, an activist from Greenpeace, interrupted Mr. Parker to point out that while Dow might not be responsible for all of the poverty in all of India, it was Dow’s responsibility to clean up its mess in Bhopal. “The polluter pays,” she told him. “That’s your opinion,” he fired back.

Neglecting his dinner guests, Mr. Parker warned the group at several points that there would be consequences for making the issue personal and coming to his home. He told us to “consider very carefully” whether such a strategy might, in fact, achieve the exact opposite of what we intended. Dow’s spokesman John Musser later told the University of Michigan’s student newspaper that the visit was “pushing the limits” and represented an attempt to intimidate Mr. Parker.

Before leaving the group, Mr. Parker told us how much he respected us for coming out on such a cold evening. He confirmed that we had “the best of intentions” and thanked us for our caring and concern. He then stepped inside and rejoined his Christmas party.

Our visit was covered that night on WNEM Channel 5, and also received coverage both in the Midland Daily News and in the Michigan Daily.

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Protest at the 2003 Dow Shareholder's Meeting
(click here for photos!)

On May 8th, 2003, fifteen Justice for Bhopal members converged on Midland for the annual Dow Shareholder’s Meeting. They joined members of the International Campaign for Bhopal (ICJB), including longtime Bhopal activist Sathyu Sarangi, and two survivors of the Bhopal disaster, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi. Rashida lost five gas-exposed members of her family to cancers, and was left permanently semi-blind by Union Carbide’s gases. Champa’s entire family, including her husband and five children, were exposed to the gases; her husband died afterwards of bladder cancer. On the day of the shareholder’s meeting, Rashida and Champa were on their eighth day of an indefinite hunger strike calling for Dow to take responsibility in Bhopal.

Three giant banners depicting the victims of Bhopal were raised outside of the conference center, while Justice for Bhopal members held signs and banners in silent protest. Rashida and Champa sat quietly beneath the banners, wrapped in black saris while photographers from several newspapers took photographs. Television news channels 5 and 12 were also there to record the protest for the evening news, and Ryan was interviewed on the WIOG radio station.

Thanks to the generosity of several Dow shareholders, Rashida, Champa, and other ICJB members were granted proxies to enter the Dow shareholder meeting. There, during the question and answer session, they demanded justice from Dow’s current CEO, William Stavropolous, and the Dow Board of Directors. Speaking through an interpreter, Rashida and Champa both described their anguish at losing members of their families to the gas, and the daily suffering they face from their own health impacts. Rashida and Champa both made clear that they had been fasting for eight days, and asked why Union Carbide continued to evade its summons to stand trial in India, where the corporation is charged with culpable homicide for the thousands of deaths in Bhopal. Mr. Stavropolous replied by saying that "I really sympathize with your personal situation, but...we cannot accept responsibility for that issue." Mr. Stavropolous went on to deny—in a demonstrable lie webcast around the world—that Union Carbide faces ANY criminal charges in India.

The CEO was no less callous when he met with the Bhopal survivors in a private session following the shareholder’s meeting. Sathyu Sarangi, who served as interpreter, described the meeting as “totally depressing. …He basically gestured so that we could start speaking, and Rashida Bi told her story and Champa Devi told her story (and) I interpreted, and not a word from him,” Sarangi said. “He had this wooden expression and at the end of it he spoke not one word, he got up and said: ‘You must go and talk to your government. We’re sorry, we can’t do anything.’”

After traveling halfway around the world Rashida and Champa, survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster, enduring the eighth day of an indefinite hunger strike and bearing the scars of their own gas exposure, received no sympathy from Dow’s Chief Executive. This episode is only one more indication of how Dow’s corporate culture can condone the continued poisoning of the people of Bhopal, Plaquemine, Midland, Vietnam, and other places, and serves as only one more example of the need for a national campaign that demands justice from the Dow Chemical Corporation.

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Confronting Four Board Members on the 19th Anniversary
(click here for photos!)

"I spoke with the Ann Arbor folks, and they were enthusiastic about their Return-to-Sender. They were met outside the CEO's home by all the local television stations and newspapers, the police, and an entire squadron of Dow folks, led by the illustrious John Musser. Musser gave them a letter telling them that none of the Board members would come out to take the water. Instead they hid inside their homes as the students (13 of them) held a candlelight vigil in front of each house (Dow CEO William Stavropoulos & board members Pedro Reinhard, Anthony Carbone, Arnold Allemang) and read the testimonial of a Bhopal victim. The police and Dow folks followed the students everywhere they went, and the Dow flunkies picked up the water that the students left on each doorstep--but wouldn't do so on film."

Press Coverage includes the Midland Daily News, Michigan Daily, and the Saginaw News, as well as local television channels 25 (NBC), 12 (ABC) and 5 (CBS).

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Surprising Dow's Board on the 21st Anniversary

On December 1st, 2005, six members of the University of Michigan community traveled to Midland, Michigan to talk to five members of Dow’s Board of Directors – the folks responsible for perpetuating the ongoing chemical terror in Bhopal. We weren’t sure what to expect: in the past, Dow’s Board members have refused to speak with us, and fled when they knew we’d be arriving. So this visit was a surprise, timed to catch the Board members off guard and hopefully willing to speak about the disaster.

Stavropoulos befuddled by Michigan students

We started at the CEO's home, Andrew Liveris. He was either not home, or refused to come to the door, but we did leave a poster taped on his door with a note for when he returned.

This was repeated at the home of Dow's Chief Financial Officer, J. Pedro Reinhard.

We had better luck with the third name on our list, William Stavropoulos, himself the former CEO of Dow and current Chairman of the Board. We disturbed his restful enjoyment of a television sporting event as he reclined in a luxurious leather armchair. He appeared perplexed as he cautiously peered through the blinds next to his door, until he read the poster we'd brought. Then he became more agitated, nervous in his gestures. After a few seconds he held his hands up, palms outward, indicating his refusal to speak with us. At the control panel he turned off the lights to the living room and enabled the security system. He pressed the emergency button, calling his private security service, and moved to the kitchen where he also dimmed the lights before telephoning the Midland Police Department.

"Stay clear of Dow pets" we were told

We hadn't driven far before the men in blue pulled us over with flashing lights. Over the course of the next hour, they asked each driver for their license and registration, and also collected the identification of the other passengers. They verified our phone numbers, addresses, and occupations. And they photographed each of us with a digital camera, as well as our license plates. We were informed that we were never again to set foot on Dow property, approach any Dow building or facility, visit any of the Dow Board members, Dow executives, or Dow employees in any capacity. We were told to stay clear of Dow pets, avoid inhaling air once breathed by Dow's management, and to refrain from reading public documents produced by Dow, silently or aloud. They specifically instructed us to give our children different names than those given to the children of Dow executives. If we should break these rules, we were told, we would permanently forfeit our ability to send mail using the US Postal Service.

Overall we were astonished by the guilt and fear our friendly visit seemed to inspire. It’s clear that Dow’s Board members do not enjoy being held accountable for their actions, and it’s also clear why. We remain committed to reminding them of their responsibilities until justice is finally done.

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Dow Shareholder Meeting Protest

Today, May 11, 2006, we pissed all over Dow on their special, special day: the Dow Shareholder’s Meeting. About 20 protestors from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan made the journey to Midland, representing chapters of Amnesty International, the Association for India’s Development, Physicians for Human Rights, and Students for Bhopal. We were met there with a cold, driving rain: lashing us, drenching our skin, and making our signs bleed. Despite the nasty weather we put up a strong presence, screaming out our chants with a single voice:

What do we want? JUSTICE!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Mommy always said! …CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!!
What do we want? CLEAN WATER!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Justice for Bhopal! JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!

Our chants reverberated against the building and across the broad parking lot, where well-dressed Dow Shareholders – mostly former or current Dow employees – cast furtive glances at us as they slinked into the meeting. However some of them were bold enough to approach the grassy knoll (where we encamped) and pass along the line of signs, reading them carefully before entering the meeting. The media was there too, and both Neil Sardana (a former Michigan State student and Corporate Action Network coordinator for Amnesty in Michigan) and I spoke with a reporter from the Midland Daily News and a television crew from WJRT Channel 12 (ABC affiliate). Their questions (at least of me) were strangely synchronic: “You’ve been coming here for several years,” they said. “Do you really feel like you’re making any progress? Why do you continue to come?” “It’s very simple,” I answered: “because people continue to die.” And I courteously went on to explain that tens of thousands are still wallowing in toxic filth – still today – and drinking poisoned water because Dow refuses to accept their legal and moral responsibilities.

Inside the meeting, out of the rain and away from our chants, Neil Sardana formally presented the Bhopal resolution before the CEO Andrew Liveris and the assembled body of Dow Board members. The resolution, which calls on Dow to write a report for the benefit of their shareholders, explaining their initiatives to address the concerns of Bhopal survivors (given the reputational damage the ongoing campaign presents to the company, and shareholder value) was sponsored this year by New York City Fire Department (NYCFD) Pension Fund, the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF) and Amnesty International USA along with Boston Common Asset Management and Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust. Shareholder proponents hold over 4.5 million shares worth over $190 million.

This was the second year the resolution was voted on by shareholders, and it garnered 6.3% of the vote. That may not sound like much at first, but it’s worth keeping two things in mind:
1. The Securities and Exchange Commission rules allow for resolutions to be reintroduced if they attain at least 3% of the vote the first year; 6% the second, and 10% the third. So we’ve passed the threshold for re-introduction next year: an important milestone.
2. Six percent is a very respectable showing for resolutions that, like ours, make mostly moral arguments concerning the responsibilities of the company. Given that the number of shares you own is the number of votes you can cast, major institutional (often conservative) shareholders (such as banks, mutual funds, and the like) have a huge voice on resolutions such as this. Many institutions also often cast their vote as the company management recommends (guess what Dow recommended) and votes that are not cast are automatically counted in favor of the company. So the process is stacked against us.

While it obviously would have been nicer if the vote tally was still higher, the vote we received is still an embarrassing slap in the face of the company. Major institutional shareholders backed us, and that’s a humiliating rebuke. Our task is to ensure the humiliation grows next year by pushing the vote tally above the 10% threshold set by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Both prior to Neil’s introduction of the resolution, and in direct response to it, Dow CEO Liveris reiterated the same tired trash they trot out every year: ‘We don’t feel this is our responsibility, which properly belongs to the Indian Government;’ ‘Dow is not liable;’ ‘This is not an issue of concern for Dow Shareholders;’ ‘Any cleanup is the responsibility of the Indian Government;’ etc. Listen: we’ve heard it all before, and sheer repetition cannot turn dirty lies into gleaming truth.

But Dow’s very insistence upon these long-overused public relations lines – their feverish, sweaty, desperate insistence upon them – is one of the reasons why they find these protests and visits of ours so nettlesome. During the question and answer session, Neil offered Dow CEO Liveris a sample of poisoned drinking water. ‘This is offered to you from the citizens of Bhopal, who are forced to drink and live with this water everyday,’ he said. Liveris brusquely refused to accept it: ‘I reject your sample of water,’ Neil quoted him as saying. Clearly, the gesture had him rankled.

All in all, we did what we came to do. In the face of nasty weather and soulless people, we told the truth, told it loudly, and told it to those who wanted to hear it least: Dow’s CEO and Board of Directors. The fact is, as much as it may confuse the local media reporters, we won’t give up and we won’t give in. We will continue to insist, louder and stronger, that Dow do what it must in Bhopal. Why? It’s very simple: because people continue to die. Dow may not care, but those of us with souls do.

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Protesting at the 2007 Dow Shareholders Meeting

Dow held its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, May 10, and once again we were there. Seven of us made the long drive from the University of Michigan to be there, and we were joined by several local residents, upset because Dow has turned the entire region into another Love Canal. No, Bhopal isn’t the only crime Dow continues to commit, but that didn’t get in the way of their orgy of self-love.

But that’s why we were there. Holding our signs high we shouted our slogans so loudly that they were impossible not to hear, even on the far side of the parking lot and inside the building. And what did we say?

What do we want? JUSTICE!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Mommy always said! …CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!!
What do we want? CLEAN WATER!! When do we want it? NOW!!
Justice for Bhopal! JUSTICE FOR ALL!!!
Clean Up Midland! Clean up Bhopal!

Most of the shuffling Dow shareholders (often former Dow employees who continue to live in the area) had to pass by us on the way in. Often they did so with silent disapproval, but a few did take the time to read our signs, and several passersby gave us thumbs-up or nods of support. Meanwhile well-dressed men with Dow pins on their lapels huddled in clumps, whispering furtively and trying to hide their discomfort.

The media was there as well, and both the Midland Daily News and ABC affiliate Channel 12 covered the protest. You can read the MDN article here and watch the television coverage here.

Inside the Meeting
After shouting ourselves hoarse several of us went inside to attend the meeting, amused to find the entire hall blanketed with “Human Element” posters. There were big posters; there were little posters. Large “Human Element” wall-hangings stared down at us, proclaiming Dow’s commitment to the same people it poisons and kills. A full bank of television monitors played looped “Human Element” commercials and easels sporting several dozen “Human Element” placards lined the entire passage into the meeting. Even the outside of the building wasn’t free from Dow’s hypocrisy.

Inside the meeting, Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris presided with a folksy Australian accent. One of the first orders of business was our own Bhopal Shareholders resolution, sponsored by Amnesty International, the New York City Pension Funds, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF). Neil Sardana formally introduced the resolution on behalf of Amnesty International, and Liveris responded with his usual tripe. “Bhopal was a terrible tragedy,” he roughly said, “but we don’t give a damn.”

Three other shareholder resolutions probed several Dow misdeeds – its pursuit of GMO agriculture, its delay in remediating massive dioxin contamination in mid-Michigan, and the possibility that several of its best-selling products may be causing asthma. The vote totals? (drumroll, please…):

Bhopal: 8.25%
GMOs: 6.88%
Dioxin/MI: 21.13%
Asthma/Pesticides: 6.79%

Now, you may be thinking that 8.25 percent isn’t very impressive. In fact, it's a good show for resolutions like ours, which rarely pass outright (that requires 50%). Instead the game is to see how high we can get. This year more than 50 million shares were voted in our favor, and that means several major institutional investors voted for the resolution. That’s a big slap in the face for Dow’s management and pressure that’s difficult to ignore. Combined with the rest of our strategies, this result only serves to further build more pressure against Dow to do what’s right.

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The Protest Against the UC-DOW Merger

On May 11, 2000, social justice for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims and Corporate Accountability of Union Carbide was the theme of a protest organized by the Chicago group, Essential Action, in which AID- Ann Arbor volunteers participated.

On Thursday May 11th, a group of 10 strident protesters from AID Ann Arbor took a day off work, and were joined by volunteers from Ann Arbor's Ecology Center and Boston's INFACT group to demonstrate at the 103rd Annual Shareholder's meeting of Dow Chemicals in Midland Michigan.

Under the dynamic direction of Corey Conn, the serious message of opposing Dow's impending merger with Union Carbide was expressed in a colorful, playful, and thought provoking manner. Holding large banners, multi-colored signages, and two giant puppets, the group chanted slogans and passed out postcards that shareholders could mail to the Union Carbide Corporate office. The group also met with several media persons who later wrote about the event. You can read some of the press articles here.

Nishant Jain and Priya Sundaravalli, both AID volunteers (who had proxies to attend the meeting), gave passionate speeches at the Shareholder's meeting keeping the voices of Bhopal victims alive. This event brought the AID - Ann Arbor volunteers closer together and feel part of Global community.

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Confronting Dow's Director of Sustainable Development

On February 7, 2003, Steve, Shivani, Ryan, Sayan, and Jason confronted Dow's Director of Sustainable Development, Scott Noesen, about the Bhopal tragedy at a luncheon in the Business School's Executive Residence. They presented him with a cake that read "Dow-Clean Up Bhopal!" and told him that Dow's behavior in Bhopal was anything but "sustainable." Mr. Noesen serves as the president of the Corporate Environmental Management Program (CEMP) Advisory Board at the University of Michigan; CEMP is a dual-degree program between the University's Business and Natural Resource Schools that is heavily funded by Dow contributions. The Justice for Bhopal members stressed to Mr. Noesen that it was his company's responsibility to clean up Dow's mess in Bhopal, and that they would continue to organize and advocate on behalf of the Bhopal victims until justice had been done. Mr. Noesen promised to pass the message on to Dow headquarters, but he pointedly refused to accept the cake that students presented, as doing so might be construed as an admission of liability!

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Protesting Junk Science

When Justice for Bhopal heard that Dow Chemical's epidemiologist was coming to town on January 30, 2004, they got together with the Ecology Center and organized a snap protest. The epidemiologist came to speak about the results of a study, funded by Dow, which "proved" that Dow workers, though exposed to dioxin on the job, did NOT have an elevated risk of contracting cancer (in contrast to the results of every other major study of occupational exposure). And as if that weren't enough reason to protest, the professor whose class he came to speak in, Dr. Garabrant, had just the day before accepted $180,000 in funding from Dow for a study to compare the blood levels of dioxin for people living in the contaminated (courtesy of Dow) Tittabawassee River floodplain of Michigan to a "control group" of other people living in the same counties. Problem is, Dow has contaminated the *entire region* with dioxin, and the choice of a control group so compromised goes a long way towards explaining why Dow was willing to fund such a study. The findings of the study would then be used by Dow as ammunition in its fight against the class action lawsuit filed by floodplain residents and the state, which is forcing Dow towards a cleanup that it doesn't want to perform.

"Well, we showed up with signs saying 'Academic Integrity for Sale,' 'Dow Science is Corrupt,' etc., along with several Bhopal signs. We put the signs up at the entrances to the lecture hall, and we also took them in and held them up for the entire lecture. They were on neon poster board, so they were hard to miss. We all sat on one side of the auditorium, holding up these signs. The Dow speaker kept looking back to our section, as if to memorize each one of them.

"Mary Beth asked a series of probing questions about the proposed study, esp. about how the 'control group' in Midland is also contaminated. Basically, the guy kept saying that dioxin does NOT cause cancer, and how Dow studies have given evidence to that effect. However I don't think anyone can believe, even for a second, that Dow would fully fund a study that has a good chance for proving that they've been poisoning people, so it seems they're pretty confident that the results of this study will work in their favor. Hmmm..."

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Screwing With Recruiting

On November 14th, 2002, Justice for Bhopal learned that Dow would be coming to campus on the 15th to recruit students for its Pharmaceutical division. We moved quickly, and Ryan, Sayan, Rob and Jackie were ready for them the next day. We ambushed the Dow reps with questions about Bhopal and sent them packing in a huff, but not before they received a copy of the technical guidelines for a Bhopal clean up that Greenpeace had prepared.

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Stealing Press Coverage

Justice for Bhopal traveled to Dow's international corporate HQ in Midland, Michigan, on November 22nd, 2002. Dow, as an equal opportunity polluter, has taken the time to contaminate the entire Tittabawassee River floodplain with dioxin. But instead of cleaning up the contamination, Dow attempted to strike a sweetheart deal with the state DEQ to RAISE the acceptable levels of dioxin, so the site won't be classified as a Superfund clean up site.

Local residents, angry about the contamination and frustrated with Dow’s backroom deals, had scheduled a community meeting to discuss the plan. Dow responded by scheduling a press conference that morning, before the hearing, in the hopes of dominating the news cycle. They trotted their scientists before the cameras to tell the good people of Midland how safe dioxin is and how raising the acceptable dioxin levels was really the best move for everyone.

However they didn't count on Jackie and Rob coming into town with haz mat suits and HUGE Michael Parker wanted posters to assist the angry residents. The leading story on the noon news: Dow’s science skeptics? Nope - it’s Jackie, Rob and local activists with their 5 feet Michael Parker WANTED posters rallying in the snow!

Read our coverage in the Midland Daily News and the story on WNEM TV.

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The First Annual "Run for Your Life!!"
(click here for photos, here for the advisory!)

On April 6, 2003, approximately 25 University students, faculty, and community members ran for their lives in a "A 3K Race for Human Rights, Corporate Decency, and the 500,000 Victims of the Bhopal Disaster." The race was designed to dramatize and recreate the Bhopal disaster here at the University of Michigan in the hopes of highlighting Dow's ongoing liability for the tragedy and its association with the University of Michigan. 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 medallions, 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.

Justice for Bhopal would like to thank the Ann Arbor Brewing Company, the People's Food Co-op, the Wooden Spoon Bookstore, Running Fit and the Tortoise and the Hare for their kindness, their generosity, and their support.

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"Disassociation" from Dow
(click here for the press release, here for the resolution!)

On March 17th, 2003, a resolution calling for the University to "disassociate" from Dow was passed by the Michigan Student Assembly. The resolution was sponsored by Justice for Bhopal and supported by more than 20 student organizations, 400 petition signers, and several faculty members. Citing Dow's refusal to clean up contamination in Bhopal, India, and its reluctance to properly clean up its dioxin contamination in Midland, the resolution calls on the University to send a public letter to Dow, asking it to clean up the contamination, and to refuse all donations from the company until it begins to do so. This resolution is the first university resolution calling on Dow to clean up Bhopal, but it is unlikely to be the last.

Read the article in the Michigan Daily, and the Daily's editorial in favor of the resolution.

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Negotiating with the University Administration

On April 7th, 2003, Steve, Shivani, Ryan and Dan all met with the University administration to discuss MSA's Bhopal resolution and the action that the University should undertake in response. We met with Ed Willis, the University's Dean of Students, and Dr. Gary Krenz, Special Counsel to the President. Although no actions were decided upon, the discussions were fruitful, and we intend to continue our dialogue with the University administration.

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Quarantine of the Dow Laboratory
(click here for the press release!)

On April 11th, 2003, Dave, Ryan, Shiny, and Nidhip moved to "quarantine" the Dow Laboratory, a building largely funded through Dow's donations. Dressed in white biohazard suits and white face masks, Justice for Bhopal members advised students that entry into the building might be unsafe, given Dow's history of environmental contamination. Other members, dressed as waiters, offered "Bhopal water" to passers-by. Told that the water contained a hazardous mix of chemicals, carcinogens, and heavy metals, students were required to sign a liability waiver in order to sample it. Not surprisingly, most declined!

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Testimonial Readings at the Dow Laboratory

On December 2nd, 2004, EnAct and Students for Bhopal co-sponsored a day of action on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. This included a public reading testimonials of the survivors of the tragedy outside the two main entrances to the Dow Chemistry Building, the walls of which were also plastered with posters giving facts about Bhopal. Read more in the Michigan Daily!

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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


"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