| We Feel Responsible, Chennai
Boycotting the Indian
Bhopal Survivors, Van Drivers, Motorocyclists
Launch Boycott of Indian Oil
No Red Carpet to Killer Carbide, IOC told
Chennai, 27 May 2005: International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
and its supporters today launched a nation wide boycott of Indian
Oil Corporation (IOC) until the company abandons plans to do business
with Union Carbide or its new owner Dow Chemical. Shahid Noor, an
orphan from the Bhopal disaster, who now leads an organisation of
19 Bhopal disaster orphans, arrived in town to announce
the boycott. “We requested Indian Oil, the Ministry of Petroleum,
the Ministry of Chemicals and various other Government bodies. Like
before, all these people are more interested in business than justice
for the Bhopal survivors. We have been betrayed by various Governments
before. But we didn’t think Indian Oil or the Government of
India will actually contemplate business with the killers of Bhopal,”
On 28 May, Noor will lead a demonstration in Petroleum minister’s
constituency protesting against Mani Shankar Aiyar’s failure
to cancel the deal and blacklist Dow Chemical. On 29 May, Noor will
flag off a motorcycle rally from Mayiladuthurai to Chennai by the
Madras Bulls, a Chennai-based club of “Bullet” or “Royal
Enfield” enthusiasts. Tamilnadu All Drivers Welfare Association,
with more than 7000 members, and “We Feel Responsible”
– a Chennai-based youth group – are also joining the
ICJB in launching the boycott. ICJB volunteers in Delhi, Bhopal,
Mumbai and Trivandrum have indicated that they will be announcing
boycotts in their cities in the second phase. Autorickshaw, taxi
and mini van drivers have promised their support.
Union Carbide is charged with culpable homicide in the Bhopal magistrate’s
court for its role in the Bhopal disaster. In February 1992, the
company was proclaimed an absconder by the Magistrate after it repeatedly
failed to honour summons issued by the court. In January 2005, the
Magistrate ordered that summons be issued to Dow Chemical, asking
the parent company to produce Union Carbide in Court. Dow maintains
that it does not recognise the Indian court’s criminal jurisdiction
Indian Oil has approved a technology purchase agreement with Dow
Chemical to source Union Carbide’s technology for the Mono
Ethylene Glycol unit at its upcoming Naptha refinery in Panipat,
Because Union Carbide is an absconder, the Indian Government is
obliged to arrest it and produce it in court if it enters India
for any reason. “We are appalled by Indian Oil’s proposal
to do business with Carbide. It’s like rewarding a criminal
accused of murder with a lucrative business deal. As motorists and
consumers of Indian Oil products, we’ll encourage our other
friends to boycott IOC till the company abandons this deal with
Dow-Carbide,” said Jaychandran, a member of the Madras Bulls.
Other supporters include the Corporate Accountability Desk, Human
Rights Tamilnadu Initiative, and Mayiladuthurai-based Thamizhar
Urimai Iyakkam, Penn Thozhilargal Sangam, Thanthai Periyar Kazhagam
and Tamil Meenavar Munitra Sangam.
Read more in Sify!
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Protesting the Petroleum
We had a successful rally and demonstration today in Mayiladuthurai.
At least 75 youth and children braved the heat and oppressive humidity
with irrepressible vigour and enthusiastic slogan shouting that
would have soured Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's mood.
The rally went through important streets of his home constituency.
Mayiladuthurai is the town that elected him. Nearly 30 young ones,
many of them without footwear, waved their placards bearing a cartoon
of Aiyar bearing Warren Anderson on his back, everytime they heard
the slogan: "Is this justice? Is this justice? Mani Shankar
MP carries Bhopal murderer Anderson on his shoulders. Is this justice?
Is this justice?"
The rally ended on the busy No.2 Road in Mayiladuthurai, where
supporters of the Bhopal campaign stopped buses and lorries and
pasted stickers exhorting people to join the boycott of Indian Oil.
Led by the Thamizhar Urimai Iyakkam (Organisation for Tamil's Rights)
and Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, the gathering resolved to
intensify the struggle in the coming weeks. Failing a favourable
response -- announcing the cancellation of the Indian Oil-Dow business
deal -- Mayiladuthurai activists have decided to launch a massive
awareness campaign to educate the constituency about Aiyar's role
in bringing the criminal Union Carbide back into India.
The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has received a
positive response from organisations working with Muslims and Dalits
in Mayiladuthurai. The organisations have assured ICJB that they
will do all that is in their power to ensure that Aiyar does not
sell out on the Bhopalis. Muslims constitute 22 percent of the total
population in this electoral constituency. Along with Dalits, they
form the foundation for Aiyar's election successes.
Drivers Association (Mayiladuthurai) too participated in the rally,
and have promised their support in boycotting IOC. The Auto Drivers
have prominently featured the Bhopal campaign and the Dow-IOC deal
in their literary magazine -- Kaalan (Mushroom) dated December 2004.
In an hour, the Bhopalis take to the streets. In 3 hours, four
motorcyclists will arrive in Mayiladuthurai from Chennai in their
swank Royal Enfield "Bullet" bikes. The bikers, who are
part of a Bullet enthusiasts club called "Madras Bulls",
have extended their solidarity to the Boycott IOC campaign by offering
to advertise it through a bike rally from Mayiladuthurai to Chennai
on 29 May. En route, the rally will halt at SIPCOT Industrial Estate
in Cuddalore, where it will be greeted by residents of the pollution-impacted
community with coconuts and petitions to be delivered to IOC. The
"Bulls" will also halt at Pudu Nemmelikuppam, near the
tourist town of Mahabalipuram, where local fisherfolk wish to greet
them and hand over signed petitions addressed to Indian Oil.
"This is merely the beginning. This boycott will take the
classic route of gradual build-up. If Indian Oil heeds our warning,
it can save itself a lot of bad publicity and considerable amounts
of money. There are other companies besides Dow Chemical that offer
the same technology. We will not allow Indian Oil to do business
with a killer company. That's our final word," said Shweta
Narayan, a volunteer with ICJB who's based in Chennai.
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Life" Marks Bhopal Anniversary
On December 3rd, 2005, the 21st anniversary of the Bhopal disaster,
“We Feel Responsible” and other Bhopal supporters in
Chennai hosted a “Run For Life” and candle-light vigil
in memory of Bhopal and the slow-motion Bhopals in their own community.
Schools, friends and local residents were invited to participate
in the event, which included the performance of a street play and
ended with a poignant candle-light vigil at the Elliots Beach.
The run covered an area of about 5kms, snaking its way along the
beach in Besant Nagar - a very popular coastal locality in city
of Chennai and a weekend crowd puller. The theme revolved around
the relevance of the Bhopal Gas Disaster to our lives today; the
general need for a safe environment and greater corporate accountability
in our corporate-ruled lives; and Chennai’s own slow-motion
Bhopals, including Chemplast and Malco’s factory complexes
in Mettur, the SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Cuddalore, the Ennore-Manali
Petrochemical belt, Sterlite’s illegal copper smelter in Tuticorin,
Orchid Chemical’s death factory in Alathur, the dyeing units
in Tirupur, and Hindustan Lever’s mercury waste dumps in Kodaikanal.
In all these cases the Government’s reluctance to crack-down
on polluters is threatening workers, communities and the environment.
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Meeting the Governor
of Tamil Nadu in Support of the March to Delhi
On March 10, 2006, seven members of the Chennai based youth collective
We Feel Responsible met the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Surjit Singh
Barnala. In a brief conversation which lasted about 15 minutes he
was briefed about the March
to Delhi, the present situation in Bhopal and the purpose of
our meeting with him.
We told him about the significance of the march and our stand on
the issue as youth. He seemed pretty unperturbed and when we were
briefing him about the demands he started with a story about him
at the time of the disaster. He was at a jail “under arrest”
(he did not tell us for what but I did some online search and am
assuming that it was due to the Sikh Riots that ensued the assassination
of Indira Gandhi in October1984) about 60kms from ground zero and
he said he smelt something strange in the air and told the jailor
about it but none of them realized until later that it was the gas
from Union Carbide.
On the issue of compensation and health he said that UCC had already
paid a heavy sum as compensation immediately and also built the
best hospital in Madhya Pradesh. He appreciated our effort that
went into the signature campaign for the petition to the Prime Minister
and suggested that we present the banner with signatures to the
PM directly as he was sure that it would not reach him if sent through
him. He refused to sign on the petition.
We presented him some literature on Bhopal and a copy of ‘Closer
to Reality’ a Bhopal film by the Delhi based youth group,
We for Bhopal. He wished us all the best in our endeavor and promised
to forward the petition to the Prime Minister.
A seven-member delegation including Anthony, Harini, Saravanan,
Someetharan, Senthil, Seena and Dharmesh presented the petition.
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and Support for the Bhopal Padayatra
On March 9, 2006, nearly
a dozen children (12 years and under) began daily performances of
a street play on pollution at the popular and well-trafficked Besant
Nagar beach. The five-minute play talks about the sorry condition
of the beach and the sea, and links it to the Bhopal
padayatra and the incident through a commentary. At the end
of the play, we request people to sign a banner in support of the
March to Delhi. This banner will be sent to Prime Minister Manmohan
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for Indefinite Fasters in Delhi
On April 11, 2006, supporters from Chennai held a day-long solidarity
fast for Bhopal at the Valluvar Kottam junction in central Chennai.
There were more than 50 participants mostly women belonging to Tamil
Nadu Women’s Collective and Tamil Nadu Women’s Federation,
other groups included Tamil Nadu Human Rights Initiative, International
Presentation Association of India, Alliance of Peoples Movements,
We Feel Responsible, Students Federation of India, Communist Party
of India and a group working with people displaced by the Neyveli
Lignite Corporation of India.
The day of the fast began at 10am an hour late from the announced
time (IST = Indian Stretchable Time). The place allotted to us was
a deplorable, the road adjoining the side walk was under construction,
terrible traffic, no trees and an Onyx garbage dump across the road
which emitted a constant smell of putrid compost.
This place is like the Jantar Mantar of Chennai, allotted for protests
against soiled government practices. The first people to reach the
site were Karen, Shweta and I we set up the place and began the
fast, we chose a place closest to the traffic for maximum visibility.
This location however wasn’t ideal because there was no shade
but we decided to stick to it.
By around 11am the crowd of supporters began trickling in and the
participants from the womens groups joined us by noon. The sun at
this time was egg fryable hot and there was no way anyone could
continue the dharna so we had to organize for a Pandal (a cloth
shade). We now had shade and warm water.. by now the pangs of hunger
set in and to make matter worse we were faced by three life size
billboards of a restaurant, a cold beverage and an air conditioner.
This stopped bothering us after a while because the rising mercury
and the sporadic puffs of wind that blew clouds of dust on us camouflaged
our other concerns.
There was a decent press coverage we had two national news agencies
PTI and UNI two state news channels Jaya TV and WIN TV, two national
dailies The Hindu and Deccan Chronicle and two local dailies Dina
Malar and News Today. The press coverage was a major consolation
for obvious reasons.
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a Photo Exhibition in Solidarity with Bhopal March
Chennai 8th April 2006: The International Campaign
for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), an international coalition of organizations
and individuals working towards achieving justice for
the victims and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, today
launched a photo exhibition at the Alliance Francaise of Madras.
The exhibition featured photographs from the 800 km long march that
the survivors embarked upon from Bhopal to Delhi. A music video
by The Banned titled ‘No More Bhopal’ and a documentary
on Union Carbide’s repeated efforts to evade justice was screened.
The march was taken up by 150 survivors of the tragedy with the
single aim of meeting the Prime Minister and resolving their long
Three Padma Shri award winners from Chennai, Ms. Chitra Vishweswaran,
Ms. Leela Samson, Ms. Malavika Sarukkai and danseuse/actress Ms.
Anita Ratam were also present on the occasion. They presented letters
in support of the survivors to the Prime Minister urging him to
deliver justice immediately to the 22 year long struggle. A large
number of youth from Chennai also attended the exhibition.
The exhibition will also be held at Spencer Plaza on April 9th
from 4pm to 6pm and again at Alliance Francaise from April 10 to14.
The supporters from Tamil Nadu will hold a fast on the April 12
as part of the global relay fast in support of the indefinite hunger
strike to be launched by the Bhopalis in Delhi.
The exhibition that aims to gather support for Bhopal from Tamil
Nadu was also to educate citizens on impending Bhopals in the state
which remains one of India’s three most toxic hotspots.
We had an excellent photo exhibition at the Alliance Francaise
of Madras, the French cultural center in Chennai. It was attended
by about 100 – 150 supporters including two celebrity guests,
Ms. Anita Ratnam and Padma Shri Ms. Leela Samson. The exhibit was
a display of photographs from the march by Maude and Michael and
a few Raghu Rai’s. The exhibit was followed by a music video
and a film screening for an audience of 50. The music video ‘No
More Bhopals’ by The Banned and the ABC documentary ‘Hunting
for Warren Anderson’ evoked an excellent response and very
The exhibition also had a good media response, 3 national newspapers
(The Hindu, The Indian Express and Economic Times), a national news
agency (PTI), and a national news channel (CNN-IBN) were among the
ones present. Two of the four celebrity supporters have endorsed
the campaign and given us their letters of support to the PM. The
exhibition will be held at a very popular local mall called Spencer
Plaza and then be back to Alliance for another four days from the
10th – 14th.
Radio Mirchi will announce the exhibition for all the four
days and Southern Spice a popular south Indian music channel will
air the ‘No More Bhopals’ video next week.
Another update from Dharmesh, entitled “A day at
The Bhopal march exhibit went to a popular local mall today
and in just 3 hours it had more than 500 normal and 1 capitalist
American visitors. The mall served as an excellent location as it
is one of the very few hangouts in the city. The activities included
pamphleteering and petition signing and we were given the center
atrium in the 1st Phase of the mall which was a great advantage.
The crowd was a mix of students, families, youth, foreigners and
senior citizens. The display induced a lot of curiosity from first
timers and from people following the issue. The mall was a totally
new experience for all of us and it worked out really well.
The exhibit will be back at Alliance Franciase from tomorrow and
for the next four days.
Story of the Capitalist American:
Half way into the exhibit
we had a physically endowed American visitor with strong capitalist
ideologies. He began a conversation with Naveen and me about our
approach to the issue he felt that we did not know our enemy and
that we were shooting in the dark, we did not know the real owners
of Dow. According to him such campaigns in the US are more successful
because campaigners there know their enemies and do their homework.
You need to investigate enough on the links of the company and nail
down the people in India who were in bed with the company. He felt
that we were just maligning a big MNC and all other companies in
similar businesses and endangering thousands of jobs by doing such
outreach. Not all corporates are bad; neither are all pesticides.
All our explanations about the disaster and its politics were inadequate
to convince him, we told him that the people at the heart of the
struggle did know their enemy and that his inadequate knowledge
about the issue made him pass such comments. We told him about Warren
Anderson and his status in the Indian law and that if he was really
concerned about our approach he should get in touch with one of
our Bhopal campaigns in America and visit .net to get his teeth
into the issue and then advice on a better approach. “We Americans
do not have time to browse” he said “but please learn
what you teach Bhopal was not an accident it was an act of sabotage,
it was intentional, it was ordered by someone on the top and you
need to identify that person and not malign the whole industry (sounded
like a Dow guy). This is when we lost hope of intelligence in the
conversation, he was a smart guy but just very block headed about
Just then two more people joined the conversation, Shweta and Aniruddh,
they launched a verbal assault:
Aniruddh: We will continue to be your dump
Fat American: I live here, I like the place
Aniruddh: Welcome to the oriental retreat please enjoy your
stay and dump your shit here
..and our buddy was out of there in a tizzy, his parting comeback
Fat American: It’s because of us that your asses even
drive cars and -
Dharmesh: Thanks for saving the world
We thought that was the last we would see of him until we spotted
him at Subway on our way out and we could just laugh at the situation
and the man.
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1000 Bhopals Exhibition
From April 9-21, 2007, Community
Environmental Monitoring in Chennai hosted "1000 Bhopals –
A photo exhibit of pollution impacted places in India" (special
focus – Tamil Nadu) at Alliance Francaise of Madras.
“The photo exhibition primarily focuses on chemical pollution
and its impact on human and environmental health and aims at raising
awareness of the general public about the consumption of chemicals
and its impact on the future generations and on people who share
their backyards with facilities that make such chemicals. Though
the exhibit displays images of Endosulphan poisoning in Kasargod,
Kerala and chemical pollution from the Golden Corridor in Gujarat,
the main focus is on Tamilnadu where places like Cuddalore, Mettur,
Manali and Chengelpattu are severely impacted by industrial pollution.
“The Bhopal Gas Disaster of 1984 was not an accident. It
was the result of systematic neglect by the Government and industry.
Twenty-three years after this disaster, no lessons have been learnt.
The environment, workers and communities living next to the industries
face the same threats that caused the Bhopal Gas Disaster.
“The neglect that plagued Union Carbide's factory in Bhopal,
plagues several toxic hotspots in Mettur, Cuddalore, Kodungaiyur,
Ennore, Manali, Tuticorin, Alathur, Kodaikanal and Tiruppur -- all
in Tamil Nadu. . .all slow-motion Bhopals.”
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