2nd Dec, 2008, New Delhi: Hundreds of Delhi citizens, civil society groups and supporters gathered at Jantar Mantar to mark the 24th Anniversary of Bhopal Gas Disaster today. The evening was marked by expressions in memory and solidarity with the victims of Dow- Carbide poisons. Along with music, poetry, street play, spontaneous public grafitti, film on the padyatra and second generation affected children, an exhibition on Bhopal and the other Bhopals like situations in the country, the occasion also became special with supporters sharing their own experiences and stories that connect them with this longest running people’s struggle. Pledging to detoxify India supporters also burned effigies of things they consider poisonous for the country.
“It is very inspiring to see struggles achieving what they set out for. To see the long and intense ongoing struggle by Bhopalis to ensure that government doesn’t compromise Indian law and lives for more investments reinforces our conviction in the might of the people against the mighty”, said Suroopa Mukherjee, reader Hindu College. 2008 has been a year of significant victories for Bhopal survivors and their supporters both over the American Corporations -Dow Chemical and Union Carbide and the Indian government. Because of the sustained campaign by Bhopal survivors and their supporters Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide has been forced to reconsider its expansion plans in India. Conceding the demands of agitating Bhopalis earlier this year, the Government of India announced that it will pursue Dow for clean-up of toxic wastes in the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Construction of Dow’s chemical experimentation facility in Pune, Maharashtra, has been brought to a complete halt by local villagers and their supporters. In October, the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, announced that Dow Europe had withdrawn its proposal for a joint venture with Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd. For the second year in a row, Dow was kept out of campus recruitment at IITs across the nation. In New York, an appeal filed by the Bhopalis on a case to make Union Carbide clean up and compensate contamination-affected persons was upheld by the Appeals court in November.
Yesterday, at a press conference in Bhopal, leaders of three organizations of the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster announced the formation of a new organization “Children against Dow-Carbide” as children played a very significant role in the demonstrations at the Prime Minister’s house and office during the 2008 dharna in New Delhi. They said that they expect more wins in 2009, the 25th year of the disaster when there will be increased national and international attention to the ongoing disaster in Bhopal. “As we understand all prior formalities for the setting up of the Empowered Commission on Bhopal by the central government are over and we hope to have the Commission set up by February 2009,” survivor groups said. The groups said they will launch a fresh agitation if the Commission is not set up by February 20, the anniversary of the launch of the 2006 and 2008 Bhopal to New Delhi Padayatras. The organisations also said the state government is committed to supplying clean water from Kolar dam by March 2009 and the work on the project is progressing well.
The 24th Anniversary of the gas disaster is being marked by world wide solidarity actions. More than 10,000 schools, covering 1 million students in Andhra Pradesh, have pledged their support by offering to observe a 2-minute silence on December 3, and organising awareness programs on “corporate irresponsibility and citizen’s power to demand accountability.” Citizens groups in more than 67 locations in 15 states nationwide have registered to take action on December 3 to highlight the plight of Bhopal survivors more than two decades after the disaster. Supporters in more than 10 countries will also take action in support of the struggle for justice in Bhopal.
For more information, contact:
New Delhi: Shalini Sharma (9891442037) and Bhopal: Rachna Dhingra (09826167369)