Aarti Dhar, The Hindu, June 15, 2008
Their letter to Prime Minister is the latest in global support for gas victims
NEW DELHI: Sixteen U.S. Congresspersons, led by Frank Pallone Jr, have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing support to Bhopal gas victims, and urged him to bring America-based Dow Chemical and Union Carbide to justice.
Thousands of people died and were maimed as a result of massive release of methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal in December 1984. Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have since merged.
The congressional letter is the latest in international support which includes endorsements from British and Scottish members of Parliaments, Amnesty International, and more than 100 eminent writers and people in the fields of arts and culture.
The June 5 letter says: “The conduct of American corporations outside the U.S. is a long-standing concern of ours … In this case, U.S. corporations have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of foreign [Indian] courts … It is outrageous that the executives of Union Carbide and its successor, Dow Chemical, have yet to be brought to justice.”
Expressing support for the empowered commission proposed for survivors of the gas victims, the U.S. legislators said: “We hope that the Indian Government pursues Union Carbide and Dow Chemical for their civil and criminal liabilities in the country.”
British MP Des Turner, in a statement issued coincidentally on June 5, expressed his outrage at the continued neglect of the survivors. “It is morally totally indefensible that in a situation like this that many local communities are exposed to this toxic threat and the Dow Chemical Company continues to abrogate its responsibility for one of the greatest human tragedies in history. I shall be bringing this to the attention of the Indian High Commission.”
An Early Day Motion tabled in the British Parliament, in support of Mr. Turner’s campaign, was endorsed by 68 MPs, including himself.
Meanwhile, 60 organisations, including 17 U.S.-based NRI organisations, sent a letter to the Prime Minister, and a copy to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, seeking urgent resolution of the demands of the survivors.
“International pressure will escalate. People are outraged at the government’s insensitivity in handling the Bhopal survivors’ demands, and will find ways of expressing their opposition to its lackadaisical attitude,” said Aquene Freechild, a U.S.-based supporter and member of the Students for Bhopal Campaign.
Fast in solidarity
Already, more than 100 people from seven countries have signed up to fast with the Bhopalis for a day or longer. Nine of them, from the U.S., France, Argentina and India, have started an indefinite fast in their homes.
Till date the Prime Minister’s Office has received over 5,027 fax messages urging the Prime Minister to meet the survivors and accept their demands. However, Bhopal organisations are yet to hear from the government.