Poetry, songs and new resolve usher in the 20th year after 'that night'

BHOPAL, DECEMBER 3, 2003. — At a night-long vigil outside the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the 19th anniversary of the disaster, survivors resolved to channel the global groundswell of public opinion in their favour to force the Government of India and the perpetrator of the disaster, Dow-Carbide, to address the pending liabilities in Bhopal. “As we enter the 20th year of our struggle for justice, we thank our supporters worldwide for acknowledging the ongoing health, environment and social disaster caused by the refusal of the Government and the polluter – Dow Carbide – to address pending liabilities in Bhopal. We’re confident that the coming years will be a watershed for Dow Chemical and the Indian Government as grassroots globalisation forces them to address the pending criminal and civil liabilities in Bhopal,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS). BGPMSKS, a trade union of gas-affected stationery workers in Bhopal, is also co-convenor of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

Even as thousands of Bhopal survivors gathered for a night-long session of mushaira (urdu poetry reading) and ghazals outside the Union Carbide factory, supporters in more than 16 countries took action against Dow Chemical and other corporate criminals in response to the survivors’ call to observe the 19th anniversary of the disaster as the Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Read a BBC report on Bhopal this day here.

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International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

December 3, 2003

Press Statement

On 2-3rd December, the 19th anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, survivors mourned their dead and celebrated their victories in the current year through an all night mushaira, marches, public meetings and burning of effigies. “This year with help from supporters worldwide we have succeeded in pressuring the Indian government to move on the extradition of Warren Anderson and have mobilized international opinion against Union Carbide’s new owner Dow Chemical at an unprecedented scale. As we enter the 20th year of our struggle for justice, there are protests against Dow Chemical all over India and the world,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS). BGPMSKS, a trade union of gas-affected stationery workers in Bhopal is also the co-convenor of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “We are confident that we will be able to force Dow Chemical and the Indian government to address pending liabilities in Bhopal,” said Rashida Bee.

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Bhopal survivors took out a torch light procession and organized a mushaira (urdu poetry reading) by 22 local poets. Supporters in 16 cities across the country and more than 16 countries took action against Dow Chemical and other corporate criminals in response to the survivors’ call to observe the 19th anniversary of the disaster as the Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime. Dow Chemical, which was key manufacturer of chemical warfare agents Napalm and Agent Orange, faces such widespread protests for the first time since the Vietnam War due to its February 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide — the perpetrator of the Bhopal disaster. Notably, more than 55 groups, including more than 20 student groups in the US and India, are taking action against Dow Chemical in support of the Bhopal campaign.

Internationally, activities are being organised by supporters in Netherlands, UK, USA, Lebanon, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, Canada, Italy and India.

“In the last 19 years, the Government has done precious little to live up to its obligations to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. “It is encouraging, though, that citizens of the world have stepped in to fill the void left behind by the Government and the company.” On November 25, Brethren Benefit Trust, which holds $330,000 in Dow shares, sponsored a shareholder resolution that calls on the company to report on its plans to contain the reputational damage caused by Dow’s failure to address the environmental and social needs of the Bhopal survivors.

Since March 2003, when more than 60 UK parliamentarians pledged their support to the Bhopal campaign urging Dow Chemical to address its liabilities, political support against Dow Chemical has grown. Members of the European Parliament, the US Chemical workers union PACE, and US congresspersons led by Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich have offered to support the Bhopal campaign.

“There is strong support in Congress for holding those responsible for this horrific tragedy accountable for their actions,” said US congressman Frank Pallone. “It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas.”

The secret settlement negotiated by the Indian Government with Union Carbide amounted to less than $500 (Rs. 25,000) per victim, and covered only the civil damages related to the disaster. At the time of settlement, little was known about the health effects on future generations. Neither did Union Carbide do anything to honour its agreement with the Madhya Pradesh Government to clean up the factory site and return it in its original condition.

Even now, at least one person succumbs to gas-related illnesses every day. The toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide remain strewn around the factory site leaching poisons into the drinking water of neighbouring communities. Survivors and their families have been driven to destitution because of mounting medical costs and difficulty in engaging in manual labour.

A scientific study published in the prestigious peer-reviewed Journal of American Medical Association confirms growth retardation among children conceived by parents exposed to the toxic gases of Union Carbide after the December 1984 disaster.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal will join hands with Dow-impacted communities worldwide to wage a joint struggle to hold the company accountable to its victims around the world. In January, 2004, Dow-impacted communities from Bhopal, Midland (Michigan), and Vietnam are expected to meet with NGOs and public interest lawyers to develop joint strategies to hold Dow Chemical accountable. ICJB is also part of the global campaign for an international legally binding instrument for corporate liability dealing with private corporations’ environmental and human rights violations.

Mrs. Rashida Bee, Mrs. Champa Devi Shukla

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh Ms. Rachna Dhingra, Coordinator, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal Satinath Sarangi Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact :

1. House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: +91 755 3132298, 3132959

2. B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel: +91 755 5259361, 2747983

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The night of Dec 3, 2003, opposite the Union Carbide factory
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Gas affected women stationary workers hold a torchlight procession
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Survivors march through Bhopal, highlighting the second generational affects of Carbide’s gases. The effigy accuses other multinational chemical companies of crimes against humanity

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