About 300 people (overwhelmingly women) reached the office of the Director, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation (Mr. Manish Rastogi) 0755-2597089 at around 11:30 am. The office building is right opposite the residence of the governor of the state. All women walked into the office without anyone stopping them, and they started beating on the thalis (stainless steel plates for eating) with spoons, which they all had brought with them. Some of the prominent chants were “Jehar Pilana Band Karo, Pani ka Prabandh Karo” (Stop making us drink poisoned water, Arrange for clean water), Supreme Court ka adesh ko lagu karo (Implement Supreme Court’s order). Women also carried signs which stated “America mein Jahar Banaya, Bhej diya Bhopal mein, Dollar ki chal ne jehar ghola Bhopal mein (America manufactured the Poison and sent it to Bhopal. The machinations of the dollar have poisoned people of Bhopal). There was also a big banner saying “We want Kolar water through pipeline).
Lots of electronic and print media were present at the site of the protest. Women were noisy, high spirited and were all over the office of the Director, but they let everything it is place. Except for the music of the chants, everything was peaceful.
We found out that the Director was on leave so we tried calling the office of Iqbal Ahmed (Principal Secretary, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation 0755-2441424 [o], 2441681 [R]). Police arrived at the scene around 12:30, and finally we were told by the police officer (who had come with the posse of dozen cops with guns and sticks) that no authorities were available to talk to us. The only sub divisional magistrate R.K. Gohen was the senior most official directing the situation. Around 12:45 pm the riot control of 15 men arrived in full gear. All of a sudden they started grabbing people and pushing them down the stairs. There were women holding babies and the policemen were raining sticks on them. Some women were kicked in their chest and stomach, and some of them were clawed by the cops. There were only 2 female cops in the whole and all of the beating was all the beating was done by the male cops. They were literally 200 women with children in the staircase who were being pushed by about 10 different cops and cops also verbally abused several women. Finally everyone was brought outside the office.
Then suddenly police pounced on more people and started beating with sticks, dragging by hair, kicking in chests etc. Seven of us went to stop the police beating and 7 (Sathyu, Rashida, Shahid Noor, Rachna, Vikas, Hazra and Shazadi) of us were taken away in a police van to Jehangirabad stations. We were all shouting chants while in the police van and all the women who were still in the premises were chanting with us. The entire police beating was being videotaped by several TV stations and soon after it was all on national channels.
We all reached the police station around 2:00 pm and were detained there till 6:00 pm. The charges against were obstruction in official duty, illegal occupation, assault and causing disorder. We filed a formal complaint against S.R. Yadav (who incidentally was the in charge of the police station that we were brought to), Anil Rai, and Jai Karan Parihar in the same police station where we were brought. After great difficulty and help from our lawyer we had them accept the formal complaint lodged by us. Meanwhile the 5 seriously injured person (Mr. Nawab Khan 59 years, Mrs. Sanno Bee, 30 years, Mr Mahfooz Khan, 52 years. Mrs. Rani Bee 35 years, Mr Rahees 35 years) were taken to the hospital and were medically examined for their injuries. While 7 of us were in the jail, we heard several chants outside the police station and there were about 100 women standing outside. Despite several announcement by the police, people refused to budge. They did not want to leave while we were still in the custody of police. After a lot of negotiating we were able to convince them go back to their houses.
Once we were realeased, Sathyu, Shahid, Satish Tewari and Vikas all went back to retrieve our motorcycles and lost stuff (slippers, turbans etc). What we found inside the office was that flower pots had been damaged, chairs and tables upturned, curtains pulled down, which only later we found was part of the planted story in 2 of the local electronic media.
After all this we all went back to the affected communities. People were in such good spirits and they looked so happy to see all of us back. We held a meeting in the community and everyone was more than determined to continue with (Neend Udaoo , Drive Sleep Away) campaign for clean water.
Several people told us that we have just launched the Drive Sleep Away campaign and already official have started loosing their sleep.
All of us are in high spirits and thank you all for your quick responses and solidarity.
Will send more later