NEW MASS STUDENT MOVEMENT BUILDING AGAINST DOW CHEMICAL: LARGEST SINCE THE VIETNAM WAR
Students from more than 60 colleges, universities, and high schools worldwide have organized events this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, and to demand that Dow Chemical resolve its legal and moral responsibilities for the “Hiroshima of the chemical industry”. The events, organized by Students for Bhopal, Association for India’s Development (AID) chapters, the Campus Greens and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), represent the first mass student movement Dow has faced since its production of Agent Orange and Napalm during the Vietnam War.
On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled ––of whom 20,000 have since died of their injuries––in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow-Carbide has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it. It has refused to fund medical care or livelihood regeneration, and it has refused to stand trial in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation faces criminal charges of culpable homicide (manslaughter), and has fled these charges for the past 12 years.
The events, which include several protests at Dow facilities, demonstrations, and educational events, stretch across five continents and on campuses throughout the United States. Examples include:
University of Texas, Austin, where the members of AID-Austin have organized a three-day-long series of events. These include a day-long protest against University involvement with Dow, a hunger strike and candlelight vigil, and a film screening and open discussion about the disaster. Contact: Nishant Jain, AID-Austin (512)-422-7169
St. Benedict’s Preparatory High School in Newark, New Jersey, where the members of the SBP Environmental Club are planning to reenact the Bhopal tragedy, complete with the Grim Reaper and foaming dry ice. The new documentary “Twenty Years Without Justice” will also be shown to their 650-student school, followed by a question and answer session. A copy of this film and the book “Trespass Against Us” will then be donated to their high school library. Contact: Daniel Saraiva, SBP Environmental Club (908)-247-8360
Delhi University in India, where the members of the student group “We for Bhopal”, will release the report of its October 2004 Fact Finding Mission to Bhopal, for which students met with survivors, toured the factory grounds, and interviewed the Chief Minister of the state government and other officials. The students intend to deliver the report in person to the President and Prime Minister of India, following up on their meeting with the President in March. In addition, “We for Bhopal” is also organizing a massive candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary, and will be judging the results of its college essay competition. Contact: Suroopa Mukherjee, Professor, Hindu College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As during the Vietnam War, students will also organize protests against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, anD financial contributions.
“Students are outraged,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the National Coordinator for Students for Bhopal. “They don’t want their colleges and universities associated with a corporation that maintains its profit margins by poisoning people and blithely standing aside as they die. Dow-Carbide’s callous disregard for the value of human life hasn’t changed much since the Vietnam War, and students aren’t going to be any more forgiving now than they
were then. Dow-Carbide should expect these protests to continue and intensify.”
“We’re not going to allow Dow-Carbide to get away with murder,” declared Nishant Jain, one of the leaders of AID’s Austin chapter. “Enron’s crimes may have cost people their retirement portfolios, but Dow-Carbide’s crimes in Bhopal have cost tens of thousands of people their health and their lives. Dow-Carbide seems content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination it left behind. We believe the fact that Dow-Carbide has not acted to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands–for which it is responsible–is inhumane, unjust, and immoral.”
A complete listing of all the events can be found at http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/GDA2004.htm.
More information about the organizations can be found at www.studentsforbhopal.org, www.aidindia.org, www.campusgreens.org, and
CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
CONTACT: Nishant Jain, Association for India’s Development, (512) 422-7169
For a complete list of 20th anniversary actions around the world, please see the Global Day of Action pages on this website. Please check here for media advisories.