Survivor Memories – 29th Anniversary

The women-activists of Bhopal are central to taking the struggle forward. The following testimonials were gained from women-activists in the survivors’ groups that led ICJB in 2010.

Vimla Bai, in her early 40s

I got involved because water is poisoned and people were exposed to gas…[O]ur children are getting sick since the water is contaminated, so there are different kinds of problem that have been found in them. Children are weak. We suffer from a burning sensation in our eyes, and also suffer from chest pain, pain in the ribs, cough and cold. Often our cold and cough does not go for 2 – 4 months. We also suffer from stomachache, joint pain, and complaints of white discharge has been found amongst girls and women. Our children suffer from these problems and the treatment from the hospitals does not help. Children, they are 15 – 16 years old, but they look like they are 10 years old, so they are so weak and they have so many problems in their bodies. Some are suffering from breathlessness, pain in the ribs, some suffer from cough and chest pain. There are many and different kind of diseases that have been found. They all are caused due to [contaminated] water. We have so many diseases and we are in a great loss.

Because we got support [from other people] when we started fighting, I have more strength to fight. If we go and fight for our rights, then there would be better treatment for us, so this gives me more spirit to fight.

Usha Dongre, in her mid 30s

…I just hope we all have good water one day, so there will not be children being born like this. They should not be in such a bad condition. Women are suffering from bad and irregular menstrual circulation and they face lot of problems during the delivery.

We have to keep the fight on and we have to fight in the future as well. Even the coming generations have to fight this fight. That is why we get encouragement and we do feel powerful.

Sheela Devi, in her late 60s

These illnesses are increasing and children are being born like this [with birth deformities]. Women are the ones suffering the most from many problems…[T]here are many diseases that have spread after and because of the disaster. Some are suffering from eyes problems and some suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycles. These problems are not going to decrease; they increasing. Women are getting older with their children are being damaged from inside…[M]y husband fell that night as he was walking and after that his limbs stopped working, one hand was damaged, his eye were damaged. He died in 2000, but before he died he suffered. He was almost continuously in bed since the disaster until the time he died in 2000. I had to look after them as he was a six month old baby for 12 years. [I had to] feed him, take him to the toilet. He used to be in bed all the time.

We have not got the justice yet, so this fight will go ahead and every child will become aware and come forward for this fight, and if today parents are having the problems and they are suffering, then their children are seeing the suffering of their parents, so the children will become aware.

Shanti Bai, in her mid 50s

In order to get justice, I have joined this fight. I am a gas victim…[W]e have not been given any justice, that’s why I have joined them, and I am with all the people.

We have been fighting, but if tomorrow we are not there to fight, then they [the next generation] should come in front and fight.

Shameem Bi, in her early 60s

I will fight until my last breathe…Nothing has been done for us so far, so that is why I got involved.

Savitri, in her early 60s

The future of the poor has been ruined. Women lost their children and husbands. Today, if my eldest son had not died, then he would have been 40 years old. Today he would have been the father of four children and we would have been having a good house with good support if he was alive today…[J]ust because of him, there is a fire in my heart 24 hours a day.

The ones who inhaled gas, they died, and the ones who are alive, they want clean water and treatment, so that they can live.

Resham Bi, in her early 60s

Many people died from my community. People have died due to cancer and stomach diseases. Even today people are suffering. They suffer from a burning sensation in their eyes, stomach, and chest. Their limbs are bent and [they have] shakes. I gave birth to two children after the disaster. They both were born dead.

I just think that if this gas had not leaked then all this would not have happened. Even after all this has not been any justice for us, so that is why the fight is still on.

The future of children is being ruined, that is why I have to make sure that what we have suffered from and gone through, they should not face it. All of my children are sick, the children of other people are sick.

Rashida Bi, in her mid 50s

Everything here like soil, water, air is poisoned, and the ones who are alive, they are living their lives as live corpses. Women are the ones who have suffered and struggled a lot as they were the ones that got affected the worst, as women have lost the power of giving birth to babies, and their lives have been ruined from the day they were born until their last breath.

Whatever is happening in Bhopal, should not happen anywhere, so for this we started our struggle. People from other countries and cities should not have the life that we are forced to live with, and even their coming generation should not be ruined like ours, so our struggle is moving so fast this way.

Ram Bai, in her mid 40s

Because of factory, poison is being found in the water. We have seen that children are suffering from itching after drinking this water and suffering from other skin diseases, they are even weak. Boys who are of 20 years age, they can’t even lift weights of 15 – 20 kilograms. We were given information that this water had poison in it.

Since we already have fought once, if we fight any other fight, we won’t walk back. If there are people with me, then I will keep fighting in future as well.

Om Wati, in her early 60s

My daughter died because of the gas. She died on July 25, 1985, and she died on my lap…She was one year and nine months old. She was admitted in Hamidia hospital for five months before she had died. She had died at the hospital itself. Her skin was coming off her body because of the gas and she even had a hole in her heart. She looked like someone had poured hot water on her. She was looking like that even the night of the disaster…

[H]er whole body was kind of burnt, her eyes were swollen and she turned white the next morning of the disaster.

Actually when people from organizations talk about actions and go for it, I say to them that even I have lost my daughter and others are suffering, so I want to come with you to keep the fight on. I do not care what will happen to me, since there are many other people involved in the fight, we all will face whatever happens to us, so I just keep in mind that if they die we too will die, and that is why I am moving ahead with them.

I just think that it is better to die than living a life like this. My two sons are disabled, what would I think, as both of my sons are almost dead because of the gas. I believe that they might die even before me, so what will happen with the children of the new generation? These two children are disabled and we have to think about their futures. The woman who is sitting there, her son has a hole in his heart. What would I think when all the people in my family are suffering like this? And the new generation is like this, then on whose support we will live our lives?

Children are being born disabled, their body parts are being damaged and ruined. There is nothing left for the future, so we are worried about that. We have lived our lives. We did not have a good life, but we are quite worried about their lives, like what kind of future are they going to have?

I got involved because I want justice…[A]ll I can do is just to be with them [other activists] and support them and walk with them.

Nasreen Bi, in her mid 30s

This fight actually has made us feel powerful as we have seen a lot…[S]uddenly I have spirit that has comes in me. For instance if somebody has caused loss to someone, then people feel sympathetic and are kind to the ones who are suffering. When it comes to sympathy and kindness, I can even hold your chappals and walk with you.

 

Nasreen’s friend: And when we get angry, then we won’t even let you stand on your legs.

Nafisa bi, in her mid 40s

If this gas had not leaked, then there would have not been this much of passion and anger in the women. The gas leaked and brought anger in us. Pain with our children is our anger, this is not only the question of our house, it is the question of all of Bhopal. We go ahead to get justice.

Munni Bi, in her mid 50s

These children [younger activists], they have sacrificed everything for the fight. They are even not working…[T]hey are doing all this for the welfare for other people.

Meera Morey, in her mid 20s

I feel very bad because people who died when the gas leaked in 1984, they died and it was better for them, but the ones who are sick, and are disabled, they are suffering more even after 25 years. Still there is a lot of poison in them. People are still dying like this.

My father, he died after the disaster, about six to seven years ago, since he was severely affected by the gas. His lungs were completely damaged from inside, and my mother is always sick. Even her condition is often critical.

I get strength after seeing people’s spirit. Also after seeing the waste that Dow has spread here; the waste that they had buried under the ground. Every monsoon it comes through the water from tube-wells, hand-pumps. People are getting sick after drinking the water and going to hospitals. Their utensils are being spoiled and people are suffering from various diseases. Women are the ones suffering from most of the diseases, and after seeing this we get more anger and strength. That is why women are in front and have spirit. This is where the strength comes from. And this should not happen to anyone that is what we want.

[The next generation] should get involved, because the people who are fighting now, they will die someday. There have been many people who have died while fighting. We are getting future generation ready so that this fight can be taken forward.

Leela bai, in her early 50s

I actually get strength after seeing other people –strength to fight, strength to go ahead. For instance, if people like you can come from so far, then why can’t we people from Bhopal fight here itself. We can at least fight, which is better than nothing! We get our strength after seeing people like you, because since you people are supporting us, we should do something as well

After seeing people, their problems, their children’s problems, how come this much of strength can come automatically?! If the gas had not had leaked, then our children from here would have been fine, life would have been happy, and we would now have had that many problems. We would have been earning well, but because of pain, I feel so anger inside.

Leela Bai, in her early 70s

Our condition is so bad. We are fed up with drinking poisoned water. We have not been able to get anything and also there is no hope for us to live, you can see what our condition is!

[Strength] comes naturally, why wouldn’t we fight for our rights? But some people they are not intelligent, they do not know what they should do and what they should not, but I am clever enough and I know what to do. We should fight for our rights in our way.

Leela Bai, in her late 60s

Women are getting sick because of drinking this water, children are being born disabled because of this water and there are even many other types of sicknesses that have been found amongst the people. That is why I got involved with this organization.  

The strength to fight comes by itself…Women usually are home, their children are sick all the time and their husbands can’t work, so then you can think what women are going through because of all this. So that is why women panic and think what should we do, where would we go, how can we bring up and look after our children? So that is why women are coming in front [of the struggle]. Whatever  the government is doing is wrong, neither they are giving us water, nor medicine, nor any way by which children can study in all these communities. There is nowhere the people can get medicine from, so what will the mothers do when their children are sick? So that is why women think that there should be something for their children so that they can go ahead in their lives and this is why the women are going ahead and in front to fight.

We will tell our children that if we could not win, then you should make sure that the fight never ends and keep the fight on.

Kaniza Bi, in her early 40s

I feel sad when I hear about problems of the people in my community and its surrounding communities, because even my family is struggling and fighting with these kinds of problems. My husband died because of the gas and I had a son that died because of gas. All the people in my family are sick. My eldest daughter, she is sick. One of my other daughters who is younger to her, even she is sick. She has been sick since she was 4 – 5 years old. She suffers from severe headaches. Because of this, she can’t even think properly.  She is always lost and confused. She does not even know what she is doing. She has been hospitalized for the last 10 days, but she has been on medication for the last three months. Still her condition is so critical.

It is quite difficult for me to face all this and I personally feel that what has happened in Bhopal should not happen anywhere in the world. The people of Bhopal who have been struggling, they are neither dead nor alive, they are just struggling and fighting for a life of dignity, so such a bad disaster should not happen anywhere in the world which has forced people of Bhopal to live like this.

Kailashi Sharma, in her late 50s

I feel very sad. Nobody takes responsibility for all this. If one had taken responsibility for all this. I wish if I had died then, but since I am alive, I will fight.

It does not matter how disabled we are, whether we can’t see from our eyes, even when our knees are not supporting us and our hands and legs are not supporting us, even then when it comes to fight, our body supports us. I myself suffer from blood pressure and am a heart patient, but I just keep all this aside and go to fight.

Hazira Bi, in her mid 50s

We should be given the right to live. We are fighting for the coming generations, so that they do not suffer like this because of the corporations and the government. Union Carbide and Anderson should be punished for what has happened in Bhopal and the government should give us justice.

We want to have a right to live before we die.

The new generation has seen that young people are dying, children are born with disabilities born and people are suffering from diseases like cancer. So those young people and the coming generation is realizing that if we do not struggle and fight, then this generation too will be like this and be damaged completely. So after thinking this, the new generation is coming forward and standing to fight.

Gulab Bai, in her early 30s

I joined this fight because we are drinking poisoned water. First we were exposed to gas..and now we are drinking poisoned water and because of this, children are being born disabled. Some of them have their hands joint. Children of some people cannot walk and speak.

To make sure that the coming generations do not face the problems we have faced, [the younger generation] should get involved…[T]here should not be any problems in the future for our children. In future children should not be born disabled, and the problems that we already have faced, they should not face those.

 

Champa Devi Shukla, in her late 50s

My husband and two children died. I had to make my heart strong enough so that I can up bring other children in my family, and when I saw people in my neighborhood –the strength came after seeing all this. I even talked and tried to make them [people in my neighborhood] understand that even after losing most of the members in your family, it does not mean that one should give up and stop living. So this way I encouraged and made them aware  Today people are with us in the struggle and fighting the battle to live their lives.

I have been seeing people dying since 1984, and I could not forget the scene that I had seen that night. I get angry when I see children being sick and suffering in the communities. It is not their fault, they all are innocent. Where did they go wrong that they are suffering so much?! Union Carbide, Dow and our Governments are equally responsible for this.

Anger in me kept growing with time and also with the problems that kept coming in front of me. Then I decided that I will fight…Today after 25 years, we still have that power…I feel angry when I see disability and diseases in the whole society and today they are forced to live their lives like this. What was their fault? They all were innocent, and what can we do?

Baidan bi, in her mid 50s

Since we have suffered so much, strength to fight comes by itself, and now when we have organizations, we follow them. Now whatever the problem is, we face them…No matter what will happen to us – if they want to jail us or punish us, we don’t care. We are not scared at all.

 

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