Survivors ask Chief Minister to withdraw false cases

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To,
The Chief Minister
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mantralaya, Vallabh Bhawan
Bhopal, M.P.

25 January 2012

Sub: Application for withdrawal of criminal cases against over 2000 gas victims in connection with the incident of violence on the 27th anniversary of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal.

Respected Chief Minister,

We, five organisations of victims of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal and their supporters are sending this letter to you with the hope that you will consider the facts and arguments regarding the incident of violence on 27th anniversary of the gas disaster (3 December 2011) presented below and arrive at a rational and just decision and accordingly issue directions for appropriate action.

1.The following facts related to the protest action by survivors under the leadership of us, five organizations on December 3, 2011 deserve consideration

A.The protest was centered on a legitimate demand
Through this protest, we were demanding that the governments at the centre and state carry out necessary corrections in the figures of deaths and injuries caused by Union Carbide based on figures of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and hospitals meant for gas affected people in the curative petition filed in the Supreme Court.

We were only demanding that the governments at the centre and state act honestly towards obtaining proper compensation from the American companies and the first demonstration of this would be the presentation of correct figures in the curative petition pending before the Supreme Court because currently the figures are much lower than actual and are wrong.

We were not pushing for some new figures. All we were doing was seek revisions in the curative petition on the basis of findings of the scientific institutions and medical documentation of the government’s at the center and the state.

B.We had communicated this demand to the state government in July 2011, but for six months we received no reply. We had sent letters to your office on 25 July 2011, 17 October 2011 and on 19 November 2011 demanding revision in the figures of death and injury as presented in the curative petition before the Supreme Court by the state government. However we did not receive a single reply to any of the letters.

Likewise, we received no response to the letters we wrote to the Chief Secretary on 28 October 2011 and 19 November 2011 and that sent to the Principal Secretary, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department on 19 November 2011.

C.This demand is being raised by us to protect the legal rights of the gas victims. All victims of the disaster of 3 December 84 in Bhopal have the legal right to be adequately compensated for the physical and mental injuries caused by the disaster.

Through the Bhopal Act of 1985, the Government of India arrogated to itself sole powers to receive compensation from Union Carbide. In 1985 the Government of India sought $3.3 billion as compensation under the Act. In 1989 the central government, without consulting a single victim entered into a settlement with the American company for $470 million which was approved by the Supreme Court on 14-15 February 1989. Because of the paltry settlement amount, 93% of gas victims received only Rs 25000 as compensation.

The state government also had an important role in the violation of the legal rights of Bhopal gas victims. To justify the low settlement amount, the Claims Directorate of the state government followed a faulty system of injury assessment and pronounced 93% of the gas victims as having suffered only temporary injury.

At the June 2010 meeting of the Group of Ministers on Bhopal (composed of ministers from both the state and central governments) it was accepted that the legal rights to adequate compensation of the Bhopal victims had been violated. The Group of Ministers decided on presenting a curative petition before the Supreme Court to obtain additional compensation from the American companies and this decision was subsequently implemented. Regrettably, in both the curative petitions the figure of death is about four times less than the actual and 93% gas victims have been said to be only temporarily injured. It is worth mentioning that Union Carbide’s own document says that damage caused by MIC gas is permanent, not temporary.

Clearly if corrections are not made in the curative petitions on the basis of scientific figures available with the government, once again Bhopal gas victims will be denied their legal rights. If correct facts are not placed before the court, even if the court is committed to justice, a correct judgment is not possible.

D.Our demand is for protection of the constitutional rights of the gas victims.
In the meeting of the Group of Ministers on June 2010 described above, following the admission that Bhopal gas victims have received inadequate compensation it was decided that families of the deceased and those victims with serious injury would be paid ex gratia amounts as relief.

This decision taken by ministers of the central and state governments was clearly against the fundamental constitutional rights of 93% of the victims (Right to Equality, Right to Life, Right to Justice). In the last 27 years because of the utter failure of the central and state governments in providing medical care and economic, social and environmental rehabilitation, majority gas victims are denied their basic needs and this discrimination against them in payment of ex-gratia amounts is clearly unconstitutional. It is worth mentioning that following from the decision by the Group of Ministers on Bhopal 5,27,000 out of 5,74,000 who had earlier received only Rs 25000 as compensation were denied any ex gratia amount and the state government has not taken any steps regarding this.

E.The protest action for legitimate demand on December 3, 2011 was peaceful.
We had called for peaceful Rail Roko on December 3 2011 in which thousands of gas victims took part at six places between Subash Nagar railway crossing and Nishatpura. In five out of these six places – Nishatpura, Kainchi Chhola, Chhola Naka, Berasia Road Crossing and Bharat Talkies overbridge there was no breach of peace at all. Only at one spot, Barkhedi-Aishbag railway crossing, there was violence that was initiated by District administration and police officials about which we will present facts later. We would like to bring to your attention that to ensure that protest on December 3, 2011 remained peaceful we had explained the method of peaceful protest to the gas victims through a video film that was screened in different communities over a period of one and a half month.

F.Our peaceful protest was pre announced and the administration had sufficient notice.
As has been said above in Para A, we five organisations have given detailed information regarding our demand to the state government since July 2011. In addition, through our rally of July 25 2011, successful Bhopal bandh on 11 October 2011 and several press conferences, we have provided detailed information related to our demand and on protest actions organized by us to secure this demand.

With regard to the rail roko protest organized on December 3, 2011 we had announced it at a press conference on 17 October 2011 and we had conveyed this information in our letters to the state government on 28 October 2011 and 19 November 2011. Had the state government responded to any of our letters in the six months or discussed the matter with us in the month following the announcement of rail roko, possibly there would have been no need for a rail roko. In this regard it is indeed regrettable that the Collector invited us for a discussion on rail roko protest on December 2, 2011 but he refused to take responsibility to organize a meeting for us with the official of the state government who could take a decision on the matter.

G.We had done our best to ensure that rail passengers are troubled as little as possible because of our rail roko. Three weeks prior to rail roko protest we bought Google Ads and through that and through our website publicized the proposed protest action requesting potential passengers to change their journey date or route. Over 2,00,000 people have read our announcement and advice on the internet. Additionally gas victims participating in the rail roko action reached food and water to the passengers on a large scale.

2.The following suggest that District administration and police officials are primarily responsible for the incident of violence at one out of six protest spots on December 3, 2011.

A.Lack of preparation.
As has been mentioned above, because we had made prior announcement and the preparation for the protest action were all in public, the District administration and police officials had more than enough notice for adequate preparation. Despite this there was serious negligence in this respect. Lack of preparedness is a significant reason behind irregularities committed by the officials at the place of incident and this has been taken in cognizance by the State Human Rights Commission that has sought answers from concerned officials.

B.Lack of Patience
After the rail roko protest action began on December 3, 2011, the Collector asked one of our colleagues, Mrs. Rashida Bee to come for a meeting with the Chief Minister with 10 persons. Mrs. Rashida Bee sought ten minutes time from him so that she could discuss it with other organisation leaders. However the Collector could not wait for ten minutes and ordered cane charging in 3 to 4 minutes thus, initiating violence.

C.Taking away the PA system
It is worth mentioning that on 3 December 2011 the means to establish communication with the protestors was the PA system which was taken away by the police following orders from the officials just before the cane charge. After police began the violence we leaders were not able to pacify those protestors who had resorted to counter violence as self protection.

D.Cane charge without warning
As been mentioned above in Para A & B because of lack of preparation, required patience and knowledge of established rules, the Collector gave an order of cane charging without any warning. The State Human Rights Commission has asked questions in this regard that remain unanswered till date. The first protestors to be beaten up and left bleeding were the old women who were taking part in peaceful protest. The young men who came forward to save the lives of these old women were also beaten with sticks which was the reason for eruption of violence.

E.Profanities by police officials
Before sticks started raining on the protestors the city Superintendent of Police, Mrs. Monica Shukla publicly abused the women and used humiliating language against the protestors for which there are several eye witnesses.

F.Stone pelting by police
Following the order of cane charging a few people, in order to protect the old women and themselves, threw stones at the police. In response to this, the police resorted to stone pelting in a huge scale about which we have substantial photo and video evidence.

G.Tear gas and firing without warning
Following cane charging and stone pelting by the police, tear gas shells were burst without warning that lead to critical injuries to a 14 year old Daud Ansari causing grievous hurt.

H.Police setting fire to vehicles
Several government and public vehicles were set on fire on 3 December 2011. According to a reliable witness a policemen standing next to her handed over a piece of cloth to man who had covered his face with handkerchief and asked him to set a particular vehicle on fire. We have a photograph of the man with his face covered with a handkerchief.

I.Police entered people’s homes, beat them and caused damage to their property after the incident of violence.
We have reliable witnesses and evidence that show that one hour after peace was restored in the area, 40-50 policemen entered some 20-25 houses in Umrao Dulha Bag near Gol Kabristan and beat up people with sticks and kicked them. The policemen damaged furniture and broke doors and windows and smashed 10-15 vehicles parked outside.

J.The police arrested innocent people in an illegal manner.
Following the incident of violence, 14 persons who were gas victims themselves or children of gas affected parents were arrested by the police. They were beaten badly with sticks in presence of several eye witnesses and many of them were also beaten up at the police station. The arrested persons were not informed about the charges against them and they were not allowed to contact their family members and lawyers. They were stripped to their underwear at the police station and were not provided with any food or protection from cold.

3.District administration and police officials are themselves aware of their role in the incident of violence on December 3 2011.
It is worth mentioning that since the incident of December 3, 2011 the District administration and police official are busy trying to defend themselves and suppress facts. This is the reason why despite repeated questioning by the State Human Rights Commission the Collector and police officials have not responded to a single question. It is worth mentioning that in order to receive answers to these questions the Commission has sent reminders.

The defensive posture assumed by the District administration and police officials is further evident by the fact that despite our personal and public requests the police officials have not presented a single photographic or video evidence to support the allegation that any of the named accused (leaders of our organisations) were either involved with violence or with instigating violence.

4.Action under severe sections are being undertaken to cover up the irregularities and misdeeds of the police.

Legal action is ongoing against 14 persons under 17 criminal sections including Section 307 (murderous assault) and because of the following reasons it is prima facie evident that the accused were not part of the violence.

A.6 of the 14 people who are in jail for last one and a half month have got documentary evidence to establish that they were away from the scene of violence and at their workplace during the incident of violence. 1 among the 6, Pooran Vishwakarma lost his father while he was in jail and he was let out on parole for just three hours four days after his father’s death.

B.Two other persons have got documentary evidence to show that they were busy in preparations for their sister’s wedding that same evening. Both of them were arrested at a petrol pump 1km away from the place of incident with their motorcycle.

C.None of the 14 persons arrested have any previous criminal charge against them.

5.17 grave criminal sections against 2000 gas victims including 35 named accused are without any basis.

Because of the following reasons, the criminal cases against the gas victims are prima facie baseless, faulty and ill motivated.

A.The named accused include gas affected women who are sick and above 80 years of age and incapable of committing crimes described in the FIR (stone pelting, use of sticks, use of firearms and country made guns, setting fire to vehicles, using sharp edged weapons and causing destruction to public property).

B.The named accused include 17 yr old Safreen who is a child of gas affected parents and is herself sick from being exposed to contaminated ground water and is unable to commit the crimes described above.

C.The named accused include 8 women, many of whom are above 60 years age, who had been arrested and sent to jail prior to the incident of violence.

D.The named accused includes persons who were not at the scene of violence before, during or after the incident. There is video evidence with the police that establishes that one of these persons was 4 kms away from the scene of violence.

E.The First Information Report (FIR) lists weapons (sticks, sharp edged weapons, country made guns, firearems) which are not seen in any of the photos or videos while the police claims that the entire incident has been videographed.

With regard to the facts and arguments presented in Para 1-4 above, we would like to clarify that we have substantial evidence and documents to substantiate each and every fact and argument presented. We have attempted to make this letter as brief as possible keeping in mind your busy schedule. However a few important documents related to the criminal cases against gas victims are being appended.

Finally on behalf of the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster we request you to set up an independent and impartial inquiry on the incident of violence on 3 December 2011 described above as per your promise.

We hope that till such an inquiry is initiated you will give rational and just direction for withdrawal of criminal cases against the arrested persons and 2000 gas victims.

Awaiting your reply, we remain
Thanking You

Sincerely

Rashida Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
94256 88215

Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
9302792493

Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
9826167369

Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide

Enclosures: 1. First Information Report of 6 cases
2. Information on arrested persons

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