More than 65 events in 16 countries marked the first Global day of Action Against Corporate Crime in commemoration of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster. Members of unions, students, grassroots organisations, politicians, NGOs, individuals and Bhopal survivors were amongst the people taking part yesterday. Directors of Dow and regional headquarters have been confronted by protestors offering evidence of ongoing crimes in Bhopal.
Students across the US delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. At Princeton University Dow director Harold Shapiro was given contaminated water from Bhopal communities. “We feel that this was a clear admission of liability on the part of Dow-Carbide,” said Sujata Ray, a member of Students for Bhopal. “Now that Dow-Carbide has accepted a sample of this contamination, thanks to Mr. Shapiro, we hope that the company will act swiftly to clean up its remaining pollution in Bhopal. Until it does so, we intend to continue and intensify our organizing here at Princeton and across the country.”
In Mumbai over 100 students, volunteers and activists lay down on the pavement on Marine Drive to recreate the horror of Bhopal. Chalk outlines were drawn around the ‘bodies’ on Marine Drive and banners displayed saying ‘Remember Bhopal’ and ‘Dow – you have the blood of Bhopal on your hands.’ “Bhopal has become the icon for corporate negligence resulting in death and destruction, representing the thousand Bhopal-like disasters that take place all across India,” said Vinod Shetty, an eminent lawyer and ICJB activist.
In Switzerland, ICJB member Greenpeace delivered a replica of the memorial statue that stands outside the factory in Bhopal to Dow’s European headquarters in Horgen. In Copenhagen, Greenpeace activists also drew the outline of corpses on the ground in front of the Dow offices while others protested in front of the American Embassy. Greenpeace also announced a campaign to invite people around the world send a toxic message in a bottle to Dow.
In the Scottish parliament, Scottish Socialist Party MP Frances Curran presented a Bhopal motion (S2M-668 Frances Curran: Bhopal Anniversary) reiterating each of the survivors’ demands to Dow. In London, members of the Global Women’s Strike and the ICJB used a sound system to broadcast facts about Dow and Bhopal to the Houses of Parliament. “War profiteers Dow-Carbide sold huge amounts of pesticides that cause death by asphyxiation to Iraq, nine months after Halabja,” said the ICJB’s Tim Edwards, “the gassing of Halabja was used by the US and Britain as one reason to mobilise a war against Iraq. Yet the gassing of Bhopal, a much larger city than Halabja, has left Dow-Carbide carrying on business as usual. They must be brought to justice.”
In Bhopal, survivors have been exhilarated by events. “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.”
A huge huge thanks and big Bhopali hugs to all those who have taken part in the Global day of action. Please keep checking the GDA updates page for more news and details of the international actions as they come in.
DOW FACES FIRST NATIONWIDE STUDENT PROTESTS SINCE VIETNAM ON ANNIVERSARY OF BHOPAL DISASTER
Students from 26 colleges, universities and high schools organized nationwide protests against Dow Chemical yesterday, Dec. 3rd, as a part of the first-annual Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime. Dow Chemical, which was key manufacturer of chemical warfare agents Napalm and Agent Orange, faced 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. The protests, organized by Students for Bhopal , Association for India’s Development (AID) chapters, and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) , called on Dow to accept its moral and legal responsibility for the world’s worst industrial disaster.
On December 3rd, 1984, a toxic cloud of gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, enveloped the surrounding city, leaving thousands dead. More than 20,000 have died till date and more than 120,000 people still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. Chemicals and heavy metals that Union Carbide abandoned at the site—including mercury, trichloroethene, chloroform, and lead—have contaminated the water supply for 20,000 Bhopal residents. Despite acquiring Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has refused to address Carbide’s pending liabilities in Bhopal, that include medical and economic rehabilitation of victims, clean up of toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater, and provision of safe drinking water. Union Carbide is a proclaimed fugitive from justice for its failure to appear in Indian courts to face trial for manslaughter.
Students across the country delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. Although many of the deliveries were either refused or ignored, Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, the President Emeritus of Princeton University and an 18-year member of Dow Chemical’s Board of Directors, accepted a sample of the contaminated water following an open talk to the Princeton community on bioethics. Dr. Shapiro also accepted the testimonial of a Bhopal victim.
“The contamination that Dow-Carbide left behind in Bhopal is their responsibility, and it belongs in their hands,” said Sujata Ray, a member of the Princeton AID chapter that presented the water. “We’re pleased that Dr. Shapiro, when faced with the consequences of his company’s inaction in Bhopal, accepted a sample of the contamination on behalf of Dow-Carbide. Unfortunately the behavior of the other Board members typifies that of Dow-Carbide, which continues to deny and evade their legal and moral responsibilities in Bhopal.”
“Clearly, the water contamination in Bhopal is an issue that needs to be brought ‘home’ to Dow-Carbide,” declared Jaimini Parekh, an SSC member who organized a “return-to-sender” action against Board member Jackie Barton. “Dow-Carbide has seemed content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination that it left behind. 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.”
Several rallies were held outside of Dow-Carbide offices and facilities, including those in Dallas, Texas and Smithfield, Rhode Island. As during the Vietnam War, students also protested against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, and financial contributions.
“Students are outraged,” said Ryan Bodanyi, an organizer with Students for Bhopal. “They don’t want their colleges and universities accepting money from 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. People are fed up with corporate violations of our labor, environmental, and human rights, which is why so many people have united to take action on the anniversary of Bhopal, a particularly heinous corporate crime.”
Thousands of people from sixteen countries participated in the Global Day of Action in solidarity against Dow-Carbide and other corporate criminals. Events and actions took place in 16 cities across India, including Bhopal, as well as in the Netherlands, UK, USA, Lebanon, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, Canada, and Italy.
CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
CONTACT: Nishant Jain, Association for India’s Development, (512) 422-7169
CONTACT: Jaimini Parekh, Sierra Student Coalition, (626) 355-9612
CONTACT: Sujata Ray, Association for India’s Development, (609) 279-0952
Students participated at:
University of California (Berkeley)
University of Chicago
University of Colorado (Boulder)
Flintridge Preparatory School (Sierra Madre, CA)
Highland Park High School (Dallas, TX)
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champlain)
Johns Hopkins University
Lake Forest College
University of Maryland (College Park)
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
Penn State (University Park)
Portland State University
Rhode Island School of Design
University of Texas (Austin)
Students delivered samples of Bhopal’s contaminated water to Dow Board members Arnold Allemang (Midland, MI), Jackie Barton (San Marino, CA), Anthony Carbone (Midland, MI), Willie Davis (Playa Del Rey, CA), Barbara Franklin (Washington, DC), Keith McKennon (Portland, OR), J. Pedro Reinhard (Midland, MI), James Ringler (Lake Forest, IL), Harold Shapiro (Princeton, NJ), William Stavropoulos (Midland, MI), and Paul Stern (Potomac, MD).
1 Students for Bhopal, the student arm of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), is a national coalition of student groups dedicated to raising awareness about the disaster, advocating for the people of Bhopal, and increasing the pressure against Dow-Carbide to accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. More information is available at www.studentsforbhopal.org and www.bhopal.net.
2 The Association for India’s Development (AID) is a voluntary non-profit organization committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development in India, by working with grassroots organizations and movements in India. More information is available at http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/aidaustin/bhopal/index.html
3 The Environmental Justice Program (EJP) of the Sierra Student Coalition (the student-run arm of the Sierra Club) is a national community of youth working for environmental justice. The EJP is devoted to advancing the principles of environmental justice in our society, and believes that all human beings deserve a healthy, sustainable, livable, and beautiful environment that provides security for our families and communities. More information is available at www.ssc.org/subdomains/departments/ej.
United against Dow: Horgen, Copenhagen, London, Mumbai and Bhopal.