Tag Archives: 2006 Padyatra

Report from Jantar Mantar

The Bhopalis went back to Jantar Mantar today, after getting two appointments with officials from the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers today. At 11 a.m. several representatives met with the Secretary of the Ministry, who listened to them elaborate on the demands and why it is so crucial to honor them. The meeting was positive.
We staged a press conference at 3:30, right on the street at Jantar Mantar. Photos and details about yesterday’s police attack were supplied to the press.
The chosen representatives of the Bhopalis were then set to meet the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers himself at 5 p.m. We on the outside do not yet know the outcome of that meeting.
Meanwhile the Bhopalis are sitting by the curb at Jantar Mantar beneath banners, signs and photos. Some people have been curious enough to pull over their cars, get out, and speak with the Bhopalis.
The nearby Golda Khana Gurudwara on Bab Kharak Singh Marg has very kindly agreed to make and deliver dinner to them this evening.
Initiation of a hunger strike will depend on the outcome of today’s meetings. More information will follow as soon as possible.
Shweta’s story
When they came for me, they begged me to stand up. I said, “It is not my will to go, if you want me to go, you will have to carry me – I am not thin! It took several policewomen (policemen are not allowed to touch women). They grabbed my arms and legs, and carried me for a bit and then, exhausted, said, “Let’s just leave her behind.” But a policeman came over and said they had to take me. So they had to carry me to the bus, put me in the bus, carry me out of the bus and to the police station. But I could see they were concerned, my legs were splayed apart, my shirt pulled up, one even pulled it down around me.
When we all got to the police station the women were separated
from the men and we gave the policewomen a hard time, chanting “Chai, we want tea, chai, chai”. And women were calling, “Why are you treating us so badly? What would you do if you lost your husband at a young age, with young children to support? What if you carried your baby for nine months and he is born dead? What if you breast fed your child knowing your milk is poisoned? Or if you had to give your kids polluted water to drink. You say you are just doing your duty. Why is it not your duty to protect us? Why is it not your duty to drag the corrupt officials out of their offices and put them in jail?”
I could see that most of the policewomen were touched. Some had tears. There was one particularly tough one and we kept at it, until even she too was moved.
Rachna the radio star
Starting several days before the padyatras arrival in Delhi, Radio Mirchi began covering the marchers’ progress daily. Radio Mirchi is one of the most popular radio stations in Delhi, with 40 lakh (4 million) listeners daily. Rachna was speaking on air everyday from her cell phone.
They originally told us that they wanted to cover the padyatra up until its arrival on the 27th, but once we got here they called to say they wanted to continue indefinitely because their listeners were so charmed by Rachna.
“We got 16 calls right after we hung up with you, yesterday,” they told her. “Our listeners can hardly believe your energy and charm for someone who has just walked 800 kilometers.”

Tuesday 28th, late evening: 55 year old woman marcher knocked unconscious by a blow is threatened with surgical exploration of her abdomen "Then you’ll really have pain"

FROM SARVADARSHI IN DELHI
SENT 9.30pm IST, RECEIVED 17:05 BRITISH SUMMER TIME

4pm IST, Bano Bee, 55, is struck in the chest and knocked unconscious

Her limp body is carried away by police…And placed in a jeep

At 4.01pm IST a kick in the chest knocks Ashraaf Bee, 60, senseless. Both women had walked 800km to see the Prime Minister

Bano Bee and Ashraaf Bee were taken unconscious from the rally and left at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, a hospital chosen by the police.

The conditions in the hospital were horrendous. Neither Ashraaf Bee nor Bano Bee were given their own bed, but were stuffed onto single beds with other, unrelated patients.

They were extremely distraught about the way they were treated both by the police and by the doctors in the casualty ward.

The doctor accused Bano Bee who is 55 years old, of malingering and threatened to explore her abdomen surgically to reveal the truth. “Then you’ll really have pain,” the doctor told her, “You can hold your stomach and walk around in pain instead of pretending.”

The hospital refused to let them see their own chest x-rays, giving them instead only a written report that they were fine.

They have been released and are back at the camp near Humayun’s tomb. We have decided they need independent medical examination because we suspect that the hospital is in collusion with the police to minimise and falsify their injuries. Right now they are waiting for some other doctors to arrive at the camp.

JAIL UPDATE, 22:43 IST, 18:13 BST

We don’t have an exact number of people originally arrested in front
of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, but we estimate it to be
between 200 and 300. We do know that among those arrested were 35
children (age 12 and under), including many infants.

Within just a few hours, the police offered to drop everybody off at
Jantar Mantar, where they could be cordoned off and comfortably
controlled by the police. But these Bhopalis were absolutely livid at
how they had been treated after walking 800 km. They refused the
offer, realizing the cops desperately wanted them out of their
custody. The police had neither the time nor the resources to do the
paperwork as well as feed and shelter so many people all at once. The
Bhopalis did not want to let these these thugs off so easily — how
dare they yank and drag them across the pavement from where they were
sitting peacefully, stuff them in buses, cart them to the jail, and
then hope for it all to end conveniently for themselves. People
started shouting spontaneously, “We are not afraid! We will spend the
night in jail!”

The police were slowly beginning to realize they had underestimated
how tough and determined the padyatris and other Bhopalis are. After
a bold stand by 38 people who were then arrested and jailed, the
police decided that even a few Bhopalis were far more than they wanted
to deal with, and all the remaining arrestees were separated and
compelled to leave.

Currently, everyone is out of jail.

BHOPAL.NET COMMENT

The day had started off peacefully in the spirit of the long march, which had been marked by songs and dancing, and the walkers nurturing a naive trust that the Prime Minister of India would listen to their problems.

The marchers and their supporters from Bhopal, among whom were whole families with children, had gone to hold a rally outside the Ministry of Chemicals. The “Bhopal Cell” in this ministry is ultimately responsible for the well-being of the survivors of the gas- and water-catastrophes.

There were so many police outside the ministry that the photographer who took these pictures could hardly see the Bhopalis, who were outnumbered by the cops.

The crowd of Bhopalis, which was there by arrangement, had no idea of what was about to happen. The picture below was taken at 15:36 IST, shortly before the police attacked.

15:42 IST and still no inkling of what lay ahead.

Madhumitta Dutta, who had been talking to the police, was the first to be grabbed.

A minute after the previous picture was taken, with fear spreading among the mothers with young children, Ashraaf Bee was kicked in the chest and collapsed.

Women with children were not spared. There were between 200-300 people in the crowd of Bhopalis, a large number of them were children. Some children had been brought from Bhopal precisely because it is their young generation which is bearing the pain caused by Carbide’s birth-defect causing chemicals. Look at the children on this page and read their stories.

35 children under 12 years old were taken into police custody.

Even as the police buses, ordered up and on the spot before the marchers and their families even arrived, carried them away, the people were singing.

Throughout every footsore mile of their extraordinary journey, these people have refused to be daunted, have kept up their spirits with dancing and song. This setback will only strengthen their determination to win justice.

Survivors on 800 km Padyatra from Bhopal to Delhi Arrive in Bhopal

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Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information & Action
Bhopal ki Aawaaz

New Delhi. 25 March, 2006 – 46 padyatris from Bhopal, including 39 victims of Union Carbide’s Poisons who traveled a distance of 800 km from Bhopal to Delhi arrived to a massive welcome by students and trade union representatives at Nizamuddin on Saturday afternoon. The march began from Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on February 20. The youngest marcher is 16 while the oldest participant is 90 years old.
The survivors are demanding justice and a life of dignity, and have resolved that they will not return to Bhopal this time without getting all their demands met. At least 10 Bhopalis have announced their readiness to go on an indefinite fast if the Prime Minister does not immediately address their demands.
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Booklet of factsheets backing up the padyatris’ demands, PDF format, 5.4mb
“The Indian Government has had more than 21 years of notice about our plight and our demands, this time round we are not returning from Delhi without having all our six demands fulfilled”, said Rashida Bee, leader of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh and 2004 Goldman Award recipient to the crowds that turned up in solidarity including CITU. AITUC, IFTU, AISA , JNU, Disabled Rights group and Jan Natya Manch.
Representatives of the four Bhopali organisations who coordinated the padyatra will present their 6-point charter of demands to the Prime Minister by month-end.
Their demands include: the setting up of a National Commission on Bhopal to oversee medical and social rehabilitation; supply of safe water to communities currently drinking poisoned water; speedy prosecution of the accused, including Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman; environmental remediation; curbing Dow and Carbide’s business in India; and memorialising the disaster by including it in school and college curricula and building a Bhopal Memorial in consultation with survivors.
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“The hospitality of the villagers through out the march has been heartening, food, accommodation and water has been provided for by them. We hope the Indian government shows at least a fraction of the sensitivity that we have experienced during our 33 days long march.” said Jagannath Das, a 90 year old padyatri.
The Bhopal padayatra has stirred up massive outrage from around the world. At least 2000 faxes, more emails and 10,000 signatures, have been sent to the Prime Minister’s office, by Bhopal supporters worldwide, urging him to meet the Bhopalis and resolve their issues. On 23 March, 20 US congresspersons, led by Congressman Frank Pallone, issued a letter to the Indian Prime Minister in which Dow Chemical and Union Carbide have been condemned for their disregard for law. The letter also urges the Prime Minister to address the long-standing demands of the Bhopalis. On 24 March, NRIs and student activists from the US staged a demonstration outside the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. to expose the insensitivity of the Indian Government for having let the victims of the worst industrial disaster suffer for so long.
For more information:
Nityanand Jayaraman, +91 9811138987
c/o A1/125, 1st floor, Safdurjung Envclave, New Delhi. 110039 www.bhopal.net