Tag Archives: 2010 Dharna

Obama, the hope that failed

6 November, 2010. BHOPAL — About 100 survivors of Bhopal gas disaster and those affected by ground water contamination caused by Union Carbide’s hazardous waste staged a demonstration outside the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal demanding that President Obama meet with them in Delhi to ensure that Union Carbide & Dow Chemical obey Indian laws and abide by decisions of Indian Courts. A large delegation of Bhopal survivors and water affected people will travel to New Delhi tomorrow to stage a demonstration against Obama’s business only visit.

Survivors shouted slogans stating “No Justice; No business for US Corporations” (Bhopal Mein Insaaf Nahi to Ameerki Vyapar nahi) and held posters like IS BHO A PAL OF BHOPAL. BHO symbolizes Barrack Hussein Obama. They also held posters calling to an end of Double Standards, referring to Obama’s decisive action against BP-Amoco for its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico even while remaining silent on Dow-Carbide’s Bhopal legacy.

This demonstration was yet another reminder to President Obama that he needs to address the demand of Bhopal gas survivors when he is in Delhi on 8 November as survivors will also be present in Delhi for a day long dharna.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karamchari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Children Against Dow-Carbide
Bhopal Group for Information & Action

Dharna day 21, 16 August 2010: Among the parliamentarians

Rachna and Shalini set out early morning for the Parliament. They have been visiting the Parliament since last week in order to get endorsements from different Members of Parliaments. A week later, both of them seem to know a lot more of the Parliament and its many curves and lanes. At the same time, their faces have become familiar to lot more people. No wonder, when one is missing among the duo, the other is often asked by the security guards and other staff, ‘how come you are alone today, where is your friend?” Finding friends in this giant and seeming cold building is no mean task. And this is what both these ladies have been trying to do for the last six days- finding friends for Bhopalis among the Parliamentarians.

The experience so far has been bitter-sweet. Today was no different. They waited outside the Parliament for the person who was supposed to help them with the entry passes. After many unacknowledged, unreturned calls they decided to contact someone they met a day ago in the Parliament. He is Personal Secretary to a MP and he had been very forthcoming with his support. On a single call he ensured we get the passes. Our first stop being the alley near gate 2 close to Lok Sabha Gallery. ‘Abhi aapka stock poora nahi hua madam?’ asked a PS sitting next to us. We smiled and mentioned how we are trying for some more endorsements in order to have representations from different political parties. Two-three more PS sat next to us, discussing among themselves the status of politics, how parliamentarians are now demanding a salary raise from Rs 80,000 per month to Rs 1,60,000 and making playful bet on who would win the elections in Bihar this time and amidst all this euphoria remembering to give us a meaningful nod whenever a MP passed by. Soon we collected ten more endorsements.

We then decided to visit the office of Ms. Sushma Swaraj, senior leader BJP. To our dismay we learnt she won’t be able to meet us due to her prior engagements. Nonetheless, we met a MP in her office who endorsed the petition immediately. It was already lunch time and MPs were rushing to Central Hall where entry is restricted to Parliamentarians and senior journalists. But there are other places where general public can try their luck for instance, elevators where so far we have met two parliamentarians. On an average we get some two to three minutes to explain our cause. In most cases we do not leave till the MP either reads the petition and endorses it or dismisses us with some standard statements like- I will read and get back, I will see you on my way back, or leave it in my party office. Such statements are indicative of their reluctance to engage any further. We take the cue and leave.

We then went to third floor where most party offices are. Checking every name plate and peeking into the office if there was any sound from inside we also learnt which parliamentarians take their lunch in the party office and which never set their foot in. This is how we had stopped at the office of a national party twice in last four days. On both occasions the senior leaders were having their meals inside. We were asked to talk to the MP on his way out however all our patience gave way when the MP dismissed the petition asking us to return only with a petition on the letter head used by Parliamentarians. He retorted, “What will be the beauty of my signature. My name will be reduced to one among the many. Get a letter head and I will consider.”

Well, Mr MP you might have the authority to sign but the decision to seek your endorsement is still ours and so we silently decide to leave in search of not so egoistic and not so egotistic MPs. Our experience has taught us there are many who put the cause before where will my name be in the list of endorsers.

Meanwhile Parliament was adjourned for the day. We now have a total of 62 signatures with representations from 19 political parties. On our way out we met Jayant Chaudhary, a young Parliamentarian from RLD, who gave us a patient hearing but asked us to collect the endorsement next day from his office. We went to meet Sandipto Bandopadhyay, MP- Trinamool Congress at his house and he asked us to wait till Ms. Mamta Banerjee returns. Ms. Banerjee being the party leader needs to be consulted for any political endorsement. Finally we left the petition for Mr. Dara Singh Chauhan, MP- BSP at his house and returned to Jantar Mantar, our home for last 21 days where, unlike us, most of the Bhopalis spent a quiet day. Once back with our friends we get busy with planning for tomorrow. Hopefully, Tomorrow will be another day!

Dharna day 20, August 15: Indian Independence Day for rich foreign corporations and capital

As Independence day dawned, it didn’t quite feel like an occasion to celebrate among the Bhopalis. Displaced from the pavement of Jantar Mantar, formerly the only site near Central Delhi where the people of this country could gather to voice their grievances. Displaced for the Common Wealth games that brings together athletes from countries whose only commonality is that they were all subjects of the British Empire.

The entire Bhopal gas disaster signifies how far we are from independence. We have gradually traded in formal political governance by the British for governance by rich entities – corporations and capital – globally. In some sense, our independence feels more like the globalization of colonialism – as if the British no longer deserved to have sole access to our resources, and labor. Now it is the Americans, the Europeans, and the Indian corporate heads who cheered on and financed our freedom struggle with an eye on all the possibilities for profiting in place of the British. The Congress party ushered out the British, and thirty seven years later, it helped usher out Warren Anderson in grand style after the Bhopal gas disaster for which is strongly responsible, having drastically cut safety measures at the Union Carbide plant to preserve profits despite previous deadly gas leaks. Elected representative after representative of our country, from many of our political parties, let Union Carbide and its subsequent owner, Dow Chemicals, leave behind its factory seeping poison into the soil, water and eventually the breastmilk of Bhopali mothers. Years of governmental negligence of this issue, and if unaddressed it undermines our very concept of our country as an independent democracy for the people, of the people, and by the people. Now is the time for us to attempt to create some semblance of justice for our long-suffering sisters and brothers in Bhopal.

For the Bhopalis there is much to mull over. All of you have seen the media outrage. We have seen the sympathy of the MPs. And we are still so far from justice. We struggle, we hope, and we will continue with all this.

Dharna day 19, August 14: Mamu’s story

Today at the dharna site, our vigil continued, damp as the afternoon air. I spoke to Abdul Rafi, fondly known to everyone as Mamu, about his story. He has been with the struggle for the full 26 years, and was 13 when the gas disaster hit in 1984. He lived with his mother, and worked to make ends meet as a laborer, including washing bottles for a while at the Union Carbide factory. At this stage of his narrative some disagreement erupted as to whether he could have possibly been employed at that age at a factory that nominally employed only adults.

On the night of the disaster, Mamu said that he was lying down and like everyone else he thought that chillies were being burnt. He tried to sleep but woke up after a while with his limbs in pain. When he went outside to see what was happening he saw people running against the wind and joined them, running past dead bodies. A woman tried to entrust her baby to Mamu, another woman was running while carrying a baby goat. Finally Mamu stopped by a tap and washed his face and found that this gave him some relief so he urged everyone else to do this as well. Some people were in such pain they jumped recklessly into the lake, but as it turned out those who could swim survived better than the rest because of the relief the water provided from gas exposure. To this day, his eyes hurt, he coughs, and worse of all he says he suffers from ‘ghabarahat’ – fears. For most, this mix of physical and psychological problems is devastating. It is for medical care, for poison-free water, for justice, that this struggle continues

Dharna day 18, August 13: MPs endorse survivors’ petition

The dharna site was quiet today, the mood steady but resigned to waiting. Meanwhile Rasheeda bi, Shalini, Rachna and Sathyu were able to get around 20-25 more endorsements of our petition by parliamentarians, and the personal secretaries of some MPs helped us access other parliamentarians. It was hard to figure out how to go about finding parliamentarians whom they could talk to – so they approached all sorts of people- secretaries, security guards, party office staff and so on to help us recognise parliamentarians. So now we have a total number of 53 endorsements from MPs representing 18 different parties. We hope to have a lot more endorsements from the CPI as Mr. D. Raja is circulating our petition amongst his party members.