Observing Shahid Bhagat Singh Divas on 23 March, more than 250 survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster sat on a day-long fast in support of the Koodankulam struggle against the nuclear power plant. Condemning Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s act of charging Koodankulam protestors with “Sedition,” Bhopal survivors said that Bhagat Singh’s fate would have been no different in independent India than at the hands of the white colonial masters.
The Chief Minister
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Mantralaya, Vallabh Bhawan
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
Rashida Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
Enclosures: 1. First Information Report of 6 cases
2. Information on arrested persons
Mullo Bai, 65, gas affected and her mother Jamvati, 82
I left my house with my mother and 18 other women from my neighbourhood to be part of the rail roko. At 11:00 am we all reached Barkhedi crossing. We sat on the tracks for almost an hour and there were thousands of people all around us. We were all shouting slogans. There were lots of police and then a few female police started dragging women towards the blue police truck.
When police started dragging the women two men pleaded with the cops not to drag women like that. The police did not listen to anyone and must have dragged 3-4 women into the police vehicle. Then I saw total chaos break loose. There must have been 100 cops with lathis who just started to beat up women. They did not bother to see who they were hitting they continued with lathis and whoever came in their way got hurt. During all of this one of the police lathis hit me in my right eye and then came the second lathi which hit me in the back of my head. I saw blood coming out I realised that I had to leave and also had to get my mother out as she is very old and it would be hard for her to run.
I grabbed my mother’s hand and then my mother was hit by a police lathi on her head. My mother fell down and she was bleeding profusely. Her entire sari was covered with blood. There was so much blood and it seemed like someone had slaughtered a goat. Then three men came and they picked up my mother gave her some water and put her in an auto. I took her to the nearest private hospital (Mansi Hospital) and she got eight stitches. The hospital asked me for Rs 200 and I told them I had no money to pay them. I was so afraid that if my mother’s injuries were not looked at she just might die from excessive bleeding.
This hospital is situated on the main road and I saw many policemen running on the streets chasing men and even women with sticks. I pleaded with them to stop their violence. I asked them if they would kill us today by beating us. Then two policemen who were blocking our way let both of us leave. After walking 20 steps we were stopped by more policemen and they asked what had happened to us. I told them it was due to their lathis that my mother’s head was bleeding and I had a black eye and swelling on my face. Then the police sent me to the emergency vehicle for dressing of my wounds. I received two stitches on my head and I was asked to go home.
We must have reached home by 3:30 pm and for next two days we did not go to the government hospital. We have been scared that police are going to come pick us up and will take us to jail. We have been reading in the newspapers that police have filed charges against 1,500 people and they have been picking up men from their houses at night. We didn’t do anything to deserve such treatment. We had just gone to ask for our rights and we sat on the tracks peacefully. I did not even think that police would beat us so brutally.
At around 10:30 am about 45 women from my neighbourhood left to join the Rail Roko agitation. We all reached the tracks by 11:20 am and there were many women laying on the tracks and we also laid down on the tracks. I was surrounded by many women and there were so many people that all men were sitting beside the track. I was sitting with all the women from my neighbourhood as well and we were also listening to slogan chanting happening on the PA system. Then police started asking us to leave the tracks and started dragging one of the women who was wearing blue clothes. They were dragging her into the police vehicle and while she was being dragged one of the police women kicked her as well.
I saw a young girl in black clothes was pulled and dragged by two female cops and put into the police vehicle. I continued to sit and so did everyone and when police asked us to leave we told them that we will not leave until our demands were met. Then all I could hear was sound of lathis around me and women around me being beaten up. I also got hit twice. A lot of women were running and I also started to run with them but then I fell. There was massive stone pelting happening from both sides. I cannot remember much, but I do remember that two young boys took me to the 108 emergency vehicle. Inside the vehicle there were 3 policemen. The nurse dressed me up and asked me to leave the vehicle. I could barely see because both of my eyes were swollen and I was in intense pain.
I started to walk and covered one eye with one hand as it hurt too much to keep it open. Then I saw one of my neighborhood women and I called her towards me. She could barely recognize me and it was them who brought me back in an auto. I have been so scared of the police that I did not even go to the government hospital to get any treatment. I can barely afford the private doctor but I have been paying him Rs 200 to come and visit the house every day so that he can give me injection for pain.
At 10.30 I reached there with about 20 women and lay down on the tracks. Some policemen said the photo session is over and now you can go – your work is over. We said we will not go. Bhaiyya was there. I saw smoke and heard a loud blast. After this the train blew its horn and put on its headlights. The women who were lying on the tracks got frightened and stood up. A policewoman with short hair told us not to shout slogans. The ADM came and told the police to drag the women and put them in the police vans. He then asked, who is your leader and we replied that we do not have any leader, we have come with our demands.
When Namdeo went a little further from us, the police hit Poonam who was sitting near me and is about 60 years, she was hit on the head with the baton. She started bleeding. Three women took her to the cabin. Then Basanti was hit on her hand. I told them to stop all this and also got hit on the hand. They hit Bibbo aged about 65, on the head; I saw blood and started feeling dizzy. They hit another woman who was with me on her legs. With all this, I panicked, at the same time stones started raining. Three or four boys came and surrounded us to rescue us from the lathis and took us away from there. From Aishbagh police station I again came back to the cabin. I took Poonam, Bibbo and Basanti to the No. 108, a madam was there and I told her these people are bleeding please give them some treatment. At the same time five policemen came with minor injuries nor were any of them bleeding, but they were the first to get attention. I asked the madam to put bandage on these old women, she told me to shut up.
Another policeman came who was hurt and he said “first put bandages on the mothers”. Then my nephew who is about 13 years came and said a bomb has gone off and a boy has been hurt in the leg. I started feeling sick and just sat down.
I reached near Aishbagh railway crossing at about 10.45. There already was a big crowd which had stopped one train. Tara Bai came and gave the banner. The women were sitting peacefully. The boys were shouting slogans. After that we talked with the ADM. He said that your symbolic protest is over; now get up from the tracks. I told him that our protest is indefinite, arrange a meeting with the CM, we will discuss the matter with him and then decide. Then the ADM reached out his hands to catch hold of me and all the women who were sitting on the tracks came and stood around me. The ADM said you people will not listen and then walked away. Then I went to the announcement auto where they were announcing that the protest is peaceful and will continue till the demands are met.
Then I went back to the tracks and Safreen came and told me that the police have snatched the mike along with the cord. I told we’ll see about that later. The media people came to me, the slogans continued. There was no inkling that there would be stone pelting. Then a sound came like a cracker bursting, I was standing near the engine, Rashida was near the gate. Somebody said that it was a bomb. People started getting up started shouting ‘Run’ ‘run’. I asked the women to keep sitting but they also shouted ‘run, run’. Some men and boys came near the engine and said that women are being beaten up. I asked the women who were near me to go and see what is happening. At that time there no fire anywhere. Women started to scream. I took some of the elderly women towards the road, took some 10-15 women and made them sit behind the bushes. I saw that the police were beating the women on the tracks with batons. After that the stone pelting started – from both sides, like rain. I then sent the women under the train. The policemen were picking up stones. I took the women from under the train towards Pul Boghda, to the temple and from there to the old ‘Galla Mandi’ and they went away. By that time the police were running on the road with batons, and were throwing tear gas. I waited with the women at the temple. I saw a vehicle on fire. After that Rachna called and said that we have to go and meet the CM, to meet her within 15 minutes. I then went through Barkhedi to Patra and from there to Dwarka Nagar.
I remember Monika Shukla saying “beat the bitches with lathis”
At 11.00 Nafiza and I along with Yashmeen and 3 other women reached Barkhedi gate and went to the tracks. We sat on the tracks for some time and then came to the auto. Yashmeen and I sat in the auto, Hazra had told us to be in the auto. Yashmeen was announcing, I went to the tracks and sat with the other women, both the gates of the level crossing opened. The police were telling the people to go away. We said we will not move. We saw Rashida Bee talking to the Collector and Hazra Bi speaking to one constable. Then Yashmeen came and said the mike has been snatched – she told this to Rashida Bee, she asked us to go back and she is coming. I then went to Hazra Bee, she was asking the men to go back, some of them were drunk (I can recognise two of them) Hazra Bee was keeping these men away from the women with a small stick. A man in civil dress, aged about 40, wearing white shirt with stripes came and started calling the police. Hazra was keeping the men away and so I called her back. The man in the striped shirt and other police men called the blue police van. Nafisa, Hazra and I felt that they were going to arrest, so we lay on the tracks and the other women also lay down. The man in the striped shirt pulled me; two women came and put me in the van. In the scuffle with the man in striped shirt, I lost my phone. Inside the van I told the police that my mobile has fallen please get it back. The police refused and they held my hand and made me stand up. They brought two more women and after that they brought Hazra Bee, asked her if she has my mobile and she replied no. Nafisa Bee was also brought to the van. I saw that the stoning had started and two police women were pushing Nafisa into the van. I said, Mummy come up inside, they are pelting stones, she came inside and the van started. The doors were open and I jumped out. Outside there was stoning. When I reached the tracks some women were near the engine. I searched for Yashmeen and the mobile; I went and sat with the women who were near the engine. Sitting there I could see that the stoning was from both sides. The women started to move from there. From the Aishbagh side people were throwing stones at the police. I was seeing this from the gate. I saw some people overturning a police vehicle. I saw a woman who was hurt on the head and was bleeding. A woman was taking her to the 108. Two media persons were saying that the police are being beaten up. Soon after I heard gun shots and every body shouted, they are firing. When coming from Barkhedi towards Aishbagh, I saw the police beating the people with batons and removing them from the tracks. I met Rashida Bee who was pacifying the women. She was asking everybody not to throw stones. I was also with her. The people asked us not to go further, we came towards the Aishbagh side of the gate and Aapa spoke to Satyu. When we reached the lane we saw boys running, they were saving themselves from the stones. Near the small bridge we met Shoaib, Naeem and Amir from Budhwara. Then all of us, Yashmeen, Shoaib, Naeem and Amir went searching for the mobile. When we reached the tracks there were lots of police near the gate and they did not allow us to go forward. We saw smoke coming from Barkhedi side and all of us came back to Rashida. We spoke to her about where to go and she told us that it is peaceful at all the other places and that we should go to Nishatpura, that Sathyu has been told. After this we reached Dwarka Nagar by walking on the tracks.
By 9:30 a.m. there were 5,000 people near the railway crossing. I got there about 9.45 a.m. just after the crowd had tried to stop the Punjab Mail. The SP (Superintendant of Police), TI and six police (4 male, 2 female) started trying to remove people. It wasn’t yet time and the crowd let the Punjab Mail go. I got there after the train had gone through. Lathis (long clubs) were being shown (brandished) but no one was being beaten. I went and lay down on the tracks.
It was 10:30 a.m. when I lay on the tracks – we were saying to the police that we would begin the action at 11 o’clock. Why were they waving their lathis at the public? The police would not allow our protest. They tried to pull me up.
Now there were more people. The goods train with the diesel tankers was seen coming from Pul Bogda side. The train continued coming forward blowing its horn. It was stopped before it reached the level crossing gate and then lots of police arrived. They came and stood near the train. It was 11.45; women kept coming and sat on the tracks. The police were saying start the train. The train started moving; there were at least 1,000 people. As soon as the train started, I lay down again and the train stopped. Two women constables picked me up and put me beside the tracks. All the women came towards the train and lay down on the tracks. There was Rahisa, women from Taufeekh Bagh, women belonging to BGNPBSM, women from the shanties along the railway track all came where I was being held by the police. Men, boys and children all came shouting “Hamme hamara haq chahiye – Sahi muawjaa chahiye”. “We want our rights – We want proper compensation”.
The railway crossing gate was open earlier but was brought down and closed. The Collector arrived; he was accompanied by the riot police numbering about 50 and two women constables. A man in plain clothes wearing white shirt came and said, come and talk to the Collector. I told him that I have seen the Collector and if he wants to say anything he will come here. He said you should go to the Collector. Then I stood up and shouted slogans. All during this time the train was hooting (its horn) continuously. Our auto with the mike was near the crossing gate. I went to the mike and announced, please do not blow the horn and frighten the people, people are sitting peacefully, blowing horn will frighten them, we want co-operation from the police, you are also gas affected. We are doing everything peacefully, you also maintain peace. After that I went amidst the women and asked everyone to sit down. I asked everybody to shout the same slogan. Somebody was shouting ‘Anna Hazare – zindabad.’
The Collector called me from the other side of the railway gate. I went and he said, get about 10 people and come and meet the Chief Minister. I replied that this is not something I can do individually; we will have to consult among ourselves. He said; take 10 people from here and come. I replied that we have been writing letters for the last 1 to 2 months but the CM did not give us any time. I will have to discuss this with the other organisations and any decision can be arrived at, only after that. The Collector asked me to call Rachna Dhingra. I asked for 10 minutes. I tried several times to call Rachna, but was not able to. Jamal Ayyub came and said to the Collector and to me that some journalist can be asked to contact Rachna. But that also did not happen. Jamal Ayyub said we cannot do this on our own. While all this was going on, the police surrounded us from two sides. During this time thousands of people were sitting on the tracks, from Pul Bogda to Barkhedi crossing. Then the police opened both the gates. They lifted the people by pulling their hair and the male police dragged the women on to the metal (stones) lying on the side of the tracks – Hazra, Nafisa, Baano Bi – four or five, women were hit by the police, they started bleeding. Some women went into the cabin near the tracks. Then the police started caning the boys. Many boys removed the women from the cabin and from the tracks, at this time the lathi charge by the police was going on. The public was running away. I fell down and some people ran over me. Then the public picked up stones, and it started raining stones. The police also started pelting stones. I told the people not to throw stones but nobody was listening. Stones were being pelted by both the public and the police. The police started to run towards Pul Bogda. Three or four vehicles of the police came with RAF jawans and burst tear gas without warning anyone.
I called Sathyu on the phone who said, Aapa somehow try to stop all this. On Sathyu’s advice I came in between the police and the public. By that time a white colour jeep was on fire. I then went towards the road and asked people with folded hands to maintain peace. Some boys stopped pelting stones. After that when I went to the gate and 50 to 60 women again came and sat on the tracks. The police started to fire from Pul Bogda side. Some of the boys in the crowd went towards the train and said they will set it to fire. I told them the whole bagh will be on fire. The boys said, put the Pulzar motorcycle under the goods train. But I intervened and somehow managed to turn them off. They stoned the rail engine and broke its window panes. The public scattered due to the firing. By that time more police had reached, and were pursuing people into the lanes and into homes and beating them up. I have seen all this. Then I got a call from Sathyu saying that we have to meet the CM. So I started walking on the tracks towards north. The riot continued behind me.
When the collector was talking with me, somebody burnt an effigy on the other side of the gate. There was a cracker in it. The collector told me that I am letting bombs go off. I told him it was just a cracker and went to the other side and managed to get some water and put the fire out. The Collector then said that I will not be able to manage the public and they will manage the situation. To which I told him that on 3rd December people usually burn effigies, he said you people will not understand.
Anger flares as crowds hold Dow and Coe responsible
“What I’m seeing is a very violent lathi charge against people lying on the tracks, and stone throwing against police, a full-on battle. I’m seeing more fires on the road, women with blood running down their faces from head wounds, cage-like structures full of people presumably under arrest, and some of the TV cameras now appear to be shooting from behind riot shields. There are clearly thousands of people on the streets.”
Spoke on the phone a few hours ago to a survivors’ leader in Bhopal. Sorry not to get this up sooner, a lot of things are going on. Everyone flying about crazily. Here’s what she told me:
15-year old Daoud is seriously injured in hospital and may lose his hand after it was badly mangled by a rubber bullet fired by police.
It happened at Barkhedi, one of five places where the survivors lay down on the tracks to stop trains.
The survivors had announced the places where survivors were to make their way in groups and the police in riot gear with helmets, shields and cudgels (lathis) were waiting.
Police attack and beat elderly women and men
Among the survivors in this place were several older women, among the Goldman Prize co-winner and co-founder of the Chingari Trust, Rasheeda Bi (55).
Police attacked her with cudgels and fists. Her brother in law, coming to her aid, had his leg broken in three places.
Among the other older ladies attacked by police with cudgels were Hazra Bee, a grandmother whose grandchildren suffer serious birth defects, and Bano Bee (60), whose hand is badly bruised and swollen. In 2006 in Delhi, Bano was knocked unconscious by a police kick to her ribs. In hospital she was threatened being cut open. 18 year old Rafat was dragged along the stony ground till her skin was scraped off. Nafisa was also beaten. Like Rashida and Bano, Nafisa has twice walked the 500 miles to Delhi (she is the first speaker in Daniel Gosling’s excellent video of the 2008 padyatra, where at 9′:43″ you can see Rashida, Nafisa and Bano together.).
Police attack sparks angry response
The attack on the women drove the younger boys and men to a fury and they began throwing stones at the police, who responded by throwing stones back at them.
The police then fired rubber bullets directly into the mass of survivors on the tracks. This is when Daoud’s hand was injured.
Until the police attacked the women the action had been peaceful. Pictures and footage from Barkhedi clearly show the police attacking with cudgels first, after which the situation grew increasingly violent.
The protests passed off peacefully at the other four locations.
Eight women were arrested but are now released after, as reported in the earlier post, survivors leaders met the Chief Minister, who agreed to all their demands (for details of these please see the rail roko pages links at right) and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The response to the rail roko call was overwhelming. Fifty thousand people turned out onto the streets.
“We had never expected so many,” said the survivors’ leader, “the people were angry about being lied to for years. They were angry that people in high places side with Dow, as the London Olympics are doing, and Lord Coe’s continual parroting of Dow PR … Even after the Chief Minister called us [the survivors’ leaders] to a meeting and agreed to all our demands – the people have learned not to trust politicians – they wanted to stay on the railway tracks.”
Even after the action was called off people were wandering with blood on their faces and clothes joined huge crowds milling in the centre of the city, who were horrified to see the state of them.
Huge public anger at Dow and Coe
Anger turned to fury when the TV networks began broadcasting reports that Dow Chemical had refused to appear before the Supreme Court and that Lord Coe was refusing to withdraw his support of Dow.
Dow’s statement, issued through its lawyers was so terse as to be insulting and its remarks dismissive, designed to provoke.
“The Bhopal victims have been more than adequately compensated.”
Really? Well, Lord Coe, check these figures. Then decide whether you’ll also start repeating Dow’s famous 2002 statement, made the year after it merged with Union Carbide:
“$500 is plenty good for an Indian”.
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Look at it another way:
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SURVIVORS CELEBRATE STOPPING A TRAIN IN BHOPAL. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
So far 8 women survivors continue to be in jail for participating the rail roko today and 10 persons are in hospital with injuries inflicted when police attacked them with cudgels (lathis).