Tag Archives: testimonies

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.

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Dharna day 17: gearing up for the Bhopal debate in parliament

Braving the humidity and heat all of us once again marched to Jantar Mantar in the morning from our night home, the shelter house at St’ Columbus School. Once there, Mamu, Vikas and others put up the temporary tent and we all sat down together for our morning tea. Sathyu soon left for Delhi Public School where a group of students had assembled to build their understanding of Bhopal and what it means today.

Meanwhile, Rachna, Shalini and Namdeo left for the Parliament for the usual round of MP endorsements on the Joint Petition addressed to the Prime Minister. ‘Today being the third day of our effort to get political support we had also become pretty comfortable with the staff in the Parliament. Many of them would recognize and smile encouragingly. A few others, like the Security Guard near the Rajya Sabha Gallery would give a thumbs up each time we would pass him,’ says Shalini. Both Rachna and Shalini would stand near the Rajya Sabha gate waiting for the Members of Parliament and as soon as they would see someone in white kurta and trousers, unofficial dress for the Parliamentarians, they would rush to them with the petition and supporting documents. The 7th June verdict has rekindled their interest into the facts of the disaster. With the debates scheduled for today in both the Houses of the Parliament suddenly facts have become sacred. That’s possibly why not a single Parliamentarian dismissed our Bhopal activists who seemed quite out of place in their very ordinary clothes and chappals.

In fact, Lal Krishna Advani, senior leader of Bhartiya Janta Party, who was on his way to the Lok Sabha was pleasantly surprised at being approached by these two ladies. He immediately arranged them to be taken to Sushma Sawaraj, a very eloquent speaker from BJP, who was to initiate the debate from opposition. She had already left for the house. Since we did not know the timings of the debate in the Loksabha we missed out on attending that. However, we heard parts of the discussion while sitting in the office of Telgu Desham Party (TDP). The staff at TDP is very friendly and supportive. They helped us not only with Lok Sabha Passes for later in the day but also made us meet their leader Mysora Reddy who immediately endorsed the petition and asked us to meet him again in the evening for detailed discussion.

Sushma Swaraj and other members of the opposition came down strongly on the Congress and asked for immediate intervention in the matters of remediation, extradition and the US Court Case. On its part, Congress MPs tried dissuading the opposition by citing the gaps in the legal system and emphasizing on the role played by the government and GOM. Similarly in Rajya Sabha members of opposition like Ravi Shankar Prasad of BJP and Brinda Karat of CPI (M) criticized the government for its pro-Dow attitude and demanded immediate action against the company. Ram Vilas Paswan appreciated the role of Bhopal activists and organizations in sustaining the struggle for so long and demanded Empowered Commission to look into all aspects of relief and rehabilitation. While Arjun Singh, who made a rare appearance in Rajya Sabha today, blamed Narsimha Rao for Anderson’s exit, Chidambaram would be responding to the Opposition tomorrow.

The debate in Lok Sabha started around 12pm and continued till the evening while the debate in Rajya Sabha lasted more than three hours creating quite frenzy outside the Parliament amidst the MPs and visitors as well as amongst the media.

Outside the Parliament at the pavement of Jantar Mantar, Sarita, Nidhi and Bhopalis were enjoying the rains which provided relief from the scorching heat for some time at least. Shalini, on the other hand, had a terrific time hitch hiking her way through water clogged city roads to IIT Delhi for a talk on Bhopal. Around 100 students attended the session, many being first year students, and pledged to support the struggle in all possible ways.

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Day 16: A day in parliament with many supporting voices

Shalini and Rachna went to the parliament today morning. The night before, Sandeep Dixit had informed us that there was to be a discussion on the gas disaster in Lok Sabha, and we’d send him some relevant documents. However, we didn’t know when the session would begin. MP Sayyed Pasha helped us enter the parliament, however we would need a second recommendation to enter the Lok Sabha gallery. The previous day, it was Mr. Abni Roy who took us inside the parliament.

So instead we asked Sathyu, Namdeoji and Rasheeda Aapa to join us, and took endorsements from MPs passing by the Rajya Sabha get. We again met Mr D. Raja, Shyam Benegal, Ms. Kannimozhi, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Anil Dave, and so on. Ravi Shankar Prasad recognized Sathyu and came over and appreciated our work and pledged his support. He said that he’d speak for this issue in the debate in the Rajya Sabha, scheduled for August 11. He also helped us get a pass for the Rajya Sabha. We then took a short break and ate the heavily subsidized food in the canteen, marveling at the prices at which MPs get fed!

A lot of MPs were verbally supportive. We were eventually able to get a pass from the Telugu Desam Party office to enter the Lok Sabha gallery in time for the afternoon debate. A discussion on Common Wealth games was taking place, and they postponed the debate on Bhopal to the next day, August 11. In the Rajya Sabha, the seating was very cramped and soon we came back downstairs to try and get more signatures. By the evening we had endorsements from members of the Congress, RSP, CPI, CPM, DMK, BJP, AIFB, AGP, MDMK, SAD, and some nominated and independent members.

Rachna and Shalini went to meet D Raja of CPI and Mr. Prabhat Jha, the BJP President in Madhya Pradesh, who would both be participating in the Rajya Sabha debate. They then went to meet Mr Ram Vilas Paswan. To all these, they gave some information on Bhopal for the parliamentary debates, and they also requested Mr Paswan to help expedite Sana’s surgery.

The day ended on a more relaxed note for Rasheeda Aapa and Sathyu as they joined the youth from Manzil to speak about Bhopal. Manzil has been long associated since 3-4 years to the Bhopal struggle, coming and performing at our dharnas. Today we spent some time with them and it was mutually rewarding – with young dedicated supporters such as them, we feel our struggle grows stronger by the day.

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Day 15: Sana gets her operation date and some barriers break

Today was an exceptionally cheerful day at the dharna sthal as about 70 new faces from Bhopal had replaced the previous batch. Sakina and Sana did yet another round of AIIMS hospital for Sana’s tumor operation and have finally been given a date for the operation. They will now be here in the first week of November for the surgery and medication.

Students from Delhi University joined us today for a interaction with Satyu and Rasheeda Apa. Inquisitive about the history of the accident and site remediation, they put forward their queries and the interaction went on very well with Satyu unfolding about the biggest industrial disaster. Some of them also helped us prepare posters for protest.

People’s movement across the country were also demonstrating across india against the violation of people’s rights and land by anti-people laws. Movements protested the displacement of people all around the country, police and mafia attacks, forced land acquisition in the tribal belts of Chattisgarh, Kalinga Nagar and Sompeta, the destruction of forests, ruining of fertile agricultural lands, adivasi lives and fisheries – all done in the name of development and GDP growth. The demonstration was spirited, culminating with burning the Land Acquisition Act, and the Bhopalis participated enthusiastically, shouting slogans and singing songs.

The protest also brought us music, from Ronid of Burning Voices, and from Manzil, the music group which has been performing for us. Neeraj, the lead singer of Manzil had even prepared a new song specially about Bhopal and everyone was enthusiastic about it. Even after the protest was over, while the police grumbled that it was time to clear the grounds, we continued singing and applauding. Neeraj asked Shanti bai to dance and she happily agreed and danced on the famous ‘Ey, Sajni’ song. The song ‘Ey Sajni’ is very popular with Bhopalis, and Yasmeen, Kaveri and many more joined Shanti Bai and the music filled the famous Jantar Mantar pavement with euphoria. The hot and humid day was taken over by the overcast and soon it started to drizzle.

Much later when Bhopalis had cleared the dharna sthal today, one of the police personnel came forward and quietly congratulated us for the lovely evening. People against people is not so much of an instinct but more of propaganda, hoping these barriers will break someday. Bhopal dharna 2010 continues in good spirits.

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Dharna day 14: what is this hope, what is this music, dancing in the face of despair?

The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it. –Helen Keller

More than what I see in the physical presence of the dharna is what I try and understand about the feelings of the people who have been here at the dharna this year. I mostly wonder about their strength in dealing with suffering spanning 26 years. What is this hope that still has a spark of a child’s eye. What is in the music that pulls up the oldest of the lot to dance and to cheer up the youth. What is in a huddle where women talk and girls play. And what is in the hope that has lasted two and a half decades and still continues to sit in an unreserved train compartment and travel for almost a day to reach Delhi every year.

What is in Shanti bai’s words when she pulls you and makes you sit with her, just to talk and to discuss her numerous medicines (she usually complains of rashes and sore eyes) . The group where Sakina, 25yrs old, runs after her 4th child Arif, plays with her daughter Sana, 8 yrs old (who has the throat tumor), and meanwhile tracks us all on the phone, scolding you the days you disappear. What is in the inquisitive voice of Banno bee when she asks about the ongoing Kashmir dharna, which is happening at Jantar Mantar for the second evening in a row. To describe this in an overly short and naive manner, it is this spirit of togetherness that has lasted them the strength to overcome the daily sufferings.

waiting for lunch
Food is cooked at the dharna site and distributed at lunchtime

Today we shared Jantar Mantar with the Burmese community protesting the military junta in Burma and freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi. They have been a persistent presence in Jantar Mantar. The afternoons are getting hot and humid, leaves dont move and birds stop chirping. The roads are quiet except for the buses and the kaka who brings chai at regular intervals. Under the big yellow tarpaulin things move in a slow manner on such days. Arif also gives up digging the pavements and cuddles with his mother for a siesta. They are all leaving today for Bhopal, towards the evening people start packing up and the idea of train travel fills up the air. They start moving around and saying their goodbyes to everyone at the dharna. Its a big group which is going to travel back to Bhopal and we wished them a safe journey.

The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it . And we are together in this. There will be a new set of faces tomorrow morning and the Bhopal dharna 2010 continues.

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