The LowDOWn – May 2014

This Newsletter is brought to you by
The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, 
North America


Newsletter Contents:

1. Amnesty International’s Get on the Bus Action
2. International Workers’ Memorial Day
3. Diane Wilson’s Statement on the Bhopal gas disaster
4. Calling all Michigan-area Supporters!
5. Call for Art Submissions
6. Take Action, Fast Today!
7. Join ICJB NA – Volunteers needed

1. Amnesty International’s ‘Get on the Bus’ Action

On April 11th, 2014, over 400 activists in New York City gathered for Amnesty International’s annual ‘Get on the Bus for Human Rights’ action, organized byAmnesty International USA Group 133 of Somerville, MA. The event draws students from across the North East region of the US to join in a day of action. This year Bhopal Gas Disaster was one of the four main focal issues.

Survivor activist, Sanjay Verma, who lost seven family members in the Bhopal gas disaster, kicked the day off by addressing the packed audience. Mr. Verma outlined the need for the immediate assessment of the extent and severity of soil and water contamination, and the need for economic and medical relief and rehabilitation in Bhopal. Echoing Amnesty International’s letter to UN Agencies, Mr. Verma said that the time has come for the UN to take a more pro-active role on the ongoing disaster.

Students marched to the targets in NYC, including the Permanent Indian Mission to the UN, where they raised slogans urging the Dow Chemical Company and the Government of India to take immediate action.

Amnesty International and ICJB urge the United Nations l to take immediate and concrete steps towards resolving the humanitarian crisis in Bhopal, India.


2. International Workers’ Memorial Day.

April 28th marked the annual International Workers’ Memorial Day. Members of five survivors’ organizations in Bhopal took part in a torch rally, which included several former employees of the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) Bhopal factory. Balkrishna Namdeo of the survivors’ group, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, pointed out that there was a long history of workplace hazards in the UCC-Bhopal plant, before the Bhopal gas disaster. In December 1981, a worker named Mohammad Ashraf died following exposure to phosgene, and in January 1982, a further 28 workers were exposed to phosgene. In April 1982, three electrical workers were severely burned, and in October 1982, four workers were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC). Risking their jobs, workers of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal had rightly warned the surrounding communities of the likelihood of a catastrophe.

Please consider sharing a message of solidarity to the Bhopal Medical Appeal atadmin@bhopal.org.

Read all the messages of solidarity (including statements from Noam Chomsky and Diane Wilson) here.

Photo by Sanjay Verma


3. Environmental Justice Activist, Diane Wilson, on her time in Bhopal

There’s a lot of people who are disturbed about the picture of the young child on my Facebook profile. I am writing this, on the eve of April 28, International Workers Memorial Day, to explain why I keep that picture as my profile photo and also why Bhopal should never be forgotten:

I am a commercial fisherwoman from Texas and Union Carbide ( now Dow) has existed outside my fishing village of Seadrift since I was born. I am 65. That’s a lot of years. I never knew about Bhopal until the day Union Carbide blew up near my hometown. The year was 1990. That’s when I first heard the word Bhopal.

A professor from New York City, named Ward Morehouse, showed up at my doorstep in Texas. He had been involved up to his neck with the situation in Bhopal and he asked me if I wanted to tell my story of Union Carbide in Texas to the people of Bhopal. I said yes, but I really had no idea what I was getting into.

I arrived in India exactly eight years after a very bad day. That day was December 4, 1984. Bhopal was the scene of world’s worst environmental disaster and I had arrived in India without a full understanding of what I was doing there. Yes, I understood that there was a Union Carbide plant in my backyard and one in Bhopal’s back yard. Was I was here to be a witness to the horror that had happened in Bhopal? Witnessing is a real legitimate reason for being somewhere. But there were two billion witnesses here already! And all much better than me!

The only thing I knew without a doubt was that Bhopal was one huge puzzle with 2 billion teeny tiny pieces and I had one piece.

Permanent People’s tribunal on human rights and industrial hazards. That was it. Ward Morehouse gave me the pamphlet to the event where I was speaking. I read on the back that the tribunal was based on the idea that the world had ample experience of industrial and environmental hazards and lessons had to be learned from these experiences so that those who died and suffered didn’t do it in vain. In other words, learn from the past so that a better world was possible. The best part of it was that the Permanent People’s Tribunal was not a government or an official document; it was a people’s statement that came from their experience of being forced to live with the consequences of industrial hazards and it was very very fitting that the tribunal was taking place near the heart of industry’s greatest darkness: Bhopal, India.

Every morning all of us delegates hopped a dusty bus from a rambling hotel and took a ride to an enormous beige conference center where huge black and white pictures of Gandhi hung on every wall and rioting bougainvillea spilled into the streets, up and down pathways, and over towering trellises. Between the heat, bougainvillea, chilies burning on the fire, and the wide- open skies I thought I was back in Texas. The governments were certainly alike.

Things changed on the sixth morning. Oh, we had our dusty ride on the crowded bus, all right, but that morning a tiny man in a white shirt and shorts chased the bus down the road. He was hollering something with a high British accent and he was so close to the bus that it sounded like he was hollering right in my ear. I was taking it a little personal so I turned at the open bus window that was scoured with dirt and grime and a million fingerprints on the bottom half, but from the top half I could see him just fine. At that exact moment he decided to leap. For a second I thought he was going to bop me on the nose with his hand but instead, a knotted handkerchief flew through the window and hit me in the head. A white, neatly knotted handkerchief tumbled into my lap. I sat a moment, fingering the place on my head where the handkerchief had hit, and then I swung around to find that little man.

The man was standing stock still in the middle of the dusty road and getting smaller by the second. I whirled around to see if anyone had noticed my brief moment with the jumping man. Apparently not; it was just him and me in a brief one-on-one. So I unknotted the handkerchief, smoothed out the four corners, and then I flipped over what looked like a stack of photos. There were ten black and white photos of ten dead babies lying on white sheets smeared with blood. The babies were young. Very young. Maybe they were newborns. I looked closer. Did my babies look like that when they were born? Were they ever that small? Who were these babies and why were they so bloody? I looked around the bus and showed the pictures to a woman sitting next to me. There was a long silence. The woman turned her head and refused to look at the pictures. Finally, a man leaned across the seat from me and said that the night of the poison gas, women lost their unborn children as they ran. Their wombs spontaneously opened in bloody abortions. “These are those unborn babies,” he said. “They are the lucky ones.”

I found out soon enough who were the unlucky ones. They were sitting beside me in the conference center, sometimes filling the aisles and the hallways, and almost always, sitting on the steps when I went inside. They wore bandages and scarves around their heads and covering their eyes, but the ones with charred lungs and poisoned kidneys had no bandages. They simply pulled their shirts, scarves, and shawls tight around their bodies and resigned themselves to misery while, I supposed, the bureaucrats and corporate dogs fattened themselves on skullduggery and dirty deals.

I didn’t leave India lightly because there was no forgetting those babies. I felt like I had been hit with a train or maybe that old man in the white shirt and shorts had hit me in the head harder than I thought. I didn’t know for sure. All I knew was that those dead babies with their frail arms flung across the white sheets seemed a whole lot like my own sleeping babies in their cribs at night and when I got back to Texas, their tiny fists pounded me in my dreams and railed against me forgetting. I will never forget. Those ten dead babies are permanently branded in my brain. My thoughts and heart is forever with the survivors of Bhopal and the 25,000 who died. You will not be forgotten.

Diane Wilson
Seadrift, Texas


4. Calling all Michigan-area Supporters!

We are looking for people to join us for a protest action outside The Dow Chemical Company’s Annual General Meeting on May 15th, 2014 in Midland, Michigan.

We ask that you join in solidarity to to commemorate the 25,000 Bhopalis that have lost their lives, and the tens of thousands that continue to struggle for justice. We also use this opportunity to honor and stand in solidarity with the tens of thousands around the world that are affected by Dow’s toxins.

Please e-mail us if you are interested in attending.


5. Call for Art Submissions – “We All Live in Bhopal”

All over the world, individuals are fighting battles against corporate evasion of responsibility and prioritization of profit over human and environmental safety. We would like to hear your stories expressed through your art.

What and where is your Bhopal?

Please click here for more details about art submissions. Deadline for submissions is September 1, 2014.

Selected art will be exhibited Dec 1st -8th in San Francisco, Bay Area, during the week long event “We All Live in Bhopal: Commemorating 30 years of the Carbide Disaster”.

If you have any questions, please email Beyond Holistic.


6. Take Action!

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. A worldwide relay fast has been put into action for 365 days to show our solidarity for the survivors and activists in the ongoing disaster in Bhopal.

Fast today !

Please sign this petition , which expresses our disappointment at Trailblazers’ collaboration with The Dow Chemical Company on the ‘Multiply the Message’ campaign. Don’t let Dow get away with greenwashing their image. Watch the video here! 

You can also help through a financial donation.Click here to donate or here to donate by cheque.

Please visit our website and like us on Facebook!


7. Join the Bhopal campaign

As the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster approaches, we need your time and effort to put pressure on DOW and the Government of India to ensure that survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster see justice.

We are looking for energetic, work-from-home volunteers!

Initiatives include: DOW Actions, United Nations Campaign, Curriculum Design, the Global Fast, and the Admin/Fundraising team.

Volunteer by e-mailing icjb.us.ab@gmail.com and let us know which initative you would like to join!

In Solidarity,

The ICJB North American Coordinating Committee

 

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