UK supporters confront Indian officials over Bhopal

March 27th, 2008, Edinburgh
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Scotland-based Bhopal supporters gather outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh
A delegation of Members of the Scottish Parliament, campaign groups and supporters met with the Indian Consul General in Scotland on Thursday in solidarity with the padyatris and in support of their demands.
Twenty five people walked from the Scottish Parliament to the Indian Consulate and handed in letters from the paliamentary cross-party group on international development, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and Scottish Hazards Campaign as well as about 100 postcards signed by concerned citizens.
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Centre of photo: Aileen Campbell MSP and Bill Wilson MSP of Scottish Nationalist Party. Between and behind them: Patrick Harvie MSP of Scottish Green Party
Although international issues are not within the remit of the devolved parliament in Scotland, members of the parliament are able to raise international issues which are of concern to Scottish citizens.
Whilst singing group ‘protest in harmony’ sang outside the consulate, the Consul General Ramesh Chander and Consul S.N.Srinivasan spent a half hour meeting with three MSPs (Patrick Harvie of Scottish Green Party, Aileen Campbell and Bill Wilson of Scottish Nationalist Party), John Watson of Amnesty International, Owen Davis of Friends of the Earth Scotland and myself.
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‘Protest in Harmony’ at the Indian consulate, Edinburgh
Mr Chander provided a copy of the official version of what the government of India is already doing for survivors and we were able to counter with the need for a Commission with teeth to ensure health, water etc needs were met, and the urgency of pursuing Dow in court.
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Outside the Indian Consulate in Edinburgh. Left to Right: Eurig Scandrett; Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party); Consul General Ramesh Chander; Consul Mr. S.N.Srinivasan; Aileen Campbell MSP (Scottish Nationalist Party); John Watson (Amnesty International)
The meeting was polite and cordial and the Consul General assured us that our concerns would be conveyed to the Prime Minister. He emphasised that India is a democracy and said he was sure that the Dr Singh would be willing to meet with the padyatris to hear their demands. We hope he’s right.
Eurig Scandrett
Lecturer in Sociology
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

March 27th, 2008, London
Five of us travelled from Brighton to London carrying our solidarity bannner, ‘umbrage’ umbrella and 1000 leaflets about the fax action targetting the Prime Minister’s office. In London we met with supporters at Pan-uk and collected a number of ‘walk your talk’ placards showing photos of child deformities caused by Carbide’s factory in Bhopal.
We caught public transport to Parliament Square where we were met by a group of Bhopal supporters. Two were familiar faces: recent volunteers at Sambhavana, one of us had met them at last year’s dharna site in Newmarket, Bhopal.
We had about 1.5 miles to walk until the Indian High Commission, and we imagined ourselves walking in step with the Padyatris as they marched the last few kilometres to Jantar Mantar at the same time.
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As we walked we handed out the leaflets asking people to fax the Manmohan Singh, containing also facts, history and information on the padyatra campaign.
All 20 of us carried placards.
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En route a dreadlocked rasta dressed in a dazzling, silky stars and stripes suit and Uncle Sam hat saw us coming, guessed our banners had something to do with the u.s.a. and sheepishly appologised [on behalf of the usa or for his awful dress sense, we weren’t quite sure].
Whatever leaflets were left were distributed outside the Indian High Commission.
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In the alleged absence of the High Commissioner himself, who was purportedly away on business in Delhi, officials comprising the Coordination Minister and one other came out to collect the materials we had brought them. We asked them to wait and remain outside until we’d finished a poetry reading and cleared our throats with some lusty chanting.
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We presented the officials – who were sticking uncomfortably to the security locked main entrance of the High Commission – with a copy of the Bhopal Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons the previous day and an UK Bhopal supporters’ petition, accompanied by a letter from the Bhopal Medical Appeal, the ICJB and PAN-UK and PAN-Europe. We took time to explain the purpose of the padyatra and the strength of feeling across the UK and elsewhere about the continuing abuse of the Bhopali’s rights. We were assured that our message would be passed to Manmohan Singh, though imminent events were about to cast doubt upon the word of these particular representatives of India.
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Indian officials receive our material
The officials retreated inside, leaving the stage set for four year old Sameera to belt out an unceasing chant of “justice for Bhopal”.
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Four year old Sameera makes an impression against the windows of the Indian High Commission
Not five minutes passed before the High Commissioner himself arrived in his ambassadorial car and scuttled straight into the safety of his office, face turned firmly away from the protest positioned a few feet away.
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Proof that the High Commissioner was ‘in station’ after all
Evidently, his eminence, Mr Shiv Shankar Mukherjee was too intimidated to pause and talk to the closest protestor Claire, bearer of the placard “Sweep Dow Out”.
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We continued our chants and talked to the number of people interested enough to stop. We also leafleted the 50 or so people queueing for visas around the corner.
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Some of the supporters had travelled for 3 hours to join us. We stayed for around 2 hours and made sure that the officials inside the building knew the entire time that we were there.

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