After the bruising encounters of yesterday the Bhopalis were back, undaunted, in Jantar Mantar this morning. Ashraaf Bee and Bano Bee, who had both been hospitalised after being kicked and struck by police, were determined to take part.
Ashraaf Bee, the morning after being released from hospital
Bano Bee, the morning after, determined as ever. Just look at the expressions on those faces. The Bhopalis are not going to be pushed around. These people have seen prime ministers, chief ministers and chief executives come and go. Their anger and determination grow as the injustice deepens day by day and year by year. They will never give up until they have won all their demands.
During the morning, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers offered two meetings and apologised for the ruckus of yesterday. Apparently they had been planning to meet the Bhopalis at 4pm, but by then they were being arrested.
Sign at Ministry of Chemicals
At 11 a.m. several representatives met with the Secretary of the Ministry, who listened to them elaborate on the demands and why it is so crucial to honour them. The meeting was positive.
We staged a press conference at 3:30pm, right on the street at Jantar Mantar. Photos and details about yesterday’s police attack were supplied to the press.
The chosen representatives of the Bhopalis were then set to meet the Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers himself at 5 p.m. A press release is expected soon with the outcome of that meeting, which will also determine whether tomorrow we begin a hunger strike.
Champa didi is interviewed at Jantar Mantar
Shehzadi gives an interview
Meanwhile the Bhopalis are sitting by the curb at Jantar Mantar beneath banners, signs and photos. Some people have been curious enough to pull over their cars, get out, and ask what’s going on. Most people are sympathetic, it’s clear from the tone of their remarks and of almost every press report that 21 years is enough, indeed, too much. People are sickened by yesterday’s brutal treatment of elderly ladies who walked 800km because they believe that democracy has some value. Nobody likes to see people who have endured so much suffering marginalised and sacrificed for the dubious benefit of having Dow Chemicals and its subsidiaries operating in India.
Ashraaf leaving hospital late last night, helped by Nity
The nearby Golda Khana Gurudwara on Bab Kharak Singh Marg has very kindly agreed to make and deliver dinner to our people this evening.
When they came for me, they begged me to stand up. I said, “It is not my will to go, if you want me to go, you will have to carry me – I am not thin!” It took several policewomen (policemen are not allowed to touch women). They grabbed my arms and legs, and carried me for a bit and then, exhausted, said, “Let’s just leave her behind.” But a policeman came over and said they had to take me. So they had to carry me to the bus, put me in the bus, carry me out of the bus and to the police station. But I could see they were concerned, my legs were splayed apart, my shirt pulled up, one even pulled it down around me.
When we all got to the police station the women were separated from the men and we gave the policewomen a hard time, chanting “Chai, we want tea, chai, chai”. And women were calling, “Why are you treating us so badly? What would you do if you lost your husband at a young age, with young children to support? What if you carried your baby for nine months and he is born dead? What if you breast fed your child knowing your milk is poisoned? Or if you had to give your kids polluted water to drink. You say you are just doing your duty. Why is it not your duty to protect us? Why is it not your duty to drag the corrupt officials out of their offices and put them in jail?”
I could see that most of the policewomen were touched. Some had tears. There was one particularly tough one and we kept at it, until even she too was moved.
Rachna the radio star
Starting several days before the padyatras arrival in Delhi, Radio Mirchi began covering the marchers’ progress daily. Radio Mirchi is one of the most popular radio stations in Delhi, with 40 lakh (4 million) listeners daily. Rachna was speaking on air everyday from her cell phone.
They originally told us that they wanted to cover the padyatra up until its arrival on the 27th, but once we got here they called to say they wanted to continue indefinitely because their listeners were so charmed by Rachna.
“We got 16 calls right after we hung up with you, yesterday,” they told her. “Our listeners can hardly believe your energy and charm for someone who has just walked 800 kilometers.”
The ever-charming Rachna lamenting her blisters. She has forbidden us to show this picture, so here it is