Hark, The Evening Language Of The Poor (Tehelka)

June 16, 2010

Indra Sinha in Tehelka:

It was always about powerful people and hidden motives. Since the verdict, and the public howl of rage, some of these characters have been emerging, like the slug, into the light. Justice Ahmadi, who in 1996 diluted charges against the Indian accused, asks why, if he was wrong, did the CBI not challenge him for 14 years? All those years Bhopal campaigners asked the same thing and got no answer. Now BR Lall, former Director of the CBI, reveals that he was ordered in writing by the Ministry of External Affairs not to try too hard to extradite Anderson. When asked why he did not speak out before, he said, ‘About the hawala case I wrote a book, I made all the evidence public. So what is so great that about every case that I should go to public?’

What is so great? Twenty thousand dead? Half a million affected? One lakh still seriously ill?

In July 2004, a US intelligence agent in Mumbai reported to Washington that Indian ministers, for political reasons, would pretend to be pro-extradition. Other documents show that the US Departments of Justice and State colluded with Carbide’s public relations people and Indian authorities on a strategy for saving Anderson. “Hope it works,” one judicial officer remarked.

Read the whole thing.


‘Justice’ for Bhopal is just political farce (M J Akbar in the TOI)

June 14, 2010

From M J Akbar’s column in the Times of India:

Delhi has set the gold standard for cynicism. It operates on four axioms: public memory is a dwarf; anger is effervescent; media can be massaged at the appropriate moment; any public crisis can be assuaged with crumbs, while the promotion of private interests continues off-screen.

Jairam Ramesh’s promise of a Green Tribunal in Bhopal is a classical instance of a crumb dipped in the pickle of hypocrisy. Where was this or any other tribunal in the last 26 years when the dead, the deformed and blind babies and the stillborn fetuses were a reminder that justice must be done? Or is this tribunal meant for the next onslaught by the dogs of chemical war upon the sleeping slums of Bhopal? Who was Veerappa Moily trying to fool when he claimed that the case against Warren Anderson had not been closed? Why doesn’t he keep the case open for a few more years, until God closes the chapter by taking Anderson away to whichever destination has been allotted to the butcher of Bhopal? A Group of Ministers has been appointed — merely to buy time until the return of amnesia.

Read the whole thing.

Calling Delhi

June 12, 2010

Saturday, 12 June 2010
16:00 – 19:00
Jantar Mantar

Join us for an Evening of songs of Freedom and Justice !

After 26 years and nearly two generations of untold sufferings, nightmares, pain, trauma, lost livelihoods and a historic fight for justice from Bhopal to all across the world the verdict is : to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. one lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338; all the sentences to run concurrently and UCIL to pay a paltry 5 Lakh rupees.

It’s shame for the judicial system and another blot on the secular, socialist democratic traditions of the country. It’s an insult to those who died, continue to die and rubs salt to unhealed wounds of those survived and who have struggled in face of unsurmountable odds for all these years. The citizens of Delhi and the whole country are enraged at this travesty of justice and petty politicking which has marred the worst industrial disaster in human history.

We call upon you all to join for an evening to express yourself on the streets of Jantar Mantar in words, verses, banners, posters, poems, songs or actions… we will perform a die-in action too demanding justice in Bhopal and light candles in memory of those who died and salute to those who continue to struggle and suffer. Let us join hands and stand up for justice in Bhopal.

If you’re on Facebook, the event page is here.

Leave a comment here if you’re organising, or know of, events elsewhere.

Nothing and nothing and nothing

June 12, 2010

Annie Zaidi

I spent some time on the Bhopal website. They have a timeline tool. It shows you a page crowded with information on what happened during the gas tragedy in December 1984. On the right, there is a horizontal bar with forward/backward arrows in neon green. I clicked on the forward arrow.

There was nothing. And nothing. And nothing. And nothing.

Then there was something, a little something. In 1989. Criminal charges against Carbide. Then a little further on, in 1991, the Supreme Court review of the Carbide settlement. Then, in 1992, the reopening of the criminal liability case. Then in 1993, Union Carbide and Warren Anderson were declared ‘absconders’ from the law.

And then nothing. And nothing. And nothing. All the way to now, and nothing.
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No More Bhopals

June 12, 2010

Deepti Khera and Ritu Jhingran

(Published in the Annual Magazine-Redefining Limits SCM batch 2009-2010. Reprodcued here courtesy Deepti Khera)

On December 4, 1984 the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh witnessed an extraordinary exodus. Every train, every bus, every vehicle leaving the city was packed with people. For in the early hours of the morning, over 40 tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate, and other poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide, leaked from a pesticide factory, owned and run by the Union Carbide Corporation, USA, now Dow Chemicals.

Naturally, the trains coming into the city were almost empty. But on board one of them was Sathinath Sarangi, better known as Sathyu, who had been taking a break from the rigours of a PhD in engineering, in his village, Paliyapitariya,in Oshangabad district.Sarangi says, “I heard of the Bhopal gas tragedy on the radio. I immediately decided to visit Bhopal. It was simply out of curiosity to know what was happening in the city. I decided to go there for a week. But what I saw that day was much more terrible than what I heard on the radio. People were wandering down the road with swollen eyes, tears streaming from them. Many were hobbling as if in pain. Some had fallen down and found it impossible to get up.”
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I’m Not A Bhopali Just Yet

June 10, 2010

Manjul Bajaj

Today I woke up to a strange conundrum
Am I a Bhopali or am I not
It takes a few seconds to say I am one
on a Facebook page
And it costs nothing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet
I know Facebook is good and Twitter is better
To reach out to people and
get them to care about causes that matter
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not just yet.

It costs nothing and is simple to do
As simple as pressing a button which
says I AM A DUDE
As costless as a tarot reading
Or consulting Anita the online psychic
Not as entertaining as playing Poker
or Scrabble
but better perhaps than that
Farmville thing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet

“Oh stop being such an insufferable prig”
A little voice whispers
and I try not to shout back at it
The numbers and the statistics –
The full magnitude of the disaster
The complete travesty of justice made
For I know, I know these numbers only
because of an invite to that FB page
So I decide I will join cause
Press that button on that FB page
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet.

First, I’ll take a few minutes
and write out a cheque
I know money is not everything
It will not bring back the dead
Or make us citizens of another nation
where justice is subverted less
But money’s language is less ambiguous
It says I am sorry for your pain
And sorry for my own helplessness
in the face of it
In the complex arithmetic of my life
This is the number I have been able to put
to our brotherhood
It is little but I hope that somewhere
it will all add up

So for the moment
I am not a Bhopali,
not just quite yet
I’m just an old fashioned woman
trying to make my way around
supporting causes
in a new fangled world.
But I do hope to get there soon.

Dear Mr Obama

June 10, 2010

Dear Mr Obama

This is my first letter to you. I have to confess, I didn’t much care when you won the election. It may have been history in the making but it was American history and I live too far away to care. I didn’t wear Obama T-shirts. I didn’t read the book. I didn’t buy the ‘Change’. Call me cynical. Goes with the job description.

But today, I feel compelled to write to you. You’re having a problem with oil spills. I don’t know how you’re going to deal with it but you’ve been promising compensation and not just ‘nickel and dime’ stuff. Which is good. By and large, the US seems to take accidents, the disabling of human beings and monetary compensation pretty seriously.

I also read about some plans to compensate veterans, those who worked to test nuclear weapons. It says here that the compensation could be pretty generous.
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