Students at Harvard University and community organizations have come together to organise a series of events to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
The groups launched a 365 day relay fast today in support of survivors of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, to draw attention to key survivor demands: clean-up of the contaminated site, medical relief and economic rehabilitation for all survivors, and prosecution of Dow Chemical, whose subsidiary Union Carbide’s pesticide factory was the site of the 1984 disaster.
The groups also held candlelight vigil and protest in Harvard Square, Cambridge which was attended by several dozen people.
Sunday’s candlelight vigil and the relay fast was organized by students from the Harvard Kennedy School in coordination with the Association for India’s Development (AID) and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB).
Speaking on the occasion of the anniversary Harvard graduate student Shashank Shukla said “It is unacceptable that 29 years after the disaster people are still being exposed to dangerous toxins.”
Shukla who has previously worked with the Supreme Court of India said that the coalition of groups is prepared to stand with survivors until justice is achieved in Bhopal. “The fast is both a means of expressing our collective outrage over what is happening in Bhopal as well as a vehicle to globally amplify the voices of the survivors”, he said.
Leonid Chindelevitch, a volunteer for ICJB said that Dow’s irresponsibility is setting a dangerous precedent for the future behavior of transnational corporations in India by showing that they can escape liability for the social and environmental harm caused by their actions.
While the situation on the ground in Bhopal remains a catastrophe, Nitin Gujaran, an AID volunteer and a software engineer working in the area is hopeful that the 30th anniversary year will energize a global movement for justice in Bhopal as well as increase awareness about other such disasters. “Bhopal teaches us about what happens in a toxic industrial society which prioritizes profits above all else”, he said “It is a reminder that in some ways we all live in Bhopal”.
Survivors in Bhopal mark 29 years since the Union Carbide gas disaster with marches, a torchlit rally and the burning of a Dow Chemical effigy.
Leaders of five organizations of the survivors of the disaster also presented their list of demands at a press conference. The leaders expressed hope that the soon to be elected government in the state as well as governments of USA and India would take action to end the disaster before it enters the fourth decade.
Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said that the US government must acknowledge and express regret for financing, through its EXIM Bank, the construction of the hazardously designed plant that caused the world’s worst industrial disaster.
She said that the US government must contribute to the end of the disaster by ensuring that Union Carbide Corporation and its officials cease to abscond from Indian courts, provide additional compensation for the survivors and clean up the toxic contamination in Bhopal.
Balkrishna Namdeo, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha demanded that Dow Chemical must set aside sufficient funds for clean up of the contaminated soil and ground water in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory as well as for health monitoring of the affected population.
“Union Carbide must cease to abscond from justice and answer charges of manslaughter and grievous assault in the criminal case pending before the Bhopal District Court” he added.
Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha demanded that the government of India make corrections in the figures of deaths and injuries caused by the disaster in the curative petition before the Supreme Court of India for additional compensation from Dow Chemical and Union Carbide.
He also called upon the central government to set up an Empowered Commission on Bhopal with adequate funds, authority and participation of survivors’ representatives for medical, social, economic and environmental rehabilitation in Bhopal.
“A new government will be formed in the state two weeks from now. Our deepest wish is that this government makes a new beginning to end the ongoing disasters in Bhopal. We are calling for a closure before the disasters enter the fourth decade” said Safreen Khan from Children Against Dow Carbide.
The order on summoning Dow Chemicals to the Bhopal District Court, official acknowledgement of contamination of ground water in 22 communities, Supreme Court’s decision on regularization of employment of 50 women survivors after their 23 year long battle, near completion of piped water supply to contaminated communities, production of a commonly agreed Action Plan for remediation of the contaminated areas, issuing of notices by the Supreme Court regarding unethical clinical trials on survivors and punishment of corrupt medical research workers are some of the good things that have happened in 2013 according to Satinath Sarangi a member of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster. The 30th anniversary date is the 3rd December 2014 and, leading up to that date, The Bhopal Medical Appeal will embark on a ‘Toxic Tour’ of the UK (and possibly other countries- subject to funding). Given our longstanding connection with the Glastonbury festival we hope that we can include the festival as a part of our tour. Our connection with Glastonbury dates back many years, with us supplying litter pickers, and in 2010 we were honored when Mr.Eavis accepted our offer to became a Patron of our charity.
In 2011 we ran a stall in the Leftfield area where we ran a participatory art project. We invited festival goers to come and make sculptures using water bottles recycled at the festival.
Bhopal Medical Appeal- participatory ‘re-cycled’ art, Glastonbury Leftfield, 2011.
In 2014 the proposition is somewhat different as we will be touring with a self-contained art installation and hope we may be able to bring this to Glastonbury. The art piece is designed to be viewed, as a sculptural item, from the outside and by walking through to view the images inside. The aim is to educate and raise awareness of the Bhopal Disaster, and the continuing toxic legacy, but without making overt statements about accountability or justice. The aim is to inspire inquisitive minds to ask further questions and not to make partisan statements.
The installation is by Indian Artist, Samar Singh Jodha, and is called ‘A Silent Picture’. This Public Art Installation traveled around India in 2011- over 85,000 people visited the project in Mumbai in one week alone, making it the largest ever-viewed public art project in India. In 2012 it was shown, in London, by The Bhopal Medical Appeal in conjunction with Amnesty International during the Olympic Games.
The art piece is a shipping container which is decorated and is, in its own right, a striking looking object. Inside, along one wall, is an array of lenticular images of the abandoned factory, site of the disaster; whilst on the opposite side is a long cloth printed with the names of victims and stretched over the forms of bodies trying to escape the gas. Inside a simple soundtrack runs on a loop whilst, outside, we would propose a sporadic ‘gas leak’ (dry ice).
A Silent Picture (external view)
A Silent Picture at Kala Choda Art Festival, Mumbai, 2011.
A Silent Picture, interior.
A Silent Picture, interior (opposite wall).
As explained, A Silent picture is a self-contained unit. It requires no more than a 240v single-phase supply and a suitable plot within which it can be correctly leveled. We would have a small supporting stall, with attendant staff, explaining the work and its relationship to the Bhopal issue, there would be simple merchandise, most likely consisting of some Tee-Shirts and a book.
A Silent Picture is a 40′ shipping and we assume there is access to the Glastonbury site for the requisite vehicle. However, should this prove impossible then the work has also been shown in 20′ format but this is, understandably, less striking an object.
We would need enough space to accommodate the container, a very small area for a stall, plus the requisite camping space. For best visual effect the container should be set at an angle anywhere between 0 – 45 degrees from the direction of traffic.
Avaes Mohammad performing his poem ‘Bhopal’. Filmed around the time of the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster: CLICK HERE
As we approach the 29th Anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, we would like to invite you to join us at our upcoming events in London:
‘Bhopali’ Film Screening, Calder Bookshop, LondonTuesday 3rd December 2013, 19.00
We are holding a special screening of the documentary film ‘Bhopali’ to commemorate the 29th anniversary.
We will be remembering the Bhopal survivors and holding a discussing about the ongoing injustices to mark the beginning of the 30th anniversary. Q&A with Tim Edwards of the Bhopal Medical Appeal
For the address and more information about Calder Bookshop here
Litigating for Bhopal: ‘Bhopali’ film screening and discussion at SOAS, London
Wednesday 4th December2013, 19.00 – 20.00
We will be holding a film screening of ‘Bhopali’ (edited version) which highlights the fight for justice and corporate responsibility in Bhopal, followed by a discussion with Tim Edwards, of The Bhopal Medical Appeal, focusing on the questions of the adequacy of the law to address issues of justice in Bhopal.
SOAS Room G3, 21-22, Russell Square (between Bedford Way and Thornhaugh Street).