The International Campaign For Justice in Bhopal
A great catastrophe, followed by years of sickness, poverty and injustice can overwhelm and crush the human spirit, or it can enable ordinary people to discover that they are extraordinary. Such people find that they have the grit to survive, the defiance to face their persecutors and the courage to fight back. Out of shared struggle, even in the midst of terrible sickness, comes strength, the joy of friendship, and the realisation that they are not weak, powerless or contemptible. They are in fact possessed of great power – power to bring about political change, do real good in their community and in the world.
In Bhopal, some of the poorest, most helpless people on earth, sick, living on the edge of starvation, illiterate, without funds, powerful friends or political influence, have for the last 26 years struggled for their lives against the world’s biggest chemical corporation, its allies in the US and Indian governments and tycoons and an army of hired lawyers, lobbyists and PR agents.
It’s a struggle of those who have nothing against those who have it all. Where many Bhopal survivors can barely afford one meal a day the company has limitless wealth. Since 2006 Dow has spent around $200 million on ads portraying it as a caring benefactor of humanity. The company has been fined for bribing officials, it is known to have lied, attempted to subvert democracy, bullied politicians and twisted the laws of two nations to avoid justice in either. The Bhopalis, seeking help from their own government, have been instead abandoned to their fate, ignored by politicians, fleeced by corrupt officials, swindled by moneylenders and unscrupulous quacks, not infrequently arrested, kicked and beaten by the police for daring to protest.
Every authority that owes the Bhopal survivors a duty of care has failed them. Having no one else to turn to, they have been forced to help themselves and have discovered that the poorest slums are full of talent. From this humblest of communities has come a remarkable flowering of political intelligence, social service, medicine, art, science and music.
As we continue to celebrate their successes, we must remember that everything they have achieved has been won against brutal opposition, in a context of struggle and suffering of which there is still no end in sight.
The Bhopali survivors have now made three long marches to Delhi, in 1989, 2006 and 2008. They’ve endured extremes of heat and cold, slept in deserts and snake-infested jungles and walked through badlands ruled by bandits. Some women have been on all three walks. Most can look back on a lifetime of struggle: street demos, sit-ins, roadblocks, boycotts, graffiti-actions, fly-poster campaigns, hunger-strikes with and without water. They’ve staged exhibitions, satirical awards, music concerts, street theatre and created some of the most extraordinary protest art ever seen. All these things, plus the torches and banners, the songs and slogans like ‘Women Of Bhopal: Flames Not Flowers’, and the famous Beat Dow With a Broom campaign are part of the Bhopal survivors’ efforts to win proper healthcare for themselves and their families, and to bring to justice those responsible for the tens of thousands of damaged, sick and dead.
In 2002, Outlook India magazine wrote:
‘Bhopal isn’t only about charred lungs, poisoned kidneys and deformed foetuses. It’s also about corporate crime, multinational skullduggery, injustice, dirty deals, medical malpractice, corruption, callousness and contempt for the poor. Nothing else explains why the victims’ average compensation was just $500 – for a lifetime of misery. Yet the victims haven’t given up. Their struggle for justice and dignity is one of the most valiant anywhere. They have unbelievable energy and hope. The fight has not ended. It won’t, so long as our collective conscience stirs.’
The Bhopal Medical Appeal & the ICJB
The Bhopal Medical Appeal is a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) which seeks to obtain justice for the survivors in Bhopal. Most of the ICJB’s aims have medical significance – for example, the provision of proper medical relief, including for people born since the disaster who suffer from gas- and water-poisoning, adequate compensation for past medical bills and loss of livelihood, and the clean-up of the factory, which continues to poison nearby land and drinking water supplies.
We have close working relationships with those involved in the justice campaign. Some people are involved as volunteers in both.
As far as funding is concerned, monies donated to the Bhopal Medical Appeal go solely for the purpose of medical relief in Bhopal. The ICJB does not and has never received any funding from the Bhopal Medical Appeal.
For more information about the ICJB, please see www.bhopal.net