Thousands of survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy held rallies at different locations in this city Thursday to mark the 26th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, and vowed to continue their fight for justice.
While thousands gathered at Yadgare Shahjahani Park under the banner of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan (BGPMUS), hundreds more rallied from Bharat Talkies to the now defunct Union Carbide factory, led by five organisations.
And they raised slogans like ‘Ladenge, Jeetenge…Naya zamana Aayega’, (we will fight, we will win…a new era will come), ’26 years is enough, now no more’ and ‘Bhopal, Halla Bol, Halla Bol’.
Tonnes of methyl iso-cyanate (MIC) spewed out of the now shut pesticide plant of Union Carbide in the city on the intervening night Dec 2-3, 1984, killing over 3,000 people instantly.
In the years that followed, people exposed to the gas kept dying. The toll is believed to be about 25,000, and the affected now account for over 5 lakh.
The gathering and rally included seven-year-old children to 70-year-old men and women. Some foreigners too participated in the rally to the Union Carbide plant.
‘Our situation is like when Indians fought for freedom from British. At that time, nawabs and several kings were the middlemen of the British, now it is the Manmohan (Singh) and Shivraj (Singh Chouhan) who are the middleman of multinational companies,’ Abdul Jabbar, a survivor and convener of (BGPMUS), told .
‘…We will fight till death, so that no other Bhopal takes place in the country,’ he said.
‘The victims say it is better to die than live in these conditions…We do not want politics, we want justice. But both the central and state governments have only betrayed the gas victims,’ Jabbar said.
Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) told IANS: ‘We are not begging, we are demanding our rights, which the government has denied so far in terms of compensation and rehabilitation, besides fighting the case on behalf of the survivors’.
The 13-point charter of demands of survivors includes: a chapter on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in textbooks, a stop to purchase of any products made by Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide and Eveready Industry India Limited, and scrapping of plans to dismantle the plant and conserving it as a memorial to the disaster.
‘Our future generations should know well what happened in Bhopal, how it become the world’s worst industrial disaster and how the victims are suffering after the disaster,’ BGIA’s Rachna Dhingra told.
The other demands were equal compensation to all officially acknowledged claimants, a review of death claims for which compensation was wrongfully denied to include exposure related deaths after 1997, and to a fresh extradition notice for former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson be sent to the US state and justice department.
Along with Anderson, extradition of absconding authorised representatives of Union Carbide Corporation, US, Union Carbide Asia, and Union Carbide Asia Pacific must also be ensured, they said.
The survivors also sought an empowered commission for long-term medical care of survivors of the disaster and those exposed to contaminated ground water, free medical care at hospitals meant for survivors to people exposed to contaminated water also, and participation of survivors’ organisations in the running of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre.
They wanted the government to ensure adequate compensation from Union Carbide, US, by filing a curative petition against the settlement orders of 1989 and 1991, and India’s involvement in the ongoing litigation on the issue of contamination against Union Carbide in an US Federal Court in New York.
On June 7, a Bhopal court held eight officials of the Union Carbide India plant guilty of criminal negligence leading to the industrial disaster.