“We have spent a lot of money on my medical treatment…Sometimes we don’t even have 5 or 10 rupees for tea or medicines. I was very healthy before the gas…After the gas, it has been cough and breathlessness, cough and breathlessness. Sometimes it would go away and I would think that I would get better…Every three months, every three months, I come to this hospital…I have injections here, and pills and I take oxygen. Oxygen has the most effect.” — Raes Mohammad, victim of Bhopal gas tragedy, 1984 (Clouds of Injustice, Bhopal Disaster 20 Years On, Amnesty International Publications 2004)
It has been nearly 30 years since a toxic gas leak from a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal caused catastrophic damage.
One of the world’s worst industrial disasters, the Bhopal gas leak killed more than 22,000 people, and almost 5.7 lakh people were exposed to damaging levels of the toxic gas. Many in Bhopal still suffer from serious health problems and pollution from the abandoned factory site continues to threaten the health of surrounding communities.
Miles away, here in Bangalore, walking by the busy intersection of Brigade and MG road, we asked a few people if they knew about the Bhopal gas tragedy. Most people knew about the tragedy, even if remotely.
It was quite effortless to get a passersby to show solidarity for the Bhopal survivors and injustice. Wearing a gas mask, they held up a poster asking #WhereArtDOW. At that moment, I felt proud to be amidst people who readily stood up for others miles away, who have been denied justice, denied their rights to safety, dignity and health; for 30 long years.
In 1987, the Government of India brought criminal charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” against Union Carbide India Limited, its US-based parent company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), and individuals from the US and India including then-UCC chairman Warren Anderson.
However, to this day, the company has never faced the charges against it, despite various court summons being issued. In August, a Bhopal court issued another summon to the Dow Chemical Company, which bought over UCC in 2001, asking it to appear in court on 12 Nov 2014.
But Dow has consistently denied responsibility for ensuring that UCC faces the outstanding criminal charges, and repeatedly ignored calls by survivors and human rights groups to address the ongoing environmental contamination and health impacts of the disaster.
When will Dow and UCC be held accountable? When will they show up in court?
On his present visit to the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting US President Barack Obama for official talks today. Send him a message to call on the US Government to ensure that DOW and UCC respect the Indian criminal process and show up in court.
Here, on the streets of Bangalore, Indians are asking, #WhereArtDOW? Show your solidarity with the struggle for justice in Bhopal by taking a selfie with the hashtag #WhereArtDOW in your house or street, and share it on social media. Or make your voice heard by giving a missed call to 044-33185009 and/or signing this petition.
Photo Credits: Kadambari Gladding/ Amnesty International India
About the Author: Makepeace Sitlhou is the Sr. Web Editor at Amnesty International India