How The White House Responded To A Petition For The Victims Of The Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Posted on September 2, 2016 in Politics

By Kokila Bhattacharya:

If I have seen hope turn into despair in a city, it has to be mine.

1984 was when the debilitating MIC gas enveloped Bhopal and killed thousands with an aftermath that’s even worse. That’s 32 years.  Lost somewhere in the blame game of authorities, government officials and denizens of an ignorant community are the lives of thousands at stake still. Now, three decades later, contrary to what people believe, it’s not over. The impact of the tragedy is engraved deep in the blood of the victims, so much so that their offspring bear the consequences as well.  Teeming with individual stories of despair and despondency, the tales of us Bhopalis expose the corrupt machinations of power.

Sketch_kokila_Bhopal

A few months back, Bhopalis discovered that the honourable White House responds to pleas on its online forum if it’s addressed from over a lakh of people. We needed answers.

And, after 31 and a half years, another of the many campaigns kickstarted. It told the US Department of Justice, to “Uphold International Law! Stop Shielding Dow Chemical from Accountability for Corporate Crimes in Bhopal, India.”

Voila! As the clock struck its final days, alongside supporters overseas, we exceeded the required signatures. As I was preparing myself, in clandestine ways, to finally recount a struggle half-won (the least at that), I wanted to be sure I was being realistic.

Bhopal has lent its name to an association of a ‘tragedy’, an unfortunate ‘accident’ and a ‘disaster’. People forget to remember; to remember its deep-rooted ties with the words, ‘industrial’, ‘corporate’, ‘mass-murder’ and ‘negligence’. My generation might have turned away from witnessing the remnants of this holocaust, but no amount of ignorance can keep up with how alive the struggle is, resurging above disappointments of all hues.

We cannot, in all pragmatic ways, eliminate the possibility of another Bhopal in the future, whether India, in its nuclear deal frenzies and sprouting infrastructure like wild mushrooms, is ready to deal with a future crisis or not.

Moreover, the parent company, Dow Chemicals, lives on in prosperity putting millions of lives across the globe in jeopardy and happily sponsoring the Olympics while the children of Bhopal hop on to their paraplegic lives. By 2016, Dow Chemicals (the mighty lord of all companies, post-marital ties with another chemical giant Dupont), who have, in their glorious solo crime sprees, have infamous records. They are collectively responsible for the violation of human rights, environmental devastation and compromising of safety standards in pursuit of profits. While they made scrupulous attempts to wipe off true stories by punching ‘sustainability’ reports all over their brands, the US Department of Justice, conveniently and successfully shields them, or as we say in India, “pallu mein chhupa ke.”

Companies like Dow and their toxicity are omnipresent when it comes to the end number of products we’re using each day, consumers be wary of what they bring home.

Am I drifting? Two months later, the White House did respond to the petition.

Served in a hyphae of words tactfully dipped in discretion & garnished with a blatant disregard was this:

“to avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government. That’s why we’re declining to comment on the specific request raised in this petition.”

A few months back, public outrage hit Hindustan Unilever to commit to compensate for 15 years of toxic legacy to its former workers, many of whom are still living with the health impacts of lax safety standards in the Kodaikanal factory in Tamil Nadu. From Kodaikanal to Bhopal, Mettur to Singrauli, justice lies at way further point than mere acknowledgment, remediation or rehabilitation from the state, central government or the company responsible.

Well, somewhere amidst the blaring slogans and the heat of the burning effigies of Obama in a city vested in the heart of India, you’d see wrinkled faces. You’d see tired, cracked feet and countless children with a fainter idea of what has dawned upon them.

“Justice buried, justice denied” seems more like a universal phenomenon for victims worldwide. Survivors, more than often in indigence, have come to terms with one fact, though; you wouldn’t see an Indian executive, if at all, who managed to flee from the USA under charges of culpable homicide or more, sunbathing peacefully in Goa.

I guess we all know why, and it’s high time things change.

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