Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hunger strike in support of Bhopalis

Dear Friend,


Date:     June 28, Saturday
Venue:   Balgandharva Chowk (still to be confirmed), Pune

Progressive Organisations of Pune,
                         Do send volunteers to join this hunger strike.
Progressive Intellectuals of Pune,
                   Do volunteer to join us or
         at least come down to the venue, join us in singing songs and shouting slogans,
         and sign the petition to the Prime Minister.

As you are aware, the epic 23 year long struggle of the Bhopalis has reached a crucial stage. Nine Bhopalis are on an indefinite hunger strike in Delhi. Earlier, they had walked 800 kms from Bhopal to Delhi and then had sat down on a dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, but despite the gruelling 38 day walk and 74 day dharna, the Prime Minister refused to meet their just demands, and gave only vague promises. Finally, left with no choice, the Bhopalis began an indefinite hunger strike till their just demands are met.

Today, June 24, is the 15th day of the hunger strike. It is shameful that the Prime Minister has not yet seen it fit to yield to the just demands of the heroic Bhopalis.

The struggle of the Bhopalis is a part of the countrywide struggle against corporate globalisation, it is a part of the struggle by people all over the country to fight the sellout of our land, water, forests, mineral resources to Foreign MNCs and big private Indian corporates in the name of development. As Arundhati Roy stated on May 23 in support of the Bhopalis,

By refusing to meet the people of Bhopal who have suffered for decades after the Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals gas leak Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is at the forefront of the Corporatization of India's Economic Policies, is sending out a clear message to the Corporate World: In India you are free to poison, rob and kill our people. The Government will protect you. You will never be brought to book.

The struggle of the Bhopalis is our struggle too.

The Bhopalis have given a call to organise a global day of hunger strikes on June 28, Saturday. In support of their call, we of LOKAYAT have decided to join this global day of protest. On this day, at least 15 of us from Lokayat will be sitting on a day-long hunger strike in Pune, the venue tentatively is Balgandharva Chowk. We are hoping to get other organisations to join us, and are hoping that the number of people fasting will increase to at least 25.

The draft pamphlet's content is pasted below. Download it and distribute it to your friends, or forward it to as many as possible

23 year long wait for justice




Join the global hunger strike on June 28


Nine Bhopal activists, including seven survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, are on an indefinite hunger strike in Delhi since June 10. Earlier, more than 50 victims of the world's worst industrial disaster had walked the 800 kms from Bhopal to Delhi, despite their swollen knees and painful lungs. Then, along with many hundred gas victims and their supporters, they sat down on a Dharna on a footpath in Delhi. Despite their grueling Padyatra for 38 days and Dharna in Delhi's sweltering heat for 74 days, the government refused to yield to their just demands. So they have now launched an indefinite hunger strike. On bodies badly damaged by the gas leak. They have already been on hunger strike for 15 days as we write this pamphlet.


December 2, 1984 … 27 tons of Methyl isocyanide and other deadly gases leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal. The leakage occurred because the company designed the plant with inferior and unproven technology, and then to enhance profits cut down on vital safety measures and plant maintenance. 8000 died that night in Bhopal. But that is world history; that is not why 50 padyatris aged between 11 and 82 marched to Delhi.


The Bhopalis marched for the present. More than 1.5 lakh people who survived the gas leak had their bodies ruined. Yet, they were denied a just compensation. They were even denied medical care, despite the severity of their illnesses. No efforts were made to provide them training or jobs suitable to their injured bodies. But there was another reason why the Bhopalis marched. The factory that leaked poisons into the air in 1984 has been leaking poisons into the soil and water ever since, for the last 23 years!


After the gas leak, Union Carbide simply abandoned the plant, leaving behind over 5000 tonnes of toxic waste. This has seeped into the groundwater and poisoned wells and handpumps with chemicals known to cause cancer and genetic defects. More than 25,000 people living in the area drink this poisoned water. So children continue to be born with crippling deformities…  Carbide continues to kill. And so women like Shanta Bai, aged 82, despite their ill-health, marched to Delhi. But again, that is not the only reason why they are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike.


The Bhopalis are fighting for the future of all of us. Ever since India's rulers began globalization of the Indian economy, governments at the Centre and the States have been rolling out the red carpet for gigantic foreign multinationals (MNCs). To entice them to invest their dollars in the country, they are being offered the most extraordinary sops. The foreign MNCs and their Indian collaborators, the big private Indian corporates, are being allowed to cut down entire forests, destroy coastal lands in the name of aquaculture, over-exploit groundwater, pollute our seas-rivers-soil-groundwater-air, indulge in indiscriminate mining, uproot entire villages, destroy livelihoods of people, damage the health of not just the living but also of those yet to be born. The people of India have not taken this assault on their livelihoods lying down; from West Bengal to Orissa to Kerala, they are fighting back. The heroic Bhopalis are in the forefront of this struggle for NO MORE BHOPALS.


One of the main demands of the Bhopal gas survivors is that the government hold Union Carbide and its successor company, Dow Chemicals (which took over Carbide in 2001), responsible for its crimes in Bhopal. As per Indian law, Dow must now pay for the clean up of the Bhopal site and also compensate the victims of the water pollution. But Dow has offered a carrot of investing $1 billion (Rs. 4200 crores) in India if it is absolved of its Bhopal liabilities. Simultaneously, the US government has warned India that US investments will be affected if Dow is prosecuted. And so a groveling Indian government is simply refusing to act against Dow, instead it is unashamedly promoting Dow's investments in India.


Dow is one of the world's most criminal and polluting companies. Last year, it disclosed that it had paid Rs. 80 lakhs bribe to Indian officials for approvals for three pesticides. One of these is Dursban, banned for household use in the US as it is proven to brain damage children, but advertised by Dow as safe in India. Yet no action has been taken against Dow, nor registration of the pesticides cancelled. Again in 2007, the government allowed Dow to set up a Research and Development Centre in Shinde Vasuli village near Chakan, 30 kms from Pune. Even though this Research Centre was denied permission in US and Europe for reasons of toxicity. So far, the people of Shinde Vasuli supported by Puneites have successfully forced stoppage of construction work.


Support for the struggle of the Bhopalis is pouring in from all over the world. Sixteen US Congressmen and several British MPs have extended their support to their demands. More than 3000 faxes from 18 countries have flooded the Prime Minister's office. 43 people from 5 countries have begun fasts in solidarity with the Bhopalis; of these, six, including one in France one in USA are fasting indefinitely, till justice is done.




We must do all we can to support the epic struggle of the Bhopalis. It is our struggle too, they are fighting for the future of us and our children. We are organizing a day-long fast in their support on Saturday, June 28. Come down to the Dharna site to sign the petition and extend your support.






                                                                Date:         Saturday, June 28, 2008

                                                                Venue:      Balgandharva Chowk


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