Direct Action and the Legacy of the Bhopal Disaster

On December 3rd, 1984, an industrial disaster occurred at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, releasing 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) and other toxins and exposing over 500,000 people. It is estimated that over 8,000 people died within the first 2 weeks of the disaster but the legacy of the toxic contamination continues to plague Bhopal as generation after generation of people are born with birth defects and suffer serious maladies as a result to the exposure.

A proper clean-up of the affected region was not adequately performed. Contaminants are still present in the water of at least 16 villages in the area surrounding the plant. At the time Union Carbide offered $370 million for the disaster but the company, later bought by Dow Chemicals, refused to release information about what toxic gasses were leaked from the plant in order to help local doctors find cures for those infected; to this day Dow Chemicals cites the information as a “trade secret”.

INDIA-BHOPAL-DEMONSTRATION

image courtesy of Getty images. Demonstrators parade an effigy representing former Union Carbide Chief Warren Anderson during a demonstration in Bhopal, 03 December 2006

The terrible heritage that has been left to the region and the unaccountability of the corporations involved has forced survivors to take direct action.  The victims demand their Prime Minister to fight for the people of Bhopal in the face of the corporations. 25 years after the tragedy they still ask that relief can be given to the families affected, information be disclosed so that doctors can more effectively treat victims, and that environmental clean-up and access to clean water is provided.

The organizations Students for Bhopal and Bhopal Survivors were in Brooklyn yesterday at the Change You Want to See gallery to speak about their cause. They also showed excerpts of the new film by the Yes Men in which the activists pulled a hoax on the BBC, claiming they were representatives of Dow Corporation and at long last claiming responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.

They Students for Bhopal are traveling to different schools around the US and are heading to the Union Carbide subsidiary of Dow Chemicals in West Virgina, where lawsuits have also been taken against the corporation by local residents for environmental pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals. The Students for Bhopal are fighting to raise awareness about Corporate crimes. In Bhopal activists and survivors took part in a 37 day march and took such direct actions as fasting, chaining themselves to the offices of the Prime Minister, organizing a “die-in”, writing letters to the Prime Minister in blood and sending him heart shaped cards urging him to “have a heart” and help the victims of the tragedy.

For more information see http://thetruthaboutdow.org/and for ways to help see here: http://www.bhopal.net/ and http://www.bhopal.org/

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