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Bhopal gas tragedy survivors hold rallies, all-faith meet

india Updated: Dec 03, 2009 19:56 IST

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Rallies where effigies of Union Carbide Corporation and its then chairman Warren Anderson were burnt and an all-faith prayer meet marked the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed over 3,500 people in a matter of hours and maimed several thousands for life.

The tragedy occurred on the night of December 2-3, 1984, when tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other lethal gases leaked from the Union Carbide's pesticide plant in the middle of the Madhya Pradesh capital.

Holding placards bearing slogans like "Anderson ko phaansi do, hamein saaf paani do (Hang Anderson and give us clean potable water)" and "Videshi companiyan, Bharat chhodo (Foreign companies leave India)", the victims reiterated their commitment to continue their fight against the government, Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, the present owners of the company.

An all-religion prayer meeting was held at the Barkatullah Bhawan in memory of the victims. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur were present, though Governor Rameshwar Thakur was absent as he was out of Bhopal.

The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan (BGPMUS), which is working for the cause of gas victims since 1984, took out a procession following a public meeting at the Yadgar-e-Shahjahani Park. More than 3,000 victims, a majority of them women, participated in the meeting and the rally.

The procession passed through various localities of old Bhopal, around Union Carbide plant and culminated at Chhola cremation ground where Anderson's efficgy was burnt and a pledge taken to carry on the fight for justice.

"The after-effects of the world's biggest industrial disaster are not coming to an end. Despite all the attempt, help is awaited by the most badly hit victims even today. Every year, the anniversary of the gas tragedy passes on with condolence meets and assurances but authorities are yet to address the woes of the sufferers," said Abdul Jabbar, convenor BGPMUS.

He termed the government and the politicians nothing but "coffin thieves", who have "snatched money from the dying people".

"The people here are suffering from diseases like lung problems and other respiratory diseases. The children who are being born now are also facing problems like poor vision, less growth and lack of memory. It is very clear that Bhopal is a dying city," he added.

The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM) and Bhopal Group took out another rally jointly for Information and Action (BGIA).

Welcoming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent assurance of adequate medical relief, rehabilitation and clean water to the poisoned people of Bhopal, the three survivors' organisations demanded immediate setting up of the Empowered Commission on Bhopal as he had promised May 29 last year.

"25 years is too long for a people to suffer and 18 months is too long for people to wait for the prime minister to keep his promises," said Rashida Bee, president of the BGPMSKS.

Rachna Dhingra of the BGIA condemned the central and state governments "attempts" to help Dow Chemicals walk away from its liabilities for environmental and health damages in Bhopal, while making no efforts to bring the absconding culprits to justice.

"On top of that, ministers in the union and state governments are downplaying the environment and health damages caused by Dow Chemicals' refusal to clean up the toxic contamination," she said.

The leaders of the three organisations led the procession of well over a thousand survivors of the gas disaster and those being poisoned due to contamination of ground water.

Children from the newly formed "Children against Dow-Carbide", people from pollution impacted communities from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and international supporters from China, England, France, Italy, Japan, New Zeeland, the Philippines, Scotland, Switzerland, Thailand and the US also participated.

The procession passed through the communities severely affected by the gas disaster and ended in a public meeting around the memorial to the disaster in front of the abandoned pesticide factory.

The campaigners garlanded Clay statues of women, men and children overpowering an effigy of Dow Chemical and then Dow Chemical effigy was burnt amidst slogan-shouting by survivors. International supporters of the campaign such as author Domnique Lapierre from France and Ward Morehouse and Barry Castleman from the US were honoured at the public meeting, which ended with children singing songs about the long struggle of the living victims.