Remember Sofia Ashraf from Kodaikanal Won’t? The rapper is back with a new song and, this time, she wants your help to bring justice to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
The last time we spoke to Sofia Ashraf (29), she was set to leave the city and move to Chennai. Since then, the Kodaikanal Won’t rapper has written songs, shot videos and comedy sketches, and news satires (unreleased as yet), and caught up on art and writing.
Ashraf shot to social media fame when her song Kodaikanal Won’t went viral last year. The song called for Hindustan Unilever to make itself accountable for the mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal. Now, she has released another video, about corporate responsibility. In DOW Vs. Bhopal, she asks the White House to stop shielding Dow Chemical from its legal responsibilities.
Ashraf wrote the song eight years ago, when she was known as the burkha rapper (“I was strongly religious back then”) in Chennai. As a student, she would rap at college festivals. She also performed at Justice Rocks, an initiative that invites youngsters to express themselves on issues that matter. “I wrote it along with another song about Islamophobia for that show. Eight years later, these two issues are still relevant,” she says.
The song’s format is that of a rap battle; with Ashraf representing America and the people of Bhopal in different avatars. “I had a lot of data. But I needed to find a way to present it to people. So I felt a dramatised debate would be the best way to do it,” she says.
Ashraf has also put up a petition on the White House website. “If it gets 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the US government will be forced to address the issue on a public forum,” she says. And if the petition doesn’t? “Then we fail Bhopal (sic)”.
At the time of going to press, 38,796 signatures were needed by June 14 for the petition to work. “All it takes is a signature and a verification process. I know people go through way more trouble to download a Game of Thrones episode. As an internet community, we managed to make a difference in the lives of 591 ex-workers from Kodaikanal through our last petition. Let’s aim higher this time,” Ashraf says.
Next, she plans to release a “more prolific yet fun” sequel to the Kodaikanal issue, regarding the clean-up. She is also working on spoken word pieces about domestic abuse, gender issues, and the identity of the modern Indian women. But what she is most excited about are her comic sketches and spoof songs. “I don’t believe that every song has to have a message. I am actually quite a comical character. [That’s] an avatar of mine that those close to me know well,” she says.
Make a difference
Sign the petition ‘Uphold International Law! Stop Shielding Dow Chemical from Accountability for Corporate Crimes in Bhopal, India’ on wh.gov/isOdv