Ten others promptly took up the baton announcing their indefinite fast to break the Government’s silence on the Bhopal demands. The 10 people include 21-year old Suresh Pal, who was beaten and jailed for his peaceful demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office, Hakam Singh, an ailing gas victim, and Piyush Sethia, a supporter of the Bhopal campaign from Salem, Tamilnadu.
The Bhopal nine broke their fast under medical advice after a doctor declared at least three people – Irshaad Khan, Meera More and Iqbal Khan Khokhar – to be in danger due to their abnormally low pulse rates and blood pressure. All three are gas-affected people; 20-year old Irshaad was born to gas-affected parents.
Since March 29, protesters, some on hunger strike, some not, have been in Dehli demanding government assistance for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster that killed thousands.
The activist began a sit-in on March 29, the day after they arrived in the capital of Dehli. In the months since then, protesters have held several programs, including demonstrations in front of Singh's residence on May 5 and 22.
The protesters complained of being beaten by police after one of the demonstration outside the prime minister's office in the Indian capital.
Despite police pressure and government recrimination they say they aren't going anywhere until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agrees to meet them to discuss promises made two years ago concerning economic, social and medical rehabilitation, and provision of clean drinking water to them.
The protesters and hunger strikers are demanding the govenment provide facilities for health care, medical research, social support, and economic rehabilitation of the people, the establishment of a separate commission in Bhopal, the provision of safe drinking water, employment forthe survivors, and legal action against the criminals responsible for the disaster.
Although assurance by the Prime Minister to take up these issues had been given two years ago, not a single action yet has been taken.
One of those who just ended her hunger strike (but remains at the protest) is Aziz Bi, 74. Bi still suffers effects from the disaster. Bi told Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) that she still remembers how bodies and carcasses piled up in Bhopal's streets on the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a few hours after some 40 tons of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas escaped from Union Carbide disorders.
Iqbal Khan Khokhar, another protester, told UCA News he feels the most immediate of many needs is to have "clean drinking water," since toxic waste and hardware of the abandoned factory have contaminated Bhopal's groundwater and other water sources.
The drinking wells and taps of communities living within a considerable radius of the plant have been infected with chemicals that are implicated in cancers and birth-defects. People have no other water supply and have been forced to drink that poison.
Late last month police in Houston, Texas arrested activist Diane Wilson at the Indian Consulate. Diane, who was also fasting, is part of an ongoing Global Fasting Relay, which is being supported by nearly 400 concerned individuals in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and India.
Diane who on July 2 also ended her fast said she will, however, continue to mobilize public opinion to increase pressure on the Government to act urgently.
When asked why she had fasted, Diane said, "As one of the Bhopalis said, 'What else can people do when their government ignores their pain and cries of injustice? Agitate, agitate!'"
“Wilson, a mother of five, became aware of the Dow/Carbide crimes in Bhopal after learning that her own Texas county, located near several chemical plants including a Carbide/Dow plant, was the most polluted in the U.S.,” said a press release from the International Campaign for Justice Bhopal, the broad international umbrella group of Bhopal supporters. “Wilson refers to the survivors as ‘my sisters and brothers,’ as she is also from a community polluted by Dow/Carbide in Seadrift, Texas.”
You can send a fax in support of the hunger strikers to India's Prime Minister by clicking here.
The following is from Race Wire.
Bhopal Still Suffers from Toxic Waste
Almost 25 years after the deadly pesticide poison from a Union Carbide factory killed thousands, Bhopal residents are still hurting. With hundreds of tons of waste still not removed from the site, residents have seen the effects of the toxic remains that have seeped into the water and soil.
In this case it seems both corporate and government inaction can be blamed for the numerous birth defects in the region. Dow Chemical Company says it’s not their mess to clean up while India says they want help disposing of the waste. Meanwhile, Bhopal families are still trying to live in this wasteland and they are paying a hefty price.
In 2005, a state-financed study called for long-term epidemiological studies to determine the impact of contaminated drinking water, concluding that while the levels of toxic contaminants were not very high, water and soil contamination had caused an increase in respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments.
In the Shiv Nagar slum about half a mile from the factory, there is a boy, Akash, who was born with an empty socket for a left eye. Now 6, he cannot see properly or speak. He is a cheerful child who plays in the lanes near his house.
His father, Shobha Ram, a maker of sweets who bought land here many years after the gas leak and built himself a two-room house, said the boy’s afflictions were caused by the hand-pumped well from where his family drew water on the edge of the sludge pond for years. He said it had not occurred to him that the water could be laced with pesticides.
“We knew the gas incident took place,” he said. “We never thought the contaminated water would come all the way to our house.”
The stories repeat themselves in the nearby slums. In Blue Moon, Muskan, a 2-year-old girl, cannot walk, speak or understand what is happening around her. Her father, Anwar, blames the water.
In Arif Nagar, Nawab and Hassan Mian, brothers who are 8 and 12, move through their house like newly hatched birds, barely able to stand. They have no control over their muscles. Their mother, Fareeda Bi, is unsure of exactly what caused their ailment, but she, too, blames the water.
“There are more children like this in the neighborhood,” she said, “who cannot walk, who cannot see.” [New York Times.]
Internationally, activists have taken up a hunger strike in protest of the lack of government involvement in Bhopal.