A Tragedy Remembered
The 20th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster in India was observed by over 200 local community members and students in the metro-Atlanta area who got together to ask for corporate accountability and global justice. Three separate events were held at Georgia State University (GSU), Emory University, and Georgia Institute of Technology, from December 1st to 3rd, 2004. They were a part of the Global Day of Action, observed by thousands of people on five continents, including students from more than 60 colleges, universities, and hig h schools.
The first event was titled, ?Bhopal and the Search for Global Justice: 20 Years in the Making' which included the screening of two new documentaries, ?Twenty Years without Justice and Bhopal: The Search for Justice'. A candlelight vigil was held at the Library Plaza at GSU on December 1st with music by Michael Goldman, guitarist of a local band, ?The Indicators'. A GSU student from Bhopal spoke about his memory as a child, of what many Bhopalis refer to "that night" of December 2-3 in 1984, as well as the aftermath of "that night."
The evening on the 2nd at Emory started with a haunting alap and jod on Violin in an evening rag, ?Puriya Dhaneshri' by Amitava Sen, followed by ?Bhopal: In (their own) words', an original performance by Kaya Collective which included testimonials and photographs from Bhopal and live music by Hana Stepanek and Raktim Sen.
Screening of the feature film, ?Bhopal Express' on Friday, Dec 3rd was the final event. The participants of these events signed petitions calling upon Dow Chemical and the Indian government to cleanup the contamination and provide clean water to thousands of Bhopalis who are forced to drink water with lead and mercury. They also signed a colorful cloth art by Nalini Persaud which will be sent to Bhopal as a symbol of Atlanta's solidarity with their struggle.
Moved by the plight of the residents of Bhopal one of the participants was heard quoting, "Just imagine if these 20,000 dead and the 150,000 sick and suffering still after twenty years were Americans! Could Dow continue to deny their responsibility for cleaning up the toxic mess that Union Carbide has left behind which continues to make people sick and contaminate their ground water supply?"
Alka Roy of Association of India's Development's (A.I.D.) chapter in Atlanta continued, "The Indian Government is not without fault in how they have handled this with Union Carbide. Dow Chemical has been anything but forthcoming in accepting their criminal and civil liabilities in a disaster they have caused and which has changed the lives and face of Bhopal forever."
Discussions also veered to the larger context of global justice. "As more and more companies continue to operate globally, it is important that accountability is demanded of them and they are not allowed to devastate local environments and communities."
A book released on December 1, 2004, ?Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical & the Toxic Century' by investigative writer Jack Doyle will be donated to the GSU, Emory and Georgia Tech libraries as part of the events. The book chronicles Dow's problematic relationships with its employees and comm-
unities in the United States and other parts of the world, including Bhopal.
December 3rd, 2004, marked twenty years since the people of Bhopal, India, woke up to a dying Bhopal from a poisonous gas leakage from a Union Carbide Pesticide plant. Several thousand people died within days. It is estimated that over 20,000 people have died in the last two decades and more than 150,000 people have been left severely disabled. The catastrophe is now widely acknowledged as the worlds worst-ever Industrial Disaster. Today, those who survived the tragedy, twenty years ago remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow-Carbide has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate the ground water supply; has refused to fund medical care or livelihood regeneration; and has also refused to stand trial in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation faces criminal charges of culpable homicide.
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