On Friday April 11th 2014 over 400 activists in New York City as part of Amnesty International's annual 'Get on the Bus for Human Rights' action. The event draws mostly high school students from across the North East region of the US to day of action at strategic targets in the city. This year the Bhopal was one of the four main actions.
Survivor activist Sanjay Verma kicked the day off addressing the packed audience at New York City's Cooper Union where he highlighted the role of the US corporation Dow Chemical and the US government in the disaster. Dow Corporation refuses to cooperate with the Indian legal proceedings while the US government is actively pressurizing the Indian government to soft pedal the issue.
Mr. Verma also outlined pressing needs in Bhopal - immediate assessment of extent and severity of soil and water contamination; and economic and medical relief and rehabilitation. Noting that the lack of justice in Bhopal and the ongoing contamination and exposure constitute a large scale human rights crisis, Mr. Verma said that the time has come for the UN to take a more pro-active role in this issue echoing Amnesty International's letter to UN agencies.
For many students, this was their first exposure to the Bhopal campaign and some were surprised at the scale of the ongoing disaster and the role of the US corporation. Following this public address students marched to the targets in NYC which included the Permanent Indian Mission to the UN. For about half an hour hundreds of students raised slogans against Dow Chemical and the Indian government urging them to take immediate action. Many students from Amnesty chapters also expressed interest in being part of the international campaign and invited ICJB organizers to engage them with the issue in the future.
Bhopal has been a long standing priority issue for Amnesty International which has issued numerous strong statements in support of the campaign. Inclusion on Bhopal as a main action in the 30th anniversary year has sparked a new interest in the Amnesty high school and college organizers and students - and may signal a new wave of collaboration of this high profile international group and Bhopal supporters worldwide to bring renewed focus on the issue of justice in Bhopal.