By Swapna Kollu, ICJB Boston
December 3rd, 2011 marked 27 years since the night of the Bhopal Gas Disaster, which has since continued to escalate due to corporate negligence and government-bending by Union Carbide and its owner, Dow Chemicals.
2011 was also the year that Dow put another feather in its marketing cap by being an official sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics. However, due to the activists’ relentless zeal to expose Dow’s culture-washing, not to mention its toxic legacy in Bhopal and elsewhere around the world, many uncomfortable questions have been put forth to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Among thousands opposing Dow's Sponorship are several prominent personalities, including members of the Indian and British parliaments, noted academic Noam Chomsky, and Olympians. A poll conducted by a London-based media outlet, The Guardian, showed that 91% of the general populace wanted Dow out of the Olympics. A Change.org petition asking LOCOG to drop Dow, initiated by Lorraine Close, has reached over 16,000 signatures.
Despite the depth and breadth of this fierce opposition, LOCOG refuses to drop Dow as a partner. The mounting pressure has, however, resulted in Dow dropping its logo from the stadium.
To commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, events were held worldwide in solidarity with the survivors’ campaign.
View a slideshow of some of the events here.
Here are a few snippets:
- Bhopal, India: Unfortunately, the 27th anniversary observations at ground zero of the disaster were marked by incidences of police brutality against protesters who were holding a pre-announced train blockage, or "Rail Roko". They were demanding that the Central Indian Government publicly acknowledge accurate death figures, which its own agency had gathered, so that the Indian courts can mete out proper justice.
Around 30,000 Bhopalis participated in the Rail Roko demonstration. On-the-ground videos demonstrate that police charged protesters, beating them with sticks. 60 people were reportedly injured in the violence, including a 17 year-old who was allegedly shot by the police. Police opened fire of real and rubber bullets on participants. The protestors retaliated by throwing stones, buring some motorcycles and media vans. A number of activists have been wrongly charged with attempt to murder, from elder women to youth. Although the Indian government continues to refuse to listen to the pleas of the Bhopalis and even resorts to trying to silence them, support for the Bhopalis continues to accumulate across the world.
- Boston, U.S.: Members of the Boston chapter for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) spoke about the disaster at Occupy Boston, drawing parallels between the struggle of the Bhopalis against Dow’s corporate power manipulating governments and the struggle of the 99% against unregulated corporate practices. They also screened the award-winning documentary “Bhopali” (2010), which describes the events leading to the disaster as well as its aftermath. Sanjay Verma, an activist and survivor from Bhopal, was present during both the events to discuss questions with people, urging people to continue to pressure the Olympic Committee to drop Dow as a partner.
- Amherst, U.S.: Volunteers in Amherst screened Bhopali. Sanjay Verma engaged the audience in a passionate discussion trying to understand the issues through the eyes of a survivor. Most people in the audience signed the petition to drop Dow as the sponsor for 2012 Olympics in London.