December 2nd, Bloomington IN
Braving a cold, wintery morning on Saturday December 2nd, over 20 members of the Association for India's Development (AID) and students from Indiana University held a vigil in memory of the victims and survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster. The vigil was part of a nationwide action on the anniversary of the world's worst industrial catastrophe. The group later undertook a funeral procession through downtown, ringing bells and carrying mock corpses, and demanded that Dow Chemical clean up the site of the accident and provide the 150,000 survivors with proper medical.
On December 2, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. Advocates say Carbide's owner Dow Chemical is to blame for daily deaths in Bhopal due to its refusal to clean up the disaster site and provide adequate care to the survivors. The AID Chapter at Indiana University joined other activist groups across the US to mark this event and spread the message by taking people back to the time of tragedy in a solemn manner at Sample Gates, near downtown Bloomington. They held props of corpses to signify some of the 25,000 victims of the disaster and vividly remind the public that deaths continue in Bhopal, 22 years after the disastrous gas leak. Earlier on Friday, December 1st, Amnesty International and Students for Bhopal advocates in New York City kicked off the action with a funeral procession in front of the Indian Consulate. Saturday, December 2nd, was an international day of action called by disaster survivors who burnt effigies of Dow's leadership and lit candles to remember their lost family members. Die-ins, candlelight vigils and film screenings were held in other US cities and campuses including Austin, Boston, San Diego, Princeton, Wesleyan, Baltimore, and Atlanta.
"22,000 people are dead and thousands continue to die. Yet, Dow wants to deny all responsibility and have the Indian government pay the millions of dollars needed to clean up their mess in Bhopal. This company put the people in harms way and this company should pay for clean up and face criminal charges for these deaths." said Yogesh Simmhan, graduate student at Indiana University and member of AID, Bloomington Chapter. Ryan Bodanyi, US Coordinator for Students for Bhopal, when contacted over phone commented, "Dow's 2001 purchase of Union Carbide transferred legal liability and moral culpability for the cleanup of contaminated waste in Bhopal to Dow. Carbide put a time bomb in the middle of a crowded city and called it an accident when it went off, changing their name does not remove their guilt nor their liabilities." Union Carbide's internal documents show the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. On the night of the Bhopal Disaster, none of the six safety systems at the Union Carbide plant were functional. Following a partial 1989 settlement, Union Carbide fled India, leaving behind unresolved criminal liabilities and several thousand metric tons of hazardous waste, which has poisoned the drinking water of thousands of Bhopal residents. Dow Chemical Company claims it has no responsibility for the ongoing deaths. According to Amnesty International, Dow's behavior is a fundamental violation of the Bhopalis' human rights. Eighteen members of the US Congress signed a letter to Dow in 2003, calling Dow's behavior a "blatant disregard for the law."
Earlier on November 2nd, members of AID, Bloomington protested at a career fair at the IU Auditorium at Indiana University where Dow Corning, a Dow Chemical subsidiary was recruiting. During the protest, over 100 students attending the fair signed a pledge not to work for Dow Chemical till they rendered justice to the Bhopal victims. AID has observed the anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster for the past two years through candelight vigils and screening movies. Giri Krishnan, graduate student at Indiana University and president of AID Bloomington, said of the vigil this year, "Dow needs to undertand that they cannot escape their responsibilities and hope to wake up from a bad dream. We grow stronger by the day in our righteous fight for the survivors cause and no amount of Dow denial will shake our persistence." AID is working to get Dow Chemical out of IU campus, blacklisting them from participating at career fairs or accepting grants from the company, and these actions are geared towards raising awareness in the Bloomington and IU community.