Bhopal is in the news.. again! This time it is not just the terrible tragedy that changed the lives of over half a million people in its aftermath but the other side as well: the cover up, the sell out, the dark games and more shocking revelations. What is disturbing is the disconnect between the real human tragedy and the flimsy excuses made for all the blunders: be it the failure to clean up the site or the escape of the main accused.
One thought one had become inured to almost everything as one does live in a land called India! But I could not believe my eyes, years, mind when I saw/heard our Environment Minister quipping: I have held that waste in my hand, I am still alive and not coughing. This after he visited Bhopal last year and was asked about the delay in cleaning up. And wait there is more. He also observed that the greenery around the abandoned premises was better than most other places. He asked if it would have been (so green)… “with all the toxicity around”. But that is not all: he announced that the centre would help in creating a memorial to the tragedy, one that would cost 116 crore, more than the amount needed to supply clean drinking water to the area. “It will be a national monument built in the memory of those who lost their lives in the tragedy,” he said, “and a reminder of the mistakes that were made so that they are not repeated." I found this in an incisive article entitled Those who still go unpunished!
The article ends by stating that perhaps the envisaged memorial should have statues of all the politicians responsible for the aberrations of the last 26 years.
Bhopal is in the news again. And out comes the can of worms. When the terrible tragedy occurred 26 years ago there were no 24/7 news channels, no investigative journalism and all we got were the headlines in papers and the well filtered bulletins on the sole national TV channel. Then over the years small new items, rarely front page ones, informing all of the progress of the judicial process and maybe the protest of the almost voiceless victims. It is only last week that it all came tumbling out making us aghast and angry. We are suddenly privy to the political games, the judicial ones, the corporate ones and the diplomatic games and sadly once again what is enfolding in front of our bewildered eyes is a new cover up game. So committees will be formed and will give their reports and then what.... A few coins will be again handed out with the hope of shutting disturbing and annoying voices and the dark games will carry on.
The games that have been played for the last 26 years are beyond any sane imagination. A very comprehensive article appeared this week in a leading investigative magazine. Read it. It shows how for a few pieces of silver, every thing that is remotely good, fair, human, humane was sacrificed with impunity. How justice was subverted and how even today nothing has changed. The betrayal of hundreds of thousands of voiceless and hopeless victims is so huge that in the words of a leading activist all you can do is laugh helplessly. This activist was a young university student who had gone to Bhopal in 1984 as a relief worker. He never came back and became the voice the desperate victims so needed. I salute Satinath Sarangi. If there were more such children of India, things would be different. But a lone voice, however strong, however brave and however committed does get lost and silenced in the cacophony that has played louder and louder in the last 26 years. What is needed even today to redress the torts, to bring some solace to those who have suffered for so long is many such voices so that all dissonant voices can be silenced once for all. Otherwise all appeals for justice will turn into helpless laughter.
The victims have another reaction while some crushed and defeated wish they too had perished on that fateful night, others ask whether it would have been better if they had picked up a gun! Is this the last resort our democracy offers its people? When all fails - administration, justice, politics - is death the only option?
The writing is again on the wall but are we man enough to stop and read. I know this innocuous blog is not going to make a difference, but I have to write it because I am angry, because I too feel let down, because I want answers and because I have stopped and heard. And also because I have seen first hand how time and again the poor and voiceless get used and abused.
As I write these words, a bunch of politicians are sitting in a huddle trying to set matters right. I wonder what new clean up game is being invented. Somehow I find it hard to believe that justice will finally be delivered and the real culprits made accountable.