Celebrating Resistance: An Exhibition to Remember Three Decades of Struggle in Bhopal

Yes, Warren Anderson lived a full life of 92 years, escaping every law suit or call or cry possible. He probably had a wonderful memorial service organized by friends, family and colleagues. He will probably go down in corporate text books as the most resilient force against human rights movements as The Escapist, The Illusionist…

We can’t forget him. But, why does any struggle that questions economic growth, foreign investment, environmental degradation, or human right violations need to be part of our memory? Can’t we forget it as just another disaster? The thing is, these issues are not just happening in Bhopal, Cuddalore, Idinthakarai, or any one place. It is not a localized thing…

So The Remember Bhopal Trust inspired by the three decades of struggle by the Bhopal survivors, want to travel around the country, collect stories from similar struggles and weave it all in to a permanent museum in Bhopal.

As a start, from this Sunday, 9th of November 2014 to next Saturday the 15th of November 2014, in Chennai, the Trust has organized an exhibition of the lived memories of the disaster and the struggle that has followed.

Check out the event on Facebook. Join, invite, and go. Read and learn about the struggle at Bhopal.net

Chingari Award to the women of Idinthakarai – epicenter of the non violent struggle against the powerful nuclear lobby

Chief Guest Dr. Vandana Shiva lauds the role of women in fighting corporate crime

Bhopal, December 1st 2012: The ‘Chingari Award for Women against Corporate Crime’ was handed over to two women, Rani Dasan and Thenmozhi Manickam, representing the thousands of brave women activists who have rallied against the powerful nuclear establishment in a continuing struggle for justice against great odds. Eminent environmental activist, Dr.Vandana Shiva, the Chief Guest at the function, said, “The Kudankulam struggle has emerged not merely as the most defining challenge to nuclear power in the country today but is also one of the strongest demonstrations of non-violent people’s power. The role of the women in the struggle has been critical in ensuring that the energy of the fight remains undiminished. They are truly the ‘chingaris’ of the struggle and it is an honour to be able to present the award to them.”

Referring to the contribution of the women in the fight, the citation of the award read,” The simple women of Idinthakarai, Kuthenkuzhi, Kootapully, Koodankulam, Vairavikinaru and numerous other coastal villages in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thootukudi districts embody the spirit of democracy, courage and resistance. Their antagonists are no ordinary entities. Ranged against the beedi-rollers, agriculturists and fisherwomen of South Tamil Nadu is a formidable array of opponents – the Governments of Tamil Nadu, India and Russia; a nuclear supplier lobby comprising multinational companies who see the entire Indian market shutting its doors to them if the Koodankulam struggle were to succeed; a media that has for most part been hostile; a disinterested and cynical public, and national political parties that have either remained curiously silent or come out vocally in support of nuclear energy. In celebration of the power of non-violence over violence, of truth over falsehood and of people’s resolve over the might of a corporate police state, the 2012 Chingari Award is given to the brave women of Idinthakarai, Koodankulam, Kuthenkuzhy, Kootapully and Vairavikinaru.”

Speaking at the award ceremony, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, Managing Trustees of Chingari and women who’ve lead from the front in the fight for corporate accountability against multinational Dow-Carbide, said:

“We feel honored to be able to stand in solidarity with the women of Idinthakarai. The Chingari Trust is for the 6th year running been able to shine the spotlight on brave women activists across the country fighting powerful vested interests at great risk to their lives. We also remember today the feisty Dayamani Barla a journalist and tribal activist, who was a recipient of this award in 2008 who is now imprisoned by the Madhya Pradesh government, in a blatant attempt to intimidate and repress a fight against land acquisition. We condemn this action of the state and call for her immediate release.”

The Chingari Trust was started by two women survivors of the Bhopal disaster who were awarded the Goldman Environmental prize in 2004. The women – Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla used the prize money of 125 thousand USD to set up Chingari Trust. More than 150 children affected by the toxic legacy of the Dow – Carbide plant, are provided medical and social support at the Chingari rehabilitation center on Berasia road.

Rashida Bee

Managing Trustee

Champa Devi Shukla

Managing Trustee

(forwarded by Nityanand Jayaraman)

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My Nagaland

by Vibi Yhokha

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes  is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story….Stories matter, many stories matter, stories have been used to dispossess and to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize, stories can break the dignity of a people but stories can also repair that broken dignity…..”

– Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, The Danger of a Single Story

People, especially mainland Indians, have only a single story of Nagaland. No, in fact they have different single stories. They associate the Nagas with headhunting, Hornbill festival, Rock music, fashion and yes, Conflict. Nagaland the land of myths, where life is one long festival but is also a place where life is one long, long war….

Naga Youth ready to perform their cultural dance at Hornbill festival

But there is so much more to Nagaland than just conflict, music, fashion and headhunting. There are so many things that India and the world should know. What they know is just the single story, a stereotype, a mindset. They need to know the whole. To explain the whole is complicated, it is too broad, but let me tell you of what I know, about the Nagaland I grew up with.

Nagaland is a beautiful mountainous place, located in the northeastern part of India. It is a land rich in flora and fauna. Yet it is a land torn between two worlds. It struggles between modernity and tradition; it struggles between India and Nagalim; it struggles between conflict and peace. And it struggles with so many diversities in culture, in tribes…

I’ll be talking on three current issues – Corruption, Factional clashes and armed conflicts, and Identity crisis.

4th Dec 2007. A Peace Rally call by NSUD (Naga Student Union Delhi).

Today, Corruption and Nagaland have almost become synonyms. From the politicians to the civil society, from the bureaucrats to the student union, corruption has become too common, to the extent, that it is almost becoming normal. Naga elders often use the phrase, “Today, everything has to be bought with money,” meaning that even jobs have to be bought with money. In Nagaland, if you have the money and the contacts, you get the job!! Classism is slowly emerging and now we can see a clear division between the rich and the poor. There is a huge increase in unemployment and privatization. Public hospitals, industries are being privatized. The Nagas were once known for their integrity and honesty. The Naga society had its own flaws yet it was based on equality and democracy and was corruption-free. But now, within a span of 15 years especially after the Ceasefire agreement between the NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) and the Government of India, corruption has become more prominent than before. The Government of India is pouring in a lot of money for development, but we can hardly see development. What I see is development from the top of the ladder and not from the bottom up. Our health, living standards, education, the roads, electricity and water supply has not improved at all.

Factional conflicts and military conflicts – In Nagaland, armies patrolling is normal. Every single day armies patrol right at the road near your house. If you are traveling by car you’ll be checked at least once a day. In the locality where I live, I cannot enjoy an evening walk – an activity which most people take for granted – because of the fear of being hit by a bullet due to factional clashes. There are also cases where young men are beaten up by the paramilitary forces for no reason. These paramilitary groups, the Indian Reserved battalions recruits our own people. On one hand we have the factional clashes where the different insurgent groups have started waging war against each other, disrupting the public life. On the other hand we have the Indian armed forces (The Assam Rifles) who were once a terror for the Nagas, and who by the way killed 200,000 Nagas between 1950  and the late 1980s but have now so easily labeled themselves as the “Friends of the hill people.” It confuses me why the most developed and largest growing sector in Nagaland has to be the police forces and the paramilitary forces such as the Indian Reserved Batallions. We have reached a situation where we don’t know who is by our side…The Indian army or the Naga army.

5th May 2010. Student Welcoming Th-1. Muivah (NACN-IM) at Viswema Village, Kohima

Identity crisis – My grandparents’ generation and my parent’s generation were pretty confident of their identity because they all had seen and experienced the Naga independence struggle unlike my generation today. My grandmother still considers India as a separate country and Nagalim as a separate nation. Like my grandmother, all Naga elders have the same ideals, they refer to Indians as “they” and Nagas as “us.” However, today my generation is faced with an identity crisis. If you walk down the streets of Kohima, the capital city or Dimapur, the commercial hub, you will find confident fashionistas strutting down the road full on high street fashion. Yet these are the same people struggling with their identity, an identity lost between India and Nagalim. They do not know who they really are. Do we call ourselves Nagas or Indians? For many of us, we feel calling ourselves Indians is a forced identity. We might be forced to call ourselves Indians but when we move to metro cities, many mainland Indians have no idea of who the Nagas are. In schools, right from the beginning, we were made to study the history of India, the Indian freedom struggles, draw the Indian map, sing the Indian anthem. Hindi is a compulsory language you have to take up till your 8th standard. However, our history and our culture were never taught. This crisis has been manifested because on the one hand, we have the section of Nagas who wants complete sovereignty for the Naga nation whereas there is the other group of Nagas who are willing to compromise and become a part of India. Our generation has been kept in the oblivion; we’re just hanging in there. I have often come across so many young people and even kids questioning “Are we Indians or are we Nagas?” You will notice this confused identity in music, art, lifestyles and even in the way we dress.

10th May 2010 A Rally call by NSF condemning the killing of two inocent student by Security forces in Mao, Manipur

To end, I leave my confusion with you. I, like my generation, am equally confused with the things happening in Nagaland. We do not know who is responsible for whatever is happening. Is this society just evolving, or is this a tactic played by the Indian Government to suppress our struggle for freedom? The freedom movement which has become diluted and has almost become a lost cause? I am confused. Yet what I know is that I want normalcy — a normalcy where my generation can be sure of who they really are and be proud of our identity; a normalcy devoid of army patrols and checkings every single day; that kind of normalcy where I can enjoy a cool evening walk without the fear of being killed; that normalcy where jobs are not bought but achieved. That kind of normalcy which you take for granted…..

*** *** *** *** *** ***

On 13 August 2012, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, organized a discussion – Does non violence have a future in India? – conversations with Sudeep Chakravarti, the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land (Travels through Nagaland and Manipur). Beginning the evening, Vibi Yhokha, a student of journalism in the college, spoke about how her Nagaland is caught in an identity crisis, pressured by corruption, army and paramilitary violence, and nationalist sentiments.

A brief background on the discussion –  The Government of India has negotiated or is negotiating peace accords with several dozen armed insurgent groups in the Northeast. In what is called the ‘Red Corridor,’ State and Central governments continue their racist policies towards indigenous peoples in their efforts to free up access to natural resources for corporate grab. Here too, a violent conflict continues well into its fifth decade, with periodic agreements of ceasefire and deals between the maoists and the government. Simultaneously, though, non-violent struggles such as the decade-long hunger strike by Irom Sharmila, the 28-year old struggle by Bhopal survivors and the 2-year dharna by Haryanavi farmers against the Gorakhpur nuclear plant are first visited upon by violence, then humiliated , and finally ignored. In Koodankulam, cases of sedition and waging war against the state have been made out against more than 8000 people. In all, nearly 70,000 people (mostly unnamed) are charged with various crimes ranging from protesting without authorisation, to rioting and waging war against the Government of India. Considering the markedly different response of the Government to non-violent and violent struggles, is it safe to say that non-violent struggles have no future?

Since, history textbooks in schools or colleges, mainstream media will not suffice as sources for news or analysis to further this discussion, along with the help of Sudeep Chakravarti, Vibi Yokha and Nityanand Jayaraman, we have compiled some related links and readings.

Morung Express (Nagaland): A local daily online newspaper that covers current affairs in Nagaland. 

+ Color-speaking people by Al Ngullie writes on the prejudices within the tribes in Nagalim.

+ Are Naga leaders listening to the voices of the younger generation? Weekly Poll.

+ Quo Vidas Naga Nationalism? Ambraham Lotha. Perspective.

+ A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR):

+ A Brief Paper Presentation in a Seminar on Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Presented by Neingulo Krome, former Secretary General, NPMHR. Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace held at Imphal from November 2 – 6, 2010.

+ Operation Bluebird. – Area of Operation Within 24 hours of raiding, the Assam rifles have sealed off the area, and on July 11, 1987 an extensive combing operation was launched with the code name “Operation Bluebird” with a view to genocide the Naga public under the cover of recovering the looted arms and ammunition. Operation-Bluebird was carried out in surrounding thirty villages of Oinam- Oinam, Thingba Khullen, Thigba Khunou, Khabung, Sorbung, Ngamju, Purul Akutpa, Purul Atongba, Koide Maiba, Phuba Thapham, Phuba khuman, Liyai, Chingmei khullen, Chingmei khunou, Phaibung khullen, Phaibung khunou, Lakhamai Sirong, Sirong Shofii, Kodom Khravo, Khongdei khuman, Khongdei Shimgphum, Khonggei Ngawar, Thiwa, Ngairi Khullen, Ngairi Leishang, Ngiri Raiduloumai, Tingsong and Khamson. The Operation carried out for nearly four months lasted till the end of October 1987.

Seven Sisters Post The Newspaper of the Northeast:

+ South Asian History did not begin with India’s Independence. 22 August 2012. Kaka D Iralu.

+ Naga People’s right to nationhood. 24 July 2012. Kaka D Iralu.

+ Know the ‘Northeast People’. 24 August 2012. Teresa Rehman.

E-Pao.netNow the World Knows (Manipur):

+ E Pao Radio. (music)

+ Profile of Ratan Thiyam and Chorus Repertory Theatre Company. By Donny Luwang.

+ Profile of Heisnam Kanhailal and his theatre group Kalakshetra. By Donny Luwang.

Books (links to Flipkart):

+ Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country. by Sudeep Chakravarti. Penguin. Blurb – Spread over fifteen of the country’s twenty-eight states, India’s Maoist movement is now one of the world’s biggest and most sophisticated extreme-left movements. Hardly a week passes without people dying in strikes and counter-strikes by the Maoists— interchangeably known as the Naxalites— and the police and paramilitary forces. In this brilliant and sobering examination of the ‘Other India’, Sudeep Chakravarti combines reportage, political analysis and individual case histories as he takes us to the heart of Maoist zones in the country— areas of extreme destitution, bad governance and perpetual war.

+ Highway 39: Journeys Through a Fractured Land. Fourth Estate. Blurb – In Highway 39, Sudeep Chakravarti attempts to unravel the brutal history of Nagaland and Manipur, their violent and restive present, and their uncertain and yet desperately hopeful future, as he travels along Dimapur, Kohima, Senapati, Imphal, Thoubal, and their hinterlands – all touch points of brutalized aspiration, identity, conflict and tragedy. These are the lands that nurture deadly acronyms –like AFSPA, an act of Parliament that with impunity hurts and kills citizens. Lands where militants not only battle the Indian government but also each other in a frenzy of ego, politics and survival, and enforce ‘parallel’ administrations. Sudeep Chakravarti’s journey introduces the reader to stories that chill, anger and offer uneasy reflection. Chakravarti also interacts with security and military officials, senior bureaucrats, top rebel leaders, and human rights and social activists to paint a terrifying picture of a society and a people brought repeatedly to breakdown through years of political conceit and deceit, and stress and conflict. (Click to read review of this book in BIBLIO)

+ Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India. Oxford University Press India. by Sanjib Baruah. Blurb –  This book explores the political meaning and significance of prolonged low-intensity conflicts in Northeast India. The author argues that if peace and development are to be brought to the region, India’s policy will have to be reoriented and linked to a new foreign policy towards Southeast Asia. The paperback edition includes a new preface where the author discusses issues of the insider/outsider and the politics of location in response to reviews of his work. 

Uramili (the song of our people), a travel and film project by Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar:

+ Sangai Express, song by Rewben Mashangva. 17 August 2012. Friday Release. (Youtube)

+ Tetseo Sisters, Nagaland. April 20th 2012. Friday Release. (Youtube)

Countercurrents:

+ Tale of Two Gandhians: Anna Hazare and Irom Sharmila. 22 April 2011. Mahtab Alam

+ Of Hotel Jantar Mantar and Irom Sharmila’s Prison Cell. 09 August 2011. Samar

Locales or Mapping Indian Theatre. Presentation by Samik Bandhopadhyay. (Audio – Part 1 and Part 2). Not the Drama Seminar, March 2008 Ninasam, Heggodu. Indian Theatre Forum. (theatreforum.in)

La Mashale. A one woman play on Manipur devised and performed by Ojas Sunity Vinay. The play has been re-interpreted and now performed in Tamil by Jeny, produced and toured by Marapaachi, a theatre group in Chennai. Ojas has opened the play to be re-interpreted by women performers in their native languages all over the country. Recording of Ojas performing Le Mashale, 10 December 2010. World Human Rights Day. (English and Hindi. Youtube)

Approaching a Tipping PointMassive dislocation of people in parts of lower Assam masked a familiar and muscular play elsewhere in the north-eastern region. writes Sudeep Chakravarti. 23 August 2012. Live Mint. Columns – Root Cause.

Home is Hardly the Best.  The moral of the story: there are multiple visions of Indian citizenship, and the state’s promises to protect and secure citizens have remained an illusion for the majority of the people who are often swept under the grand narrative of citizenship and equality. writes Dolly Kikon. 20 August 2012. The Hindu. Op-Ed.

Engaging Naga NationalismAny resolution of conflicts in the north-east, including the Naga one, could begin when both sides negotiate from a position of equals, and by an end to the process of militarisation that has tended to largely view dissent as a sign of subversion and anti-nationalism. writes Dolly Kikon. 25 June 2005

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Coe drop Dow

Worldwide the Olympics is a haven for sports.  In 1988, a similar international multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities was officially conducted in Seoul as the Paralympics. The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games will be in London bringing together athletes and sports enthusiasts from all around the world for celebration. Each country when it gets the chance to host the Games assures  to make it as festive, supportive, and spectacular for the sport world as they can. However, there is an irony in them accepting to do so with Dow Chemicals as one of their sponsors this year.

Human Chain organized by International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal in Elliot's Beach, Chennai (Jan 09, 2012)

On the night of December 2nd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant [a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals] in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal. No one will ever know exactly how many thousands died that night. Carbide says 3,800. Municipal workers who picked up bodies with their own hands, loading them onto trucks for burial in mass graves or to be burned on mass pyres, reckon they shifted at least 15,000 bodies. Survivors, basing their estimates on the number of shrouds sold in the city, conservatively claim about 8000 died in the first week. Such body counts become meaningless when you know that the dying has never stopped. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site. The gas-affected people of Bhopal continue to succumb to injuries sustained during the disaster, dying at the rate of one each day (2010). Treatment protocols are hampered by the company’s continuing refusal to share information it holds on the toxic effects of MIC. Both Union Carbide and its owner Dow Chemical claim the data is a ‘trade secret,’ frustrating the efforts of doctors to treat gas-affected victims. The site itself has never been cleaned up, and a new generation is being poisoned by the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal

In 1961, as part of America’s escalating war of counter-insurgency in Vietnam, President Kennedy approved military plans to use toxic herbicides in Vietnam. Planes and helicopters from the U.S. military, under the code name “Operation Ranch Hand,” sprayed toxic chemicals throughout southern Vietnam. The spraying was intended to kill foliage to deny cover to the guerillas and to destroy crops that could be used to supply the insurgency. The spraying was also intended to make whole areas unlivable so that villagers would be driven into “pacified” areas and “strategic hamlets.” The most commonly used spray was dubbed “Agent Orange” because it was shipped in barrels with an Orange stripe. The chemicals used during the Vietnam War were produced by Dow, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock, Hercules, Uniroyal, Thomson Chemicals…. Between 1962 and 1971 the United States sprayed an estimated twenty million gallons of herbicide (of which thirteen million gallons were Agent Orange) over a tenth of the total land area of southern Vietnam. An estimated 50,000 deformed children have been born to parents who were directly sprayed or were exposed through the consumption of food and/or water. Exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin is also associated with disorders of the endocrine system (e.g., decreased sexual desire, gynecomastia), cardio-vascular system (e.g. increased blood pressure, blood deficiency), gastrointestinal system (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastric ulcer, constipation, yellowing of eyes, abdominal pain), metabolic system (e.g. fatigue, rapid weight loss, spontaneous fever, chills), neurological system (e.g. numbness, dizziness, headaches, tingling), respiratory system (e.g. shortness of breath), and skin disorders (such as rash, loss of hair, brittle nails, altered skin color). 

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign

Dow Chemicals has a bright history of corporate negligence in Bhopal where they haven’t yet cleaned-up the site of the 1984 industrial disaster and in Vietnam, for not compensating the victims of Agent Orange. Dow and Carbide have refused to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of Indian courts on various matters relating to the disaster and other environmental fallouts. The latter has even been declared a fugitive from justice in Indian courts. After long persuasion, the dioxin affected Vietnam Veterans in South Korea have one lawsuit against Dow and Monsanto.

The head of the organising committee of the London Olympics, Lord Sebastian Coe, has said they will not expel Dow as a sponsor. Protesters have burned effigies of Coe, an Olympic legend with four medals (including two iconic 1500m golds), who has said: “Dow’s links with Union Carbide came 17 years after the Bhopal gas leak and it could not be held responsible; nor was it the operator or owner when the final settlement was agreed in 1989. Dow became the major shareholders in that company only in 2001, and the final settlement was upheld on two separate occasions by the Indian Supreme Court. I feel comfortable after analysing the history of this case.”

–  Paul Lewis,  Bhopal link mars Games

On 9th of January 2012, campaigners in London, Bhopal, Vietnam and Chennai demanded that the London 2012 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) drop Dow Chemical as a sponsor. Campaigners have also challenged Sebastian Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, to come to Bhopal and drink the water if he is really confident that Dow Chemical are responsibly fulfilling their duty for the clean up.

Children of gas affected parents, and those of parents consuming contaminated water have severe and debilitating birth defects. The Olympic organisers could not have chosen a worse partner than Dow. The partnership goes against the spirit of the Olympic games, and violates its commitment to justice, peace and environmental sustainability.

Message from  Bhopal Survivors to the  Olympian Community

Rajiv Ranjan, a Disability Rights Activist, speaking to the press at the human chain in Elliot's Beach, Chennai (Jan 09, 2012)

We see the terrible irony Rajiv Ranjan highlighted at the gathering in Chennai in LOCOG and especially the Paralympics Association accepting Dow Chemicals, the cause for people becoming disabled all around the world, as a sponsor.

Read more at www.bhopal.net. Read and please endorse the petition addressed to the LOCOG Chairman, Sebastian Coe, a campaign started on Change.org by British nurse Lorraine Close.

Dowlympics

Please endorse this petition started by one of the Bhopal olympians asking Indian Olympic Association to boycott Dowlympics.

Indian Olympics Association does not want to boycott Dow chemicals sponsored London Olympics 2012. Union Carbide (Dow Chemical subsidary) was declared a fugitive from justice by Indian courts in 1992, since they were responsible for killing 25000 plus people Bhopal Gas Tragedy (December 2–3, 1984).

Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide as a wholly owned subsidiary in 2001.The area around the factory is densely populated and continues to be heavily contaminated by chemicals and toxins produced by the factory which Dow, despite their evident responsibility, have thus far refused to clean up.

The situation in Bhopal is a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe that continues to affect tens of thousands of people today. For further information see www.bhopal.org. Sign the petition here.

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