Thursday, June 12, 2008

Author on Hunger Strike

Those poisoned in Bhopal continue to sicken and die, without help, without compassion, without justice, because the politicians in Delhi want to do business with their killers. These canaille* refuse to honour the law, blindfold themselves against justice, and, by their inaction, condemn thousands of the citizens they are sworn to protect to fear, pain, suffering and death.
Indra Sinha, the Booker nominated author of Animal's People, adopts the tactics used by the characters in his novel and with nine other campaigners has begun an indefinite hunger strike in support of victims of the Bhopal disaster in 1984, Lindesay Irvine reports in The Guardian this morning :
The hunger strike comes as a "last resort", designed to force government to fulfil promises over rehabilitation schemes in Bhopal and legal action against Dow.
I wrote about this issue in an earlier post, which should provide a bit of context for those of you who don't remember the disaster and don't know about its aftermath.

More about the campaign and how you can help can be found on the Bhopal.net website.

(* = a new word for me too! It means "pack of dogs".)

23 comments:

Greenbottle said...

"...because the politicians in Delhi want to do business with their killers...."

dow inherits this from union carbide. the bhopal thing happened during union carbide time which has nothing to do with dow at that time. then ha ha , dow in their quest to become a bigger boy gobble up union carbide and inherit the problem... but dow did and still do make a big effort to sort this out. it's good if mr sinha meet some dow people in india to know the other side of things...

bibliobibuli said...

what you say about dow taking over the problem is very true (and i can see you are in corporate firefighting mode this morning!) ... but doesn't taking over the problem also mean that they have no right to wash their hands of it?? and don't they have a moral responsibility to make sure that those who continue to suffer are adequately compensated and get the medical care they need? these people are dirt poor and they have waited 24 years for some kind of justice.

i think your conscience knows the answer, mr greenbottle, and i wonder if you yourself can exert some influence on the giant corp you work for ...

bibliobibuli said...

btw have you read "animal's people" yet? if not then i will buy you a copy.

Greenbottle said...

dow is way too big and doesn't need to depend on a flea like me to do firefighting for them.

& certainly i, like all the rest of you feel very bad about this sad event but as i say, it's always good to understand what the other side's perspective of things is too.

if any of you are interested, perhaps you may like to visit
http://www.dow.com/

just type bhopal in search and you'll get a lot of info on this issue (from dow perspective).

and ah...that's very kind of you to buy me a copy of animal's people. but perhaps i might just steal a copy from a library somewhere when i feel the urge to read it.

ps;

mr sinha could do with a bit of hunger strike but when he loses about 15 kg he should stop...

bibliobibuli said...

two sides there are for sure ... but wouldn't it actually work in dow's favour to finally sort this mess out and be seen to do the right thing??

Greenbottle said...

i suppose dow thinks it has done that.

all the same, i really appreciate you bringing this issue up, just goes to show that writers that matters don't just write about their hang ups and story of their grand mothers...

i think someone should take legal action against writers who write about nothing and destroying good trees unneccessarily in the process....

bibliobibuli said...

he's a brave man and totally committed to his cause ... the novel was part of that fight from the very beginning

was thinking this. there are the big guys (dow / indian government) who think they've done their bit perhaps. but there are thousands still suffering through no fault of their own. it is a moral outrage and one can't just shrug one's shoulders and walk away. perhaps the parties involved should stop trying to evade responsibility and just work towards solving the problem.

Greenbottle said...

yes one certainly "...can't just shrug one's shoulders and walk away..."

it's the right of good people like mr sinha to argue that indian govt and dow haven't done enough but to call dow as 'killers' isn't exactly the right way to move forward...

(lets say a dam breaks and the flood kills thousands of people. do we call the govt that build the dam killers?)

we're not talking about people like bush here ( which surprisingly not too many people get worked up about)... but oh well, never mind...

Anonymous said...

Nice posters for a hunger strike don't you think ? wonder who paid for them :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Greenbottle:

"We're not talking about people like Bush here ( which surprisingly not too many people get worked up about)."

Er, what are you smoking and can I have some of it? You really think not too many people are worked up about Bush? Is it just me or does the war in Iraq get a *wee* bit more attention these days than the Bhopal disaster? Mind you, I'm not saying the war in Iraq shouldn't get the negative attention that it does -- I'm glad people are outraged (though their outrage has managed to escape your notice). I just happen to think they should also be outraged about how little has been done for the Bhopal victims.

As to corporations not being "like Bush" (whatever you mean by that): I would argue that they are. That's all "evil" is. Mistakes of selfishness, blindness, ignorance. Corporations make those mistakes just as politicians do.

And I, for one, *would* blame the government who built the dam in your hypothetical scenario. That kind of construction should be done with extreme care and checked on every few years. I think governments and corporations know that, but sometimes they choose to prioritise profit and warmongering over people's lives. Remember Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans levee system?

-- Preeta

-- Preeta

editor said...

re: mr Greenbottle's link to Dow.com. In the interests of balance, here's a link to something that takes careful cognisance of Dow's expensively commissioned farrago of lies on Bhopal before demolishing each one of them, line by line:
http://bhopal.net/bhopal.con/

And in anticipation of additional snarky asides that insinuate something remiss in the poor appearing to have access to modest resources, I can personally vouch for the fact that the writer of bhopal.con received nary a penny for his exhaustively researched endeavour, in stark contradistinction to the crisis management firm Dow commissioned for its Bhopal greenwash, one Brown & Root of Texas. It was instead a labour of love for a community of the most courageous, dauntless and unjustly treated people he has known.

Mr Greenbottle, you suggest that Indra Sinha would do well to speak with Dow's employees in India. Would it be churlish of me to suggest, in turn, that you take a trip to Atul Ayub Nagar, Bhopal, carrying with you those arcane details concerning what Dow is doing to sort out Bhopal, and while there get to know some of the parents spending most of their spirits and paltry income caring for children that Dow is consciously, negligently, culpably, criminally allowing to be killed by the stealth of mutagenic and carcinogenic poisons delivered via their only water source?

In corporate law there is a mechanism termed 'successor liability' which ensures that a crime does not evaporate simply because a company gains a new owner. Dow is Carbide is Dow. Carbide's CEO is Dow President for India, Middle east & Africa. Carbide's Business Vice President is Dow's President for Asia Pacific. You cannot be ignorant of these facts.

Greenbottle said...

dear Mr editor

....Dow's expensively commissioned farrago of lies on Bhopal before demolishing each one of them, line by line...

you see, this is the kind of statements that make it difficult for both sides to honestly work togather to sort things out.

while i'm certainly in no position to comment more than what i've done already here about the bhopal issue, i have a personal experience and currently in the midst of of a not dissimilar situation in one country involving the greenies and tree huggers (and thank goodness not yet the writers).

the level of disinformation and scientifically suspect mumbo jumbo adduced as 'evidence' and public statements like yours that they come up with to justify their actions are very depressing. and what's worse their actions have far reaching consequence not only to public image of companies but also potentially depriving us of benefits and we run the risk of getting perfectly good products being banned.

we are as much human beings as the rest of you and in my personal case i'm very much a greenie at heart and will never condone doing anything criminal.

so as i say, there are ways to sort things out nicely. we're not bush here.

and that brings me to ms preeta.
i wish you'd think a bit positive about me. you know perfectly well what i mean about bush. and i'm not ignorant of outrage towards bush but IT'S NOT ENOUGH.
if the UN can be lead by the nose by Bush and little countries meekly kowtow to his whim and fancy by sending troops to give a semblance of 'alliance of nations' to fight bush's war what hope is there for us all...

and ps... good luck on your book. i hope it's not all about hang ups and grandmothers....

bibliobibuli said...

thank goodness not yet the writers haha that really made me smile. writers really ignite a cause! tesco must be shaking in its boots too

mr editor - i personally vouch for greenbottle being a very moral and thoughtful person and i'm sorry for him being forced to fight his company's fight in these comments

i think you can throw words and fight legal battles and chuck rhetoric about till you're blue in the face. the basic problem - a lack of compensation and adequate medical resources and a huge clean up operation needs solving. only those with money and power and - yes, goodwill - can solve it. let's demand some altruism!!!

editor said...

Dear Mr Greenbootle,

none of my remarks were intended to impugn you personally. You say that you will never condone anything criminal: I therefore must assume that Dow has successfully misled you, because the question of criminal justice is one of the key things to fuel outrage over Bhopal.

What makes it difficult for both sides to work together honestly is that one side holds all the power accorded by a $50 billion turnover and refuses to play by the law. There would be little need to discuss the differing evidentiary merits or empirical standards of evidence vis a vis Bhopal were the matter settled once and for all in court. That's as simple as it is. But the company Dow has swallowed and become, in law, does not behave like you or I: instead it acts as though it were above the law.

Union Carbide is a certified criminal - a criminal absconder, that is. Carbide is an outlaw. It earned this status by cocking a snoop at India's criminal justice system and refusing to face trial for mass homicide. In turn, Dow has committed the offence of sheltering a criminal fugitive by refusing to produce its subsidiary in court while carrying on its subsidiary's business in India.

How does Dow respond to this situation? Legally, by playing the law - and politics - with its financial muscle. Publicly, by lying. How else do you judge William Stavropolous' remark at a Dow agm that he "was not aware of any crminal proceedings against Union Carbide in India"? This is the man who fought off a shareholder action that attempted to stop the merger on the very grounds that Dow was buying a fugitive.

Who is passing out disinformation here? You infer that its Bhopal campaigners, but make no attempt to repudiate, never mind refute, a single assertion. Greenies and tree huggers are pejorative terms designed to malign the intellectual and emotional competence of campaigners. But it's hard to make a case for the phrase 'scientifically suspect mumbo jumbo' applying to an organisation like Amnesty International, for instance. In 2004 Amnesty produced a report on Bhopal which corroborates most of the analyses you'll find on the link I provided.

How did Dow respond to this? Amnesty tried to sit down with Dow representatives to discuss the report but Dow cancelled every scheduled meeting until they were sure that the report was no longer newsworthy. You see, as it refuses to face the legal situation, Dow has kept Bhopal precisely in the realm of public accusations, unable to be tested by lawful tribunal.

In this light, what chance Bhopal survivors sitting around a table as equal stakeholders with Dow and sorting things out nicely? I've tried it myself: none at all, was my conclusion.

editor said...

One more thing: the references to Bush are quite pertinent.

Dow director Barbara Franklin took a central role in the "George Bush for President Committee", helping to raise more than $36 million almost a year and a half before the 2000 election. Franklin was also Bush Senior's Commerce Secretary, and a member of the President's advisory Committee for Trade Policy & Negotiations (4 terms).

Then there's John C Danforth, heir of the Ralston Purina fortune and Dow director, who was considered by Bush junior as foremost candidate for the vice presidency while he was leading an inquiry into the FBI's actions at Waco.

As for Iraq, this is what recent Dow CEO Stavropolous had to say about it (as a member of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute heavily involved in lobbying for the war) in a lengthy interview with the Midland Daily news just a week after 'shock and awe' began:

"Stavropoulos believes the war in Iraq is a bright spot for the economy, and for Dow. "On one hand," he said, "you can see the war having a very positive effect. We get finality if the war is successfully executed. Then things get better... we're looking like we'll get through this in the shortest period of time, that the economy will probably grow 2 to 3 percent globally, and that hopefully, after the war is settled and we're successful there, energy prices will return to normal. That will be good for the chemical industry.""

If you're still looking for a reference to human rights and democracy in that statement, so am I.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Greenbottle -- like Editor, I'm not trying to cast aspersions on your character. I don't know you and I do completely agree that what has been done against Bush is not enough. He should've should've impeached; he is an idiot and a moron and a criminal.

Alas, he is a criminal whose causes are lubricated by Dow and its ilk. See Editor's last comment above. I don't think we can make the clean distinction you seem to want to make between people like Bush and companies like Dow. There has been a huge, huge outcry and struggle against Bush in the US and the rest of the world; I've been personally involved in it, but less so than many of my closest friends. It is not an easy battle because the intelligent minority that never wanted Bush in the first place has much less power than the foolish majority that wanted him. Alas, that is how democracy works -- everything the intelligent minority does -- and some of them have devoted their lives to the cause -- can never be enough, because they're still a minority.

All I'm saying here is, an equal outcry and struggle against related corporate injustice can only be a good thing, and it's not even close to equal yet. The people who stand up for both causes are minorities, but this one -- the Bhopal cause -- is a *tiny* minority.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant, he should've *been* impeached. And that was me above. Sometimes I sign twice, sometimes I don't sign, aiyo.

-- Preeta

editor said...

Incidentally, I must apologise if my tone comes across as bristling. My friends are risking their health on a scorching pavement in Delhi just now and its hard not to be emotional. Their 'satya graha' is an expression of total commitment, undertaken to cause change to a desperate situation after all other means have failed.

A humble thank you, Preeta, for standing beside them with your own fast. It means a great deal.

Everyone might like to have a look at some parallel discussions happening across the blogosphere on Indra's stance and its implications:

http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/005247.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/12/india?commentpage=1&commentposted=1

Greenbottle said...

ha ha sharon...i certainly will NOT tell you details of my problems with 'environmentalists'. can't trust you not to gather all your writer friends to come jumping on my neck.

mr editor;

a correction;

my statement "...the level of disinformation and scientifically suspect mumbo jumbo.." does NOT refer to bhopal case but to my experience in this kind of situation. as i say i have no involvement whatever in this bhopal thing and am in no position to give more than i've done already.

You've made some very strong accusations here and certainly this isn't the place to argue about the issue in detail.You seem to be right in the neck of things and obviously work hard to work with the appropriate people so,at the risk of sounding flippant i suggest you keep on trying.

i hope it's not too much of a surprise that i too am on your side when it comes to having justice done to the affected people and giving them appropraite help and support.

and about bush. you must know that it's not only people in dow that support bush, and my personal view on this is known to everybody.

editor said...

dear mr Greenbottle,

appreciate what you say. Just as not all environmental campaigners are flaky tree huggers, I can well understand that not all Dow employees are amoral, liars or worse. Simplistic stereotypes aid nothing but division. Our fight is with executives at the company who take the real decisions.

At the risk of pushing our mutual goodwill too far, I'd like to make a suggestion. One of the nine on indefinite hunger strike in Delhi (and currently being held in Tihar jail) is an ex-Dow employee. It would be an amazing thing if other Dow-connected people were able to make gestures of solidarity. I will say no more except that our sign up page for the global fast - participants fast for 24 hours in the main - allows complete anonymity and also gives opportunity for personal statements. It's found here:

http://www.bhopal.net/2008hungerstrike.html

all best wishes

bibliobibuli said...

it would be an amazing thing if other Dow-connected people were able to make gestures of solidarity a chance to strike a blow for social justice, greenbottle.

have been inviting my list of facebook buddies to join the page for indra's hunger strike on facebook

we should indulge in some acts of literary activism ... am thinking ...

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't suppose they would be stopping anyone from joining in the hunger strike from where they are. A worldwide hunger strike, that would really draw attention, wouldn't it ? and how convenient for them if you accidentally die of hunger. Silly rabbits.

I would like all my enemies to launch a hunger strike to protest something I did. With luck all of them will die of hunger, and then I'd have less enemies :)

editor said...

If only Ghandi ji had been able to draw upon your sagacious cynicism, 'anonymous'. He'd have soon realised it was a futile endeavour to try and bring about social and political change in India through non-violent means, and the course of 20th century history could have been diverted.