• Bhopal Running Away From Bhopal Gas Tragedy?

    Kashif Kakvi

    December 3, 2018

    On the 34th anniversary of world’s worst industrial disaster – Bhopal Gas Tragedy – that took place on December 2-3, an event called ‘Run Bhopal Run’ is being organised in the state capital where Bollywood actors Kareena Kapoor and actor Tiger Shroff will be participating.

    The tragedy-hit activists, however, have equated the event to dancing on the graves of gas victims, as the date coincides with the anniversary.

    They have alleged that Bhopal is running away from the memory of the tragedy by organising ‘Run Bhopal Run’ on its anniversary.

    On the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984, a leak of methyl Isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide India Ltd's pesticide plant in Bhopal killed over 10,047 people, and afflicted 5,74,000 people. This is according to a letter dashed off by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Ever since the incident, these two days are remembered every year with solemn events. The state government holds an all-faith religious meet on the morning of December 3. People remember the tragedy, organise candle march, condolence meetings, protests, and demand rehabilitation of and compensation for the victims along with action against the Union Carbide.

    A non-government organisation (NGO) named ‘Bhopal Runners’ – run by the IAS officer and former district magistrate of Bhopal Nishant Warwade – was established it in 2015, which has been organising the ‘Run Bhopal Run’ event.

    On December 2, several events and activities such as long and short marathons, music events, Eat Bhopal Eat etc. are being organised.

    This is the second edition of ‘Run Bhopal Run’ supported by the state government and Bhopal Municipal Corporation, which would be flagged off on the morning of December 2.

    Several organisations and activists, who have been working for the rehabilitation of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims, have urged people to boycott it, terming it ‘a shameful event’.They are opposed the selection of the date that coincides with the anniversary of the gas tragedy.

    The convener of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS) Abdul Jabbar Khan said, “Have you heard Kishore Kumar’s song ‘Aag lagi hamri jhopdiya me ham gawe malhar (We sing songs of happiness even as our hut is burning)’?It is just like that.”

    “This is extremely insensitive, and is part of a larger plan to forget the pain and continued suffering of Bhopal gas disaster, and its victims. Can there be a celebratory event to coincide with Holocaust Hiroshima Memorial Day?” asked activist, Abdul Jabbar, adding that an NGO backed by the state government is trying phase out the tragedy by organising such events.

    Activists working for the survivors of the gas leak are calling on the state government to reschedule the event.

    “At the first edition of Run Bhopal Run that took place on December 3, 2017, gas-hit laid themselves in the path of the runners to oppose the event that they equated to dancing on the graves of their dear departed,” said Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) representative Rachna Dhingra.

    She further said when she tried to take on Run Bhopal Run on Twitter, she was subjected to personal criticism. "I have been trying to contact the public relations company of Kareena Kapoor and Tiger Shroff, to inform them about the intention behind this event. I have tweeted to them too," Dhingra added.

    While president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh and Goldman Environmental Awardee Rashida Bee said, “When the old city will be mourning the death of their loved ones, the state government is supporting a spectacle with DJ music and Zumba dance in new Bhopal. This shows the abysmal depths of inhumanity in the powers that be.”

    She appealed to the participants of Run Bhopal Run to withdraw their registration in solidarity with the Bhopal victims. Organised by volunteer organization Bhopal Runners, the half marathon aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle, and is supported by the state government.

    When contacted, Kareena Kapoor’s public relation team did not respond.

    Critics of the event are aghast over usage of words on Bhopal Runners website. “We are not celebrating. We want Bhopal citizens to be fit. Out of the world’s worst industrial disaster we are moving towards a healthier way of life and our aim is to make Bhopal known for its beauty,” said representative Tanmay Jain. He describes the event as an ‘exhilarating event’.

    Social activist from the city Ajay Dubey called the event “shameful”. “By organising such event, the NGO is trying to make a mockery of the gas tragedy victims. The victims are still fighting to get drinking water, proper treatment, and some outsider NGO came to the city, and start playing DJ on that day. It is really shameful. We have also protested against the event, and urged district administration to ban it."

    Despite several calls, the president of the NGO ‘Bhopal Runner’ and wife of Indore DM Nishant Warwade, Amita Chand did not respond.


     

    First published in Newsclick.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.