In the spirit of satyagraha, three survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster began a hunger strike outside the Indian parliament on 28 June.
In July around 100 survivors took to the streets of New Delhi for a nonviolent sit-down. The “indefinite” hunger strike has been taken up by sympathisers in what, according to organisers, is becoming “a mass action, taken up in relay by people all over the world”.
These actions are being taken in protest at the possible reduction in charges against the then Union Carbide chief, Warren Anderson, from culpable homicide to the lesser charge of negligence. The request for lessening the charges came from the Indian government.
The 1984 disaster resulted in at least 3,000 people being killed immediately as toxic gas was released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant, and has left tens of thousands with serious health effects. The company is now owned by Dow Chemicals.
Support for the Bhopal survivors seems to be growing, with reports of solidarity strikes and vigils in Italy, South Africa and Britain. In the US there is an ongoing campaign to encourage law enforcement agencies to act on a 1992 arrest warrant and extradite Anderson to stand trial in India.
Survivor groups say that on average US$500 compensation has been paid to individual survivors. Many have experienced a range of traumas, from being orphaned to infertility and miscarriages, all from an area which Greenpeace has labelled a “toxic hot spot”.