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Lokvani Talks To MIT-Harvard-BU Grad Students

Ranjani Saigal

Check out http://www.bhopalnatyam.org

Leonid Chindelevitch is a fourth year PhD student in Applied Mathematics/Bioinformatics at MIT. He became involved with the Bhopal campaign through MIT Amnesty International over two years ago, and later went on to start a chapter of Students for Bhopal at MIT, to supplement the existing Boston group. His interests in social and environmental justice and his encounter with the younger generation of Bhopalis earlier this year have made him especially passionate about the Bhopal campaign.

Prem Nandhini Satgunam is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School Affiliate. She had her Optometry training in Chennai, India and pursued her graduate school studies at the Ohio State University. Her research interests lie in low vision rehabilitation and non-research interests, in environmental and animal (including human) rights issues.

Srikant Sarangi is a second year PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering program at Boston University. He has been familiar with the Bhopal campaign over quite a few years; however, it was only after moving to Boston last year and being a part of Boston For Bhopal that he found a medium to channel any meaningful effort towards this cause. As a member of this small and tightly knit group, he hopes to work towards ensuring that the struggle of the Bhopal survivors achieves its desired goals of justice and corporate accountability and sets an example of courage, resilience, and unity.

Haribabu Arthanari (Hari) has been involved with the Boston for Bhopal group since 2008. He greatly enjoys the vibrant discussions and analysis at Boston for Bhopal meetings and these experiences have significantly impacted him for the better. He is a research fellow at the Harvard Medical School.

The four are members of a group that is trying to bring justice to Bhopal. They talked to Lokvani about the tragedy and what needs to be done to help.

 25 years after the tragedy, why is Bhopal still relevant?

Bhopal has not completely recovered from the industrial disaster, the incident was never brought to a closure. Union Carbide India, Limited's toxic factory site was never cleaned up after the disaster. The poisonous waste has seeped into the ground water and the tragedy is still going on. At least one person a week dies in Bhopal from the injuries they sustained on December 3, 1984 or from disease related to water contamination. This incident is not yet history. It is also relevant because similar such incidents could happen anywhere in the world if there is irresponsible corporate behavior, sub-standard safety measures, and a lack of information about the dangers associated with various industrial processes.

The recent incident in a former Union Carbide factory, currently owned by Bayer and located in Institute, West Virginia, clearly demonstrates this reality. This explosion “could have eclipsed” the Bhopal disaster if it had ruptured the nearby tank storing tons of methyl isocyanate, the same deadly chemical that killed over 20,000 people in Bhopal and affected the lives of nearly half a million others.  This is why the goals of the Bhopal campaign are not just to achieve justice for Bhopal, but also to make sure that “No More Bhopals” happen anywhere else in the world.

Could you outline the issues ?

There are both legal and medical issues. Broadly, the legal issues consist of two cases: a civil case and a criminal one. The civil case is a lawsuit filed by the Bhopal residents to make the current owner of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical, clean up the toxic waste site. The criminal case is directed at the Union Carbide Corporation and its CEO Warren Anderson, who are considered absconders from justice and are being summoned to face trial in India. Both legal cases are ongoing.

Medical issues: Various forms of cancer, congenital birth defects, and gynecological problems have been clearly shown to have a much higher incidence in Bhopal than in neighboring cities. Dow-Carbide has refused to give out the medical information related to chemical compounds and their toxic effects, which hampers medical treatment. The International Campaign for Justice and Bhopal calls on both Dow and the Indian Government to provide efficient treatment and rehabilitation of gas-exposed victims and second-generation survivors.

All of you were very young when Bhopal happened. How do you get so passionately involved with the cause?
We were  was young when this tragedy happened and could barely sense the magnitude of the disaster. . It was not until much later that we realized that magnitude of the disaster and the fact that it is a continuing problem crippling the lives of people until today. There are more people who have died from the aftereffects of the tragedy than those who died directly of methyl isocyanate on the night of December 3rd. This is due to sheer negligence and a disrespect for humanity.

How do you plan to bring awareness to this issue?

In addition to the upcoming classical dance show fundraiser, Bhopal-Natyam, we are planning a Biking for Bhopal event in October, a classical Indian music concert in November, and a large-scale awareness campaign in December to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. We are also very open to other suggestions, and would love to hear from people who may  have interesting ideas!

Could you tell us about Bhopal Natyam?

Bhopal-Natyam: A dance tribute to human resilience is  organized by the Boston Coalition for Justice in Bhopal in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal Chemical Disaster. The show will be held on September 18th from 6 to 9 pm in the Little Kresge Auditorium at MIT.

The event will showcase vibrant and effusive Indian classical dance performances by six dance schools from the New England area, and it will also feature a rendition of the Bhopal story. Furthermore, there will be refreshments and merchandise (shirts, books, bags) for sale, with all proceeds going to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

After the tragedy, people in Bhopal have faced many hardships and waged many struggles, won some and lost a few. But these courageous people have not lost their will to fight, or their capacity to love, and care. Bhopal-Natyam is a tribute to the Bhopal survivors' struggle for a life of justice and dignity.

For more information about the group, the cause and the Bhopal Chemical Disaster, please visit the following website: http://www.bhopal.org
For tickets and more information about the show please visit: http://www.bhopalnatyam.org

How can people help?

By showing up with friends and family! It will be absolutely great if many people turn up for the event. You can buy tickets through a secure connection via our event website listed above. We also have a Facebook event, which you can join – 'Bhopal-Natyam'. Moreover, you can help raise awareness for our cause by passing along information about this event. You can of course make a donation to the campaign by going to one of the websites listed above. Also, we are always looking for new volunteers, so if you would like to stop by one of our regular meetings, please email us at

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