Condolence meet held at Bhopal, Rich Tributes paid to Abdul Jabbar – Brave leader of ‘Bhopal Poisonous Gas Disaster Victims’
A meeting of condolence was held in Bhopal by scores of Social Activists, Journalists and various organization representatives, to pay tributes to Abdul Jabbar, who fought to get justice for lakhs of victims of world’s most infamous industrial disaster. A survivor himself, Abdul Jabbar fought for fair compensation, adequate treatment and complete rehabilitation of victims.
On December 3, 1984, about 45 tons of the dangerous gas methyl isocyanate spilled out from an insecticide plant that was owned by the Indian subsidiary of the American firm Union Carbide Corporation. People ran on the streets, vomiting and dying. Neither Union carbide nor government had no clue how to respond to this disaster. The city ran out of cremation grounds. At the time, it was called the worst industrial accident in history.
Abdul Jabbar, however, lost his mother and elder brother on this fateful night. Yet, he helped evacuate scores of others from neighbouring areas, taking the injured to the local government hospital and volunteered to take dead bodies for their post-mortem. On the personal front, he lost almost 50% vision in his eyes and had serious lung ailments due to the gas leak. He took up the fight from thereby his own.
In 1987, he set up the ‘Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan’, which imparted vocational skills to women, mainly widows, so that they could be self-reliant. He was the man who taught the people exposed to the poisonous gas of the world’s worst industrial disaster how to come together and demand jobs, compensation, monthly pensions and medical relief. It wasn’t easy since the government’s response to the disaster has been slow, inept, and crippled by corruption. He helped victims fight lawyers, doctors, bureaucrats, police and the entire administration.
Nearly all judicial interventions and mass agitations that have resulted in the gas victims getting compensation, houses and hospitals and the perpetrators being prosecuted bear an indelible imprint of Jabbar’s fighting spirit. For more than three decades, he went around conducting protests and filing court petitions, seeking greater medical rehabilitation for victims and the prosecution of local Union Carbide officials. He always believed the fight for justice was important not just for Bhopal but for all of India.
The condolence meet were welcomed by Hamida Bee and Shanti Bai on behalf of the Gas Tragedy Victim’s Organization.
Among the prominent speakers were Arif Aqueel Minister, Arif Masood Bhopal Central MLA, Medha Patkar Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Jayprakash Delhi Science Forum (DSF), Senior Journalist Lajja Shankar Hardenia National Secular Forum, Vasid Khan National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), Senior Journalist Rakesh Deewan, Prof.Anil Sadgopal and others.
Members remembered the contributions of Abdul Jabbar. Being close to the victims he was aware of and understood their sufferings, trials and tribulations. Paying rich tributes to Abdul Jabbar, speakers said that he was an exceptional human being and above all his selflessness and unwavering commitment to the victims struggle is discernible.
The final death toll of the man-made Bhopal disaster was estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000. Some half a million survivors suffered respiratory problems, eye irritation or blindness, and other maladies resulting from exposure to the toxic gas. Children born after the disaster are also its victims because of exposure to the deadly gas while they were in their mothers’ wombs. The US-based multinational company, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which owned the plant through its subsidiary UCIL, did little to help deal with the human tragedy.
Thirty Five years later still, there is no closure. Two, chemical wastes remain dumped in and around the premises of UCIL factory, contaminating the water that people drink. Everyone knows that the gas left a lasting mark on people’s health. From drinking the water, the public is slowly dying. To assess the scale of the groundwater contamination, what’s required is a geological study to analyze the water and the toxic plume. The site has never been properly cleaned up and it continues to poison the residents of Bhopal. Cancer, brain-damage and birth-defect-causing chemicals were found in the water. In 2001, Michigan-based chemical corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, thereby acquiring its assets and liabilities. However Dow Chemical has steadfastly refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims or disclose the composition of the gas leak, information that doctors could use to properly treat the victims. We believe Dow must accept responsibility for Bhopal.
The human, environmental and ecological disaster that cut a poisonous swath through Bhopal will be remembered forever. Let us continue our fight for proper compensation, medical rehabilitation, economic rehabilitation and environmental rehabilitation. This will be the best tribute to Abdul Jabbar’s memory, a legacy that will stand for generations to come. India can learn a lot from Abdul Jabbar’s glorious struggle for justice for the dead and the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy.