the night when disaster struck


The Night Disaster Struck
It must have been an ordinary night. Parents trying to put their kids to bed, men trying to finish up their chores and go to bed early in anticipation of the next day, women trying to prepare everything for the early morning grind. Little did they realize that that night would turn into their worst nightmare ever. Little did the parents realize that that’s the last time they are going to kiss good bye to their kids. Little did all the men and women realize that there won’t be a tomorrow.

Those who survived the tragedy thought to themselves how unfortunate they were to not to be killed that night. For they were left to mourn their loved ones and live with diseases for the rest of their life. That one night claimed some thousands of people, thousands of others died because of the ill-effects of that tragic night which still are very much prevalent.

How the world reacted ?
What followed the incident, how the world reacted, how India reacted was even more shocking. While the initial reaction was a human reaction of shock, horror, disbelief at the grave tragedy, it soon manifested itself into blame games, fact findings, statistics, soon forgetting about the people who were caught up in all this. Eventually it boiled down to a fight between an insensitive, irresponsible and a corrupt government and a mighty corporation backed by en equally powerful country. No surprises who had the upper hand in this fight. The other shocker was how we, the media and the rest of the world forgot about the whole incident. Yes it’s important to move on but not without a closure. The victims were still reeling from the disaster, no or little compensation in some cases was provided, no health care was provided and no proper living conditions existed and yet we all moved on.

The fact that we moved on became very much evident to me in 2006,when I along with a couple of friends took part in an environmental festival in Asbury Park, NJ. Our idea was to set up a booth and create awareness about the tragedy and also highlight the struggles of the victims, the stories of the survivors, the timelines of the tragedy followed by the governments reaction. It was a very well prepared booth indeed.

We had a good turn out, lot of people stopped by our booth and were reading the posters and banners that we out up. And almost all of them were surprised to see the images of this tragedy, the stories of the victims, their struggles, as they were all under the impression that this was a closed chapter. I was even more surprised when a colleague of mine who was from Bhopal accused me of making a mole out of nothing when I enquired about this tragedy, he went on to say that bygones should be bygones and that people like me never let this happen. I just told myself no wonder the struggle is never ending, because the only way the government is going to take up any issue if you force it to do so and this will only happen when there is a critical mass. If the people don’t even know or if they don’t even acknowledge the struggles then it’s a “Bhopal Struggle”. Yes the incident I’m talking about is the Union Carbide Gas leak on the fateful night of December 2nd 1984.
The tragic incident: Bhopal Gas Tragedy
The day: Dec 2-3 1984
The company: Union Carbide now Dow Chemicals
The government: government of India
The powerful country: US
The Victims: those who died that night and those who survived that night.
We: silent spectators

Why can’t people forget this and move on ?
It was my daughters first doctors visit. She was barely a week old. We have been thinking about this day for the past couple of days and were kind of nervous as to how she is going to react in the car seat or in the car or what the doctor would say or what kind of clothing was appropriate and so on so forth. To add to this the day of the appointment was extremely cold. We were really worried as to how she would take this cold ? Anyways since we had to go, me and my wife set out for the doctors clinic. The drive was just 20 minutes but it felt as if I’ve been driving for almost an hour. We were almost there, there was just a STOP sign I had to cross. As soon as I stopped I heard a loud thumping noise, it was the noise of another car hitting our car from behind. My heart stopped beating for a moment, immediately turned back and saw my daughter.

She was calm, quiet and sound asleep. She seemed as if she didn’t hear anything or nothing had happened. That moment, that second is so vivid in my mind that i can never forget. I can actually relive every moment of it. It is clearly etched in my mind. I remember every minute detail of this. As a parent if I can’t forget this small incident, where nothing had actually happened, even after 4 years then how can a parent who lost his/her child in the middle of the night ever forget and move on. How can the hundreds of thousands of people just put everything behind and simply move on. And it’s not like the victims now live in a different world, they are reliving reliving the tragedy everyday because of the diseases that were inflicted upon them, because of the mental and physical trauma they have undergone. We, the privileged and the fortunate have every right to cherish the moments forever but we expect the victims to forget everything and move on.

What can we do ?
We can’t obviously bring back those who died but we can do something for those who were left behind. Please visit http://www.studentsforbhopal.org to learn more on how we can support the movement.

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