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Thursday, 3 December 2009

25 Years After Bhopal Disaster, Survivors Still Seeking Justice

protests against water cuts in Mumbai

About 200 protestors were trying to force their way into the city's Civic Headquarters when the police lathi-charged. The protest was led by Congress after Mumbai Municipal Corporation - governed by Shiv Sena - announced water cuts by 15 per cent.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims Recall Pain Endured for 25 Years

Twenty-five years after the gas leak tragedy in Bhopal, survivors say they’re being short changed by the Indian government.

The city of Bhopal in India’s central Madhya Pradesh, saw the most horrifying industrial disaster on December 2, 1984. Thousands of men, women and children died because of deadly gases that escaped from a carbide plant located in the city.

The victims are still ailing with fading vision, breathlessness, pain in the joints, irregular menstrual cycles, depression, tuberculosis and even cancer of vital body parts.

One of the victims lost her parents in the disaster and still suffers from asthma.

[Naseem Bano, Victim]:
“We go to the DIG apartments to get our medicines but there we are made to stand in long, never-ending queues. There are no proper check-ups, no facilities and no good medicines available for the patients. Our condition has not changed a bit; we are still in the same position as we were at the time of the gas tragedy 25 years ago on December 2nd at 1:10 am.”

Another victim says the government has not done enough in providing relief.

[Bibi Jaan, Victim]:
“Though the doctors have diagnosed our problems, they tell us to buy the medicines from the shops. What kind of government is this if it can't provide us the basics? They just boast of providing adequate facilities to the victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy whereas in reality there is no such thing."

More than 3,500 people died in the days and weeks after toxic fumes spewed out of the pesticide plant in Bhopal.

Officials have confirmed that at least 15,000 people have died from cancer and other ailments related to the toxic gas leak.

Activists have put the toll at 33,000 and claimed that toxins from thousands of tons of chemicals lying in and around the site have seeped into the ground and contaminated the water sources.

Maoists behead school teacher in Bengal

Midnapore (WB), Dec 2 (ANI): In a barbaric incident here on Tuesday, the Maoists beheaded a school teacher. The body of Satya Kinkar Hansda, the school teacher was found in the jungles of west Midnapore.

The Maoists had kidnapped Hansda, who lived in Sirisboni village, a few days back.
Hansda’’s body was found near Goaltore in Maoist infested West Midnapore district.
Hansda, who was a teacher at the Purulia Vivekananda High School, was an active member of Gana Pratirodh Committee, a rival of the Maoist-backed People’’s Committee against Police Atrocities.
The Maoists had earlier warned him in this regard.
Earlier in October, the Maoists had beheaded Francis Indwar, a special branch inspector of Jharkhand police and later threw his body on NH 33 that connects Patna to Jamshedpur. (ANI)

2600 bodies found in Kashmir graves

On Wednesday, a human rights group released a report “Buried Evidence” here claiming that there are about 2700 unmarked graves spread across 55 villages of North Kashmir’s Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara districts. Earlier in 2008, a similar report “Facts Underground” claimed that hundreds of unidentified graves � believed to contain victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses � were found in Jammu and Kashmir following which human rights bodies like Amnesty International expressed serious concern calling for thorough and impartial investigations.

The state has been witness to unabated human rights violations during the last 20 years. Extrajudicial and fake encounter killings, arbitrary detentions, torture, rape, arson, extortion, enforced disappearances and other abuses have marked Kashmir’s tryst with armed conflict. The worst part is that the perpetrators of these crimes have gone unpunished. With no accountability, there has been no deterrent in place. As a result, there has only been an increase in human rights abuses. Though international human rights bodies have been raising the issue regularly, they have not been able to check the violations. The State Human Rights Commission has stood as a helpless organization with its recommendations going unheeded. Infact in some cases, the trampling of human rights has been systematic, meant to crush the rebellion. In many cases inquiries were ordered, which only proved as valuable time buying tools in the hands of the authorities looking to save their skin. The repeated pleas to set up truth and reconciliation commission have also gone begging. Mainstream media has also played a dubious role highlighting the abuses committed by militants while downplaying and more often ignoring all together the numerous violations at the hands of various security agencies. As a result, the Indian public has remained more or less ignorant about the actual situation in the state. They have been presented the picture of a soldier as a messiah fighting bad guys while as the dreaded criminal in the uniform has gone unnoticed. The regimes in New Delhi have used this ignorance to their own good justifying their wrong decisions policies and getting away with their myopic policies regarding the state. This despite the fact that human rights violations as much as the political factors were responsible for fuelling the armed conflict. Now when the gun wielding soldiers knows that there are people sitting in New Delhi to shield his actions and to garner sympathy for him, he knows no bounds of the unbridled power. In the garb of laws like AFSPA and DAA, the men in uniform have committed human rights abuses and gone unpunished. In case of widespread furore, they have termed the frequent violations as aberrations thereby adding insult to the injuries of victims.  Meanwhile, International Peoples Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian administered Kashmir (IPTK) which released the report on Wednesday has demanded independent and transparent investigation into the issue of unmarked mass graves. Only time will tell how seriously the demand is taken up by the state government and New Delhi. However, the fact remains that unless there is accountability for the crimes of the past, human rights violations cannot be ruled out in the future as well.

[editorial -Rising Kashmir- Dec 3, 2009]