June 25, 1983. No! That’s not the day when the Bhopal Gas Disaster took place. That’s actually the fortunate day when Kapil Dev, with a wide grin on his face, lifted the prestigious World Cup trophy, typifying the lifted spirits and pride of every Indian at that moment. Although I was born after around 12 years of the winning day, I know every intricate detail about it and I live it umpteen times whenever the contemporary Indian squad achieves any illustrious feat. Also, there’s no particular day in the year when it enthralls me the most; rather, I get elated thinking about it almost all throughout the year.
Then we have December 3, 1984(Sadly, I had to google the date a few years back, a thing that never happened with the 1983 World Cup). The jinxed date, an epitome of India’s worst industrial disaster. The day when a city at the very heart of India got transfigured into ‘The Chernobyl of India’. This is also the day when most of my fellow Indians, just like me, dedicate a moment thinking about the ungodly event. Yes! Just a moment, a moment that passes away in no time. Only that this year, after 30 years of its occurrence, I have developed great curiosity in the subject.
I happened to stumble upon some articles and videos depicting the gravity of the disaster a few days ago. Extreme sadness and goose bumps were the two things which I could feel after reading them. I had hardly ever felt such an indomitable need to cry out, let my tears burst out before. But I resisted breaking down and instead, out of my curiosity, decided to extract more information about the disaster from someone who had actually experienced it and had been a part of the nightmare. Fortunately, I got two!
The first person is currently a Feature and Literary Editor of one of the most renowned newspapers of Madhya Pradesh, Mrs Nirmala Bhuradia. Quoting the exact words she said on asking her about the incident, “Unfortunately, I was in Bhopal in the night of 2-3rd December. At first, we decided to spend the night in the waiting room of railway station, but later, we went to some hotel instead. Somewhere late in the night, a pungent smell started percolating in our noses through the ventilator of the room. After 2-3 minutes, we realized that it was coming from the other-side window as well. We did not feel relieved on even moving out into the balcony. We started suffocating.
I speculated that probably, riots have erupted in the city and it’s the effect of tear gas. We tried our ways like washing our faces, shrouding our faces with wet handkerchief, but nothing seemed appeasing. Tensed, we fled off the hotel without our luggage. I can say that we literally ran for our lives. The scene on the road was appalling. It was a stampede kind of a situation. Some were on foot, some on scooters, others in cars, just to save their lives. Some could be seen lying dead on the railway track, others crying and yelling. We didn’t have any vehicle so we simply ran all the way to the Bus Stand. Luckily, we got the very last bus to Sehore. A person succumbed to death in our bus itself. The next day, my eyes were swollen and the treatment went on for months. Then after, I realized that had we stayed at the railway station’s waiting room, we would have probably died.”
To know what followed the other day, I conversed with one more person. Dr. Kiran Bansal, an ophthalmologist, who was working in the Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar Hospital, Indore at the time of Bhopal gas disaster. She said, “In the morning of December 4, 1984, at around 11 am, the hospital got occupied with a flood of patients. We were all startled to witness the no. of patients; we had never seen anything like that before. About 700-800 patients were siphoned towards the MY Hospital from Bhopal by special trains and buses. The biggest hospital of Madhya Pradesh looked crippled in handling the incredible situation.”
These two stories helped me know the intricacies of the event even better. The Bhopal gas tragedy has made me hate one person like hell: Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide, who died just a few months back after living a free and badger-free life. But do you know that now, whom I hate even more? It’s the Rajiv Gandhi led government at the center which literally abetted in evacuating Anderson out of India as soon as possible and what if they even had to provide a state government plane for accomplishing it! It’s nothing less but a culpable genocide that should be charged on the then Indian government.
Talking about today, if the already celebrated Modi government can facilitate the NRIs with schemes like visa on arrival, then I hope it’s sensitive enough to use its power in bringing the much, much awaited justice to thousands of people protesting out there for their lost ones. Also, I can’t understand the hypocrisy of American courts which are “just” enough to summon Amitabh Bachchan regarding a minion remark that he might have made during the Sikh riots but are deaf and dumb when it comes to punishing the persons and companies of their own country liable for a disaster that sent more than 3,000 people to death.
Lastly, I pray to God that may the words of Lord Bujold nudge the judicial bodies a bit: “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of living to do so for them.”