Dec 2, 1984, the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked poisonous methyl isocyanate gas and killed 15,274 helpless men, women and children. Lakhs more were permanently maimed. Bhopal was, and remains, the world’s worst chemical industry disaster ever witnessed by mankind.
25 years and 6 months after the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the court recently held all the eight accused guilty. I still remember the fire we Sankalp volunteers had within us when we stood for justice to the victims. Life- something they were promised, but were not given!
On a black-and-white TV, saw the most bizarre news footage of dead people being wheeled on wooden handcarts. Toll: 120 dead. Decided to go to Bhopal. Maybe it is a denial, a kind of guilt that I have not been able to do enough on a personal individual level for the people, the situation. And that is I guess the shallowness of 95 per cent of the journalism we do. We all tend to walk away. It’s the next story that we look to and the story is just a story. This experience really scared me. Showed the ugly side of modern development and what corporate greed and negligence was all about.
N. K. Singh, a journalist friend of Keswani wrote for Hindustan Times–
I was fast asleep under a warm quilt in Bhopal when the phone rang. My friend Raajkumar Keswani, a journalist living in the old quarters of the town, sounded agitated, a little incoherent and was gasping for breath and coughing. He said there was a commotion in the street, people were running around and something had happened. I am having a problem breathing,’ he said. On the evening of December 3, 1984, as I sat on my typewriter to write the story of the world’s worst industrial disaster, tears started welling up in my eyes. That evening, and for many evenings after that, tears would keep rolling down my cheeks even as I hammered at the keyboard to meet the deadline of the newspaper.
Justice? Till date, children in Bhopal are born dead or with deformities. The beautiful city of Bhopal, once known as the city of mosques, is today a sad, disgraceful testament to the absence of environmental and human justice. The country may rejoice now, but the fact remains- 15 thousand men, women and children, and lakhs more over decades, were forced to death!