A petition to the White House in order to get justice for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims has garnered over 58,000 signatures, with backing from Hollywood star Martin Sheen and Indian raptivist Sofia Ashraf. The “We The People” petition accuses American officials of obstructing the course of criminal justice in the 1984 tragedy, which is considered the world’s worst industrial disaster.
It asks the US Department of Justice to serve a notice to American multinational chemical corporation Dow Chemical Company so that they attend court in Bhopal on 13 July this year. Dow bought the US corporation Union Carbide (UCC) in 2001, but hasn't forced the company to face charges in India.
A protestor smears mud on a logo of Union Carbide as survivors and relatives of the victims take part in a protest in India on the 31st anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy on 3 December 2015.
According to the petition, which needs just over 41,000 signatures to get a response from the White House, India has sent four notices to the DoJ under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to summon Dow to explain UCC’s whereabouts.
"The DoJ has ignored or obstructed every notice," reads the petition. "The same DoJ made BP pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties for Deepwater Horizon. 31 years of US protection of UCC and Dow must end."
The petition requires 100,000 signatures within a week to warrant a response from the White House. It has met over half its goal already.
According to the petitioners, the Bhopal court requires Dow to “show cause” as to why it should not produce UCC, which is its wholly–owned subsidiary, to face manslaughter charges for its role in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. It is estimated that around 25,000 people have died so far because of the disaster.
Survivors of the Bhopal Gas Disaster stage a protest demanding proper compensation and justice, on the eve of 31st anniversary of the tragedy on 2 December, 2015.
Ashraf, a Tamil Indian rapper who shot to fame with her 'Kodaikanal Won't' video which supported workers affected by mercury poisoning at Unilever's Kodaikanal plant, helped them reach a settlement within nine months, ending a 15-year battle.
The rapper has now released a video on the Bhopal tragedy to garner support for the petition. She engages in a rap battle with herself, where she plays the part of both Dow and victims of Bhopal. She ends the video with a personal request: “If you sign one petition this year, let it be this one.”
Sheen, who played UCC's erstwhile CEO, Warren Anderson, in the 2014 feature film Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain, said in a press statement, “The U.S. government could pressure Dow to do the right thing, but instead the Department of Justice has been shielding Dow and Union Carbide from responsibility for over two and a half decades. And now, a possible merger between Dow Chemical and DuPont is looming. Once again the baton of ownership will pass hands but the liabilities will be ignored — unless we speak up.”
"[T]he Department of Justice has been shielding Dow and Union Carbide from responsibility for over two and a half decades."
Gary Cohen, the founder of Health Care Without Harm and one of the White House's Public Health and Climate “Champions of Change” for 2013, noted the difference between the DoJ’s response to a similar issue. “Because the gassing of Bhopal remains legally unresolved even after 30 years, Union Carbide’s victims experience prolonged, acute suffering. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice made BP pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which 11 people died. The U.S. Government should play an equally active role in bringing Dow Chemical [Union Carbide’s owner] to justice in Bhopal.”
You can sign the petition here.