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Bhopal: A plea of queer gas tragedy survivor to in-community Dow CEO

12:20 AM Dec 03, 2021 | ANKITA ANAND

Bhopal: When 43-year-old Sanjana Singh smells gas, she is taken back to a wedding party 37 years back in Jahangirabad area of Bhopal that soon turned into a nightmare, overnight.

She had smelled a peculiar gas as a 6-year-old on the night of December 2 in 1984 that had originated from the Union Carbide factory. But, little did she know that the methyl isocyanate gas that had oozed out of the plant would kill not only some of her friends and family but thousands of other Bhopalites.

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“It’s like a trigger point and the whole night reels again in front of my eyes every time I smell even a mild gas leak - the chaos, the mystery sans information and the people running around toiling to survive,” says Sanjana, who is a survivor of the industrial disaster and now an activist fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ community.

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Her adoptive grandmother, and one of her uncles, died from the poisonous gas.

She has to make several rounds annually to the hospital to help her eyes, stomach and kidneys, which were damaged in the disaster and each visit makes her revisit the 37-year-old horror.

Like a few other survivors, Sanjana received peanuts as compensation that was washed away in the preliminary hospital bills.

Sanjana is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and so is the current chief executive officer of Dow Inc that owns the Union Carbide for the past twenty years, Jim Fitterling.

Fitterling came out as a gay in 2014 and now is a vocal supporter of non-discrimination. He has made himself heard at world platforms supporting several movements like Black Lives Matter.

Sanjana says, “If black lives matter, as do the brown lives. Being a member of LGBTQ+ community makes us even vocal about all the discrimination and yet Fitterling has failed to undo all the wrongdoings of the company.”

US Queer rights’ activist writes letter to Fitterling to reawaken his belief

Peter Tatchell, an activist working for rights of LGBTQ+, wrote a letter to the Dow chief on Wednesday, which the Bhopal Gas survivors released on Thursday during a press meet.

In the letter, Tatchell says, “You said recently ‘when we see injustice and inequity, we cannot be silent. We must stand up and speak out.’… The best place to begin such action is with that which it is within our power to remedy. It is currently within your power, Jim, to remedy 50 years of racism, inequality and injustice in Bhopal.”

“Dow, the company you run, has not made Union Carbide, the company Dow now owns, attend court in India to answer these homicide charges. Instead, your company Dow defends your subsidiary company Union Carbide’s ‘right’ not to be judged before the law,” he adds in the letter.

With Sanjana’s personal account and Peter’s letter in the forefront, the leader organisations working for the rehabilitation of Gas victims, condemned the discriminatory acts of Fitterling while claiming to be a supporter for equality movement.

“Dow Chemical’s premium product Chlorpyriphos, banned in USA for causing possible neurological damage, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, and attention deficit disorders and birth defects, sells in India, without mentioning its hazards.” said Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

“In USA Dow is paying for clean-up of 171 contaminated sites including the Tittabawassee and Saginaw river plains near its headquarters in Midland Michigan. Dow, on the other hand, says cleaning Bhopal’s dump at 21 spots is government’s responsibility,” said Nousheen Khan of Children against Dow/Carbide.

Also Read: 37 years of Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Why is MP government planning memorial atop toxic hotspot?

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