Verdict on Bhopal gas tragedy a shame: Bollywood

By Ruchika Kher, IANS
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MUMBAI - The Indian film fraternity has slammed the judgement on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, calling it “irrelevant”, “unfair” and “a shame”, a day after a court held seven people guilty of criminal negligence in the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Celebrities ranging from Shekhar Kapur to Amitabh Bachchan said a jail term of just two years for the seven officials of Union Carbide India - who were also fined Rs.100,000 Monday and subsequently bailed out - was a mockery of justice and a sellout by the government.

Internationally acclaimed Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur denounced the judgement, terming it “completely irrelevant”.

“Those on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of this avoidable, irresponsible, completely mismanaged accident have long since made their deals with the government of India and gone. It was one of the greatest and most brutal sellouts by the government of India and its courts of the people of India,” Kapur posted on his blog.

On Dec 2-3, 1984, tonnes of lethal gas leaked out of the now shut Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) pesticide plant located in a congested part of Bhopal, killing thousands instantly and many more later. In the years that followed, people exposed to the gas kept dying or suffered from life-long ailments and complications. The death toll is believed to be about 25,000.

Even after 25 years, toxic waste continues to seep into the ground water.

Wrote Kapur: “Who cared about the poor people of Bhopal? Certainly not our own government who like cannibals preyed upon their own people. Apparently, very little of the paltry $470 million that was paid went to helping the people that suffered, a large part being diverted to the pockets of corrupt officials. The excuse used was that you could not tell who was a victim of the gas tragedy and who was not.

“This judgement just proves that you could do anything in India and get away with it. Even kill thousands and thousands of people.

The convicted include 85-year-old Keshub Mahindra, who then headed the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) as well as former top brass of Union Carbide, Vijay Gokhale, J. Mukund, S.P. Chaudhary, K.V. Shetty, Kishor Kamdar and S.I. Quireshee. Another accused, R.B. Rai Choudhary, died during the long trial.

The company UCIL was fined Rs.500,000.

Filmmaker Goldie Behl tweeted: “Raghu Rai’s pictures on Bhopal gas tragedy are a scary reminder of the disaster that everyone’s washed their hands off but the aftermath continues.”

Celebrity photographer Atul Kasbekar called it a shame on the system.

“The sheer apathy and indifference of the Bhopal victims tragedy is a grotesque blot on our judicial system…shame,” he posted on his Twitter account.

Said actress Gul Panag: “Mockery of Justice. Then again we’ve got used to it. Such little value for human life and it’s again on display.”

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan too hinted at his displeasure with the court judgement.

“I notice from the media the trial on course for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims. There is a huge debate and consternation at the end result of those convicted for this chemical disaster. The courts have given a punishment to those involved in the Union Carbide management a jail term of two years.

“The public and most concerned voices show discontent. 15,000 dead and hundreds suffering the aftereffects of the leak, and only two years in jail for the management of the company!!? They are all in absolute shock on the outcome - an outcome after 25 years have passed when the disaster occurred,” the 67-year-old posted on his blog.

“They are out on the streets in protest and the pain of such an act is to be felt to be believed…It’s a long wait for justice, but one does not mind the justice or how long it will take, so long as justice is done. The people here feel it has not been done fairly and voice their opinion on it too,” he added.

will not be displayed