Bhopal's Fight for Memory
Date Written: 2015-03-31
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX18120
In December, 1984, unknown poisonous gases burst out from a Union Carbide pesticide plant located in a vicinity of the city of Bhopal in central India. The plant, scheduled for possible closure, was understaffed, not maintained adequately, and had already seen prior deaths from exposure to leaks.
Against the Current: What is the ongoing importance of the struggle for justice in Bhopal?
Nityanand Jayaraman: The struggle in Bhopal, firstly, underscores the importance of memory as a weapon or tool to get justice and to hold corporations and the government accountable.
The one thing that the government wants is for Bhopal to be forgotten, and the one thing that the Bhopalis know is that they need to fight for memory of Bhopal. It is that classic fight of memory against forgetfulness, as stated by Milan Kundera.
The fight is to keep the memory alive, not only through holding the anniversary but by having significant victories and defeats and ongoing struggles as the subject of each anniversary. It is a stock-taking effort, and also an invitation for people to come to Bhopal to witness the rehabilitation work and the struggle, to see the strengths and the fatigue, and to see firsthand the extent of damage that has been caused by one corporation's pursuit of profit.
There have been struggles against corporations in India and abroad — powerful pitched battles against employers. In those cases, there was no attempt to extinguish the life of the corporation or to damage its business.