Bhopal Archdiocese supports gas survivors' petition to US

Catholic Church shares the pain and sorrow of victims and survivors in getting justice, says Bhopal Archdiocese's spokesman
Bhopal Archdiocese supports gas survivors' petition to US

A survivor of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy shouts and gestures during a protest outside the office of Dow Chemical International Private Ltd., in Mumbai in this file photo. (Photo by AFP) reporter, Bhopal
June 16, 2016

A church official in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has backed a move by survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy to petition the American government to stop shielding a U.S.-based multinational from being called to account.  

"The local Catholic Church strongly supports the petitioners," said Father Maria Stephen, public relations officer of Bhopal Archdiocese, based in the state capital with the same name. "We have shared the pain and sorrow of the gas victims and survivors and this petition is yet another attempt to get justice."

The petitioners want Dow Chemical, the current owners Union Carbide Corporation, to answer several ongoing litigations.

Forty tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped the Union Carbide Corporation factory on Dec. 3, 1984. Roughly 500,000 people were exposed in what the BBC called "the world's worst industrial disaster."

The online petition urges the U.S. government to "uphold International law" and "stop shielding" Dow Chemical from "accountability for corporate crimes in Bhopal."

Five organizations working for the survivors invoked a provision in U.S. law that calls for a response from the U.S. President if a petition to the White House carries more than 100,000 signatures.

"We filed the petition on May 15," Satinath Sarangi, a campaign leader told "We got an overwhelming response from people from all walks of life."

There are already over 121,700 signatures, much more than the 100,000 needed.

"Eighty-five thousand signatories are from Bhopal," said Sarangi. "They are joined by people and celebrities from across the globe."

Celebrity signatories include Hollywood actor, Martin Sheen, who played former CEO of Union Carbide Corporation Warren Anderson in Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, MIT Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky and Canadian writer Margaret Atwood.

The petitioners hope the U.S. Department of Justice will serve the District Court of Bhopal's notice to Dow Chemical to appear in court on July 13.  They have also written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to initiate punitive measures if they fail to do so.

India has sent four notices to the U.S. Department of Justice to summon Dow Chemical but the company has ignored or obstructed every one. The new petition insists the U.S. government "immediately serves notice to Dow."

In 1989, Union Carbide Corporation paid U.S.$470 million to settle litigations but several cases filed by governments, survivors and rights activists continue.

"The U.S. government is obliged to respond within 30 days," explained activist, Rashida Bee. "So we hope U.S. President Barack Obama will give us a response."

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