As the trial court gets ready to pronounce its verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case next week, the survivors of the 1984 industrial disaster have decided to give ‘death penalty’ to the accused by hanging their effigies at public places in Bhopal.
“We are preparing the effigies of the accused of the world’s worst industrial disaster and hanging them at different squares as it gives us some solace from our sufferings,” said Shamshad Bi, who lost her lone five-year-old-son and mother-in-law in the gas tragedy.
“We lived in J. P. Nagar, just opposite the Union Carbide factory (now defunct) when the toxic gas leaked on the intervening night of December 2-3 1984,” Ms. Shamshad, who was then 23-year-old, recalled.
“We are going to hang more effigies, at Budhwara and Imami Gate Chowk, before the trial court gives its verdict on June 7,” Hamida Bi, another survivor and a member of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan, said.
In all, we will be hanging nearly 64 effigies of the accused, including that of Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, USA, who had been declared an absconder in the case, she said.
“We prepare these effigies with our meagre resources and hanging them gives us some peace of mind,” Ms. Hamida said.
“I want that the accused should be hanged for the endless woes caused to us,” said Ms. Hamida, who was then 28–year-old with an 11-month-old baby.
“I lost my grand daughter to the toxic gas. Due to the gas leak affects I have lost around 35 relatives till date,” she said amid sobs.
“We don’t want any financial compensation; we want the accused to be sent to the gallows,” Shanti Devi (70), who lost her husband in the tragedy, said.
“My husband Shrikisan Ghiyani was a successful businessman. The tragedy had affected his vision and caused severe breathing problems. We spent enormous amount of money on his treatment but could not save him,” Ms. Devi said, adding we are now forced to live a life of penury.
Thousands of people were killed and maimed when the deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins leaked from the Union Carbide plant 26 years ago.
Last month Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan Tiwari set June 7 to pronounce the judgement after a 23-year-old trial.
During the trial, 178 prosecution witnesses were examined and 3,008 documents exhibited. CBI has blamed the tragedy on the factory’s defective design and poor maintenance.
Criminal charges were pressed against a total of eight accused, all officials of the company. These include Keshub Mahendra and Vijay Gokhle, then Chairman and MD. They were charged on several counts, causing death by negligence among them, but not on any charge that carries death penalty.