Bhopal: Ramswarup Sahu (46) can barely walk, and after losing half his family in the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy leads a solitary life with his younger brother Mukesh (35), who is also yet to find a life partner.
The Sahu’s are not the only ones leading unmarried lives in affected colonies around the dreaded Union Carbide plant in Old City. Hundreds in the vicinity couldn’t find a partner owing to them being victims or having siblings with disorders.
More than three decades have elapsed since the poisonous Methyl Isocyanide (MiC) leaked from the Union Carbide plant on the intervening night of Dec 2-3 in 1984. Unofficial numbers claim that over 8,000 people lost their lives and more than 550,000 were directly affected by the tragedy.
Children born since the fateful night have carried congenital diseases, thus forcing outsiders to avoid marrying anyone who suffered the tragedy or even a person whose siblings has disorders associated with the mishap.
“My physical constraints must have compelled people to discard me while scanning for a groom,” said Ramswarup.
“Perhaps, seeing me as a potential burden and the fear of their future lineage carrying ailments at birth, people also did not find my brother Mukesh suitable for marriage,” he said, adding that while no person said so directly, he overheard people discussing his brother’s marriage.
The third brother, Kamal though, is married and lives separately.
Sahu vaguely remembers the year. He was in school and would work during summer breaks for extra income. He lost his father Harlal – a helper at the plant, mother Ajbi Bai and sister Krishna one-after-the-other due to ailments. “I walked normally but post the gas leak but I slowly lost that ability,” said Ramswarup.
His neighbour, Sanjay Yadav is looking for a groom for his 21-year-old daughter, Yogita. Yadav’s two sons, Vikas (18) and Aman (16) were born with mental disabilities and the youngest daughter Vandana has menstruation issues.
“No one said this but I can sense that looking at my other children, and our history with the tragedy, people hesitate in considering Yogita as a bride,” said the concerned father.
Champa Devi Shukla, a survivor herself who lost two sons and her husband in the tragedy, now runs Chingari Trust for kids with congenital disorders. She says that there are hundreds of men and women who could not get married due to fear of ailing life partners or health complexities among future kids.
“Several girls who were married, were throw out of their in-laws’ homes after they fell ill,” said Shukla, adding that her two daughters also faced the same fate.
Later, with some persuasion, their husbands came to Bhopal and started living with them, she added.
Rani Kumari, 46, too had her in-laws throw her out six years ago when she developed an issue in an eye and her vision depleted. She’s now fighting a legal battle with her husband, seeking subsistence allowance.
“The trust gave me shelter and livelihood, otherwise I had nowhere to go,” she said.
The only child of her parents, Sheela Thakur is another who could not find life partner due to the stigma attached to her. As her father died in the tragedy and mother suffered paralysis, no one approached them or were ready to accept their proposal, said, Champa Devi.
“We got people who came to our Trust to marry each other but the idea resulted in more trouble for families as their medical issues doubled up and in several cases, the children born to the couple either did not survive or had congenital disorders,” said another survivor and Managing Trustee of Chingari Trust, Rasheeda Bi.
"The fears associated with the victims are not unfounded. It has been proven that kids born to the 1984 victims have carried mental and physical disorders with them," Rasheeda added.