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Justice a far cry for Bhopal gas protestors

Jun 15, 2010 09:44 PM IST India India
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Bhopal: Today, 70-year-old Ganeshi Bai can be put in jail for 3 years - a year more than the sentence the 7 Indians accused got for the Union Carbide gas tragedy.

The reason for her sentencing is because she raised her voice in protest in 2009, when Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, stood at the very factory and said that there was no toxic waste there.

Ganeshi Bai, who can barely walk and lives just 100 metres from the Union Carbide factory, couldn't believe what she was hearing. For years, she and her family have been drinking contaminated water because of the toxic waste that got mixed with the ground water and for protesting. The police slapped a case of rioting on her.

"We have to go to court every month. We don't have anything to eat. We are drinking poisoned water and on top of that cases have been registered against us," said Ganeshi Bai.

Meanwhile, 65-year-old Bano Bee who lives in the same locality also faces a similar charge.

Bano Bee said, "We have to go to court. The government should not this we were beaten up for protesting. This is not justice."

However, many would say that Ganeshi Bai and Bano Bee should be thankful that the charges against them are only for rioting. Activists who have been fighting for gas victims for years have been booked for far more serious charges - even attempt to murder and are today facing several trials in Bhopal's courts. Ironically, those responsible for the gas tragedy were never booked under similar charges.

Satinath Sarangi, activist said, "Police came to the health clinical that we used to run and took me to Bairagarh in a jeep. There I was kept in a lock up and the next day I was sent to jail for 18 days. The charges against me were that of attempt to murder of government officials which according to the police I had planned with chemicals and iron rods. Nothing was substantiated in court."

Another activist, Abdul Jabbar said, "False case were registered against us. Once they made a woman complain against me, accusing me of misbehaving with her and cutting her hair. When she was brought to court, the judge asked her is Abdul Jabber around and she could not even identify me and the case was dismissed."

This is the price one has to pay for fighting for justice. Those who were responsible for killing more than 15,000 people and maiming millions for life were either allowed to roam free or else slapped with minor charges while those who have been pleading for justice for the past 25 years are intimidated with court cases.