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Around 336 tonnes of hazardous waste is lying in the premises of Union Carbide India Limited, site of the infamous 1984 Bh
Voicing displeasure against both the state and Central governments for not doing enough for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims
Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy today burnt an effigy of US President Barack Obama to protest against his governm
A plan is being charted out for the safe disposal of toxic waste lying at the defunct Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, the
For the third consecutive time, US chemical giant Dow Chemical has failed to turn up before a court here in connection wit
Scores of survivors of the Bhopal Gas tragedy along with supporters from different parts of the country and world, today o
Children with congenital defects born to parents exposed to the gas leakage here in 1984 should be identified and treated,
NGOs working for the rights of the survivors of the Bhopal Gas disaster today alleged that there was a "deliberate de
Organisations working for the rights of Bhopal gas tragedy survivors have raised health concerns over alleged 'secret' tra
The campaign for the ouster of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was today met with a strong counter-offensive when
When an author dies, the eulogies and the paeans that pour seemingly out of nowhere make one wonder why even a small fraction of all that recognition was not forthcoming when he/she was precariously and mortally present among those posthumous admirers."
Dilip Chitre, 71, died of cancer at his Yerawada residence in Pune early this morning.
A few excerpts from some of his on-line poems:
I bequeath to you
My fossil and my dossier .
And I join the saints'
Tukaram in heaven,
Chitre in hell,
Sing the same song
Centuries apart .
Come back pock-marked poets ,
Join Tukaram and Chitre ,
For the song of heaven
Is one helluva chant .
Ask and you shall be refused ;
But do not leave
Your voice unused .
It's all you' ve got .
Remember, our best
Poems were always
As bald as facts,
As bare as hills .
Because our spirit
Has aspects of stone ,
And because our stones
Are lasting mirrors .
Translations from Tuka Ram:
Words are the only
Jewels I possess
Words are the only wealth
I distribute among people...
O do not ever go there-you!
Nobody who goes in ever comes back.
Only once did Tuka go to Pandhari:
He hasn’t been born ever since.
From one of my favourite poems of his: Father Returning Home
... He will now go to sleep
Listening to the static on the radio, dreaming
Of his ancestors and grandchildren, thinking
Of nomads entering a subcontinent through a narrow pass.
And from those that he put up on his website:
Will the poem end when
All His light is spent
And to a standstill, to a standstill come
All heartbeats and all drums
The cosmic drone
Buzzes back into itself
Looking for its beginning
In a billion.
That’s just statistic
And for me
On the web:
Post Script: more tributes
Namdev Dhasal in the DNA:
See the difference between Nobel laureate VS Naipaul and Dilip. Naipaul was to come to meet me at Falkland Road where I lived, in Mumbai's red-light area. He was told something by some people and when he saw the sex workers holding aartis to welcome him, he misunderstood and fled. Once Dilip was with me in the area when an African youth living there came with swords to fight in our locality. I held one sword and Dilip held the other, pinning the youth down. If he was disconnected from real society, he was right there among real people fighting on the streets.
I feel sad that in his last days, when he suffered in immense pain, the people who could have helped him did not. I had tried to approach chief minister Ashok Chavan but had to deal with his secretary and a few others in his office. They wanted me to write an application! By the time they give a date, the person would be dead, and that is exactly what happened. They go and distribute money to all sorts, but they couldn't help him with medicines and other facilities. The Sahitya Akademi had said it would.
Curiously, there are intimations of mortality even in Dilip’s earliest poems from 1964:
“I am asked:
‘And what is the colour of orange juice?’
It is grey. All is black and white, and falls within
The spectrum. Everything is a shade from the black rainbow.
I wake up in the morning of my mortality.”
(The Second Breakfast.)
Or consider this fragment from Homage to Pataliputra:
“Come pock-marked poets,
Join Tukaram and Chitre,
For the song of heaven
Is one helluva chant.”
Dilip is gone but the fuse he lit is still burning, a brand lighting the way for future generations of poetic suicide bombers.
Read more here
The same intimations of mortality are also recounted by Adil Jussawala, a close friend of Dilip Chitre's to Eunice de Souza, writing in the Mumbai Mirror:
“He sometimes saw himself as a minority of one, Adil says. He then quoted a statement Chitre had made at a literary conference in Kalina in 1995. “We are a country of minorities,” Dilip said, “minorities who undermine minorities. Everyone is a minority of one.” He sometimes referred to himself jokingly as an honorary Parsee, to indicate his empathy with minorities. He was anti-orthodox, anti-caste. He championed Namdeo Dhasal, the Dalit poet so many people found offensive.
.... For all his friends and admirers, lines from his poem “Ambulance Ride” about the death of a friend will resonate with new meaning:
“I remember the ride
My lonely half of it
My desperate half
My quiet half
My empty half of it.”
Jussawala also points to Chitre's At my age, and of my age in the Hindu, where he wrote:
My output tells a story by itself. My collected poems in Marathi from 1954 to the present day occupy nearly 1000 pages. My English poetry is about 50 per cent of that volume; and my translation of poetry would fill another 700 pages. This is embarrassingly large; but since poetry is what I principally do in life, I can hardly apologise.
The last and deadliest of the1984 anniversaries: Bhopal. Being the 25th, there is a bit more than the usual media attention. The familiar litany of woes continues 25 years later: no punishment to anyone, inadequate compensation and non-disposal of toxic waste from the plant site, continuing lack of medical care for disabilities caused by the toxic waste and contaminated water, individual stories of suffering, protracted red tape and bribes to lawyers, middlemen and touts, long delays in getting even the meagre, allotted compensation...
And then there are problems between rival groups of activists. As those who have followed the story will tell you, there are two faces of Bhopal activism. Represented by Abdul Jabbar Khan and Sathyu Sarangi. The former's Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan is concerned with achieving justice locally and providing medical help to the victim, while the latter's Bhopal Group for Information and Action, along with others, focuses on raising international awareness and aid. Broadly, those who speak English, and those who don't. As Hartosh Singh Bal pointed out in Open last week:
When I first reached Bhopal, I thought the two were an ideal foil for each other. But as is now common knowledge among activists, the two detest each other. Over the years this has resulted in the erasure of Jabbar’s role outside Bhopal simply because foreign correspondents, representatives of international NGOs as well as reporters from the English language Indian media reach Bhopal requiring pre-digested information. In the day or two they spend in the city they want their hands held by someone fluent in English who can mediate between them and the victims... The people who Jabbar helps have little or no access to the English media or the internet, they won’t be writing in. If you want the truth, don’t pay attention to those who parachute in for a day or two or those who claim to understand Bhopal from London, don’t even take my word for any of this. Go to Bhopal armed with a knowledge of Hindi and see for yourself.
Things were not always so bleak In the early years, at least some Englishwallahs did write on the exemplary work done by BGPMUS. Here's Suketu Mehta, for example, writing for the Village Voice in 1991:
On any Saturday in Bhopal, you can go to the park opposite Lady Hospital and sit among an audience of several hundred women and watch all your stereotypes about traditional Indian women get shattered. I listened as a grandmother in her sixties got up and hurled abuse at the government with a vigor that Newt Gingrich would envy. She was followed by a woman in a plain Sari who spoke for an hour about the role of multinationals in the third world, the wasteful expenditure of the government on sports stadiums, and the rampant corruption to be found everywhere in the country. As the women of Bhopal got politicized after the gas, they became aware of other inequities in their lives too. Slowly, the Muslim women of the BGPMUS started coming out of the veil. They explained this to others and themselves by saying: look, we have to travel so much, give speeches, and this burkha, this long black curtain, is hot and makes our health worse.
To come back to the language divide, what is almost certainly forgotten is that the tragedy itself could probably have been averted if reports in local Hindi media had been paid attention to and picked up by the English media. Prabhash Joshi, the former editor of Jansatta, who passed away recently, had recalled the despatch that the then correspondent of his paper in Bhopal had filed, about the threat that the Union Carbide plant in the Madhya Pradesh capital posed to the people living around it:
The story was carried across six columns on a special page titled Khojkhabar Khaskhabar . A few weeks latter—in December 1984—the gas leak happened, killing over 2,000 people. Publications worldwide— The New York Times , The Los Angeles Post , Far Eastern Economic Review —quoted extensively from the prophetic Jansatta report even as they sent their own men to the spot. The group's owner Ramnath Goenka, livid that Indian Express had chosen to ignore it, ordered the English daily's staff to reproduce the Hindi story. Unfortunately, the then editor B.G. Verghese couldn't find anybody who was willing to do the translation—they felt it was beneath their dignity to transcribe a report from Hindi. It was left to senior Express hand Hiranmay Karlekar to do the job.
And much before the Jansatta -- a big newspaper -- report, of course, there had been local press. Rajkumar Keswani, who then ran a small newspaper called Rapat, with a circulation of around 2,000 described how three years before the tragedy, in December 1981, he decided to get to the bottom of the mystery of possible danger from chemical processes within Union Carbide, in An Auschwitz in Bhopal:
When I began investigating why the powers that be were overtly kind to Union Carbide, I stumbled upon one shocking revelation after another. Between September 1982 and June 1984, I published the entire list of company beneficiaries. This was used by the national and media in the wake of the tragedy to highlight the nexus between the state and the company. Hence it is a matter of common knowledge that a large number of politicians and bureaucrats were receiving favours from Union Carbide. Suffice to say that a number of relatives of politicians in power and serving bureaucrats were hired by the company on high salaries. A retired inspector general of policies was given the security contract. The company’s beautifully located guest house on Shyamla Hills, facing the Upper Lake, was a great attraction for top ranking politicians.
The nexus with the politicians of course has been an on-going scam ever since. The Congress may have given way to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, but that didn't bring any change at the state or the central level.
After describing the local BJP government's complicity, Indra Sinha sums it up in today's HT:
... the bigger machinations going on at the Centre, where Dow has been trying to twist the arm of the Manmohan Singh Congress government into letting it off the Bhopal hook. When people ask, why is the disaster continuing? why have Union Carbide and Dow Chemical not been brought to account? the answer is this: Union Carbide’s victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders. Bhopal will not be healed, cured or cleaned, as long as the power-brokers and the money-brokers are allowed to get away with it. India is a democracy. This agony will end only when people like you demand that justice long overdue must finally be done.
But then tomorrow will be another crisis, or another anniversary. And nobody would have time for Bhopal. Thankfully, there would still be people like Abul Jabbar who still
gets patients transported to hospitals, teaches women vocational skills, and often ends up as the voice for those who cannot fight for their share of compensation or pension. Over the years, the activist in Jabbar had very little time for his business and the tube-well money gradually ran out. “I shut down the business as I could not turn away from this (his activism). I may not have money but I cannot abandon the forsaken,” says Jabbar.
As the Indian Express reminded us some days back, Jabbar may not be a national hero but despite his degenerating vision and decreased lung capacity, he personifies hope for those who have none.