Orphan Leads Children’s March to Mark India Gas-Leak Disaster
A 15-year-old boy orphaned by the Bhopal gas disaster led a children’s march Thursday as protests all but shut down this central Indian city on the third anniversary of the deadly poison leak.
Sunil Kumar, whose parents, brother and sister were among the more than 2,800 people killed in the disaster, which injured 200,000, led more than 100 children in burning and kicking effigies of former Union Carbide Corp. Chairman Warren M. Anderson.
The children waved banners and placards saying, “Children Against Carbide,” “We Want Justice” and “We Want To Live” as they marched to the former pesticide plant.
Hundreds of gas victims held protest marches before gathering for a rally outside the closed plant to demand speedier compensation from Union Carbide.
Police manned barricades outside the factory as protesters gathered in tents and held prayer meetings, to, in the words of an organizer, “pay tribute to the people who slept to eternity three years ago.”
The Madhya Pradesh state government had declared Thursday a public holiday in Bhopal.
The protests took place two days after the Indian government filed criminal charges against Anderson, eight former Union Carbide employees, and two of the firm’s affiliates. Anderson retired from the company, based in Danbury, Conn., in November, 1986.
Poisonous methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the plant, belonging to Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary, on Dec. 3, 1984, resulting in the world’s worst industrial accident. Its cause has yet to be determined.
More than half a million people have filed claims and the government has demanded $3.3 billion in compensation, but talks on an out-of-court settlement broke down last Friday. Officials said they are preparing for a long battle in an Indian court.