Washington DC Action: Rally Against Dow Chemicals, June 24, 2014

Most people have heard at some point of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, 30 years ago.  Tens of thousands of people were scarred.  Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide, is resisting calls to follow a summons issued by an Indian court.

Here is the call to action in Washington, DC at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 1776 I Street NW:


Urge Dow Chemicals to Respect Criminal Summons for Bhopal Gas Leak Deaths

Please join Amnesty International to rally on Tuesday (24th) outside DOW Chemicals in Washington DC to urge them to respect a Criminal Summons for Bhopal Chemical leak deaths. The Court have summoned DOW to appear on July 4, 2014 for a hearing in Bhopal, India.Tens of thousands of victims of one of world’s worst industrial disaster – the 1984 catastrophic gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India – are still waiting for justice. Thousands died and even after 30 years over 150,000 people are still battling chronic health problems.Background:

DOW Chemicals bought Union Carbide in 2001.
A court in Bhopal issued a criminal summons to Dow Chemicals to appear on July 4, 2014 for this case.
Urge DOW Chemical to respect this summons and appear before the Court.

The gas leak, which occurred 30 years ago killed between 7,000 and 10,000 people in three days and further 15,000 are believed to have died over the following years.

There are still close to 150,000 people battling chronic health problems. Over 40,000 people are still living next to the factory, and have been exposed to the toxic waste for the last 30 years.

The site has never been properly cleaned and continues to poison the residents of Bhopal.

The industrial skeleton of the former Union Carbide factory today still lies abandoned in the center of Bhopal, with more than 350 tons of toxic waste untreated inside.

Red, White and Saffron

A little birdy gave me a copy of the materials Hindu American Foundation is using to lobby U.S. Congresspeople.  Lobbying is a process involving visiting with policymakers that groups like corporations and non-profits use to push their agendas on the American government.  HAF is a ‘soft’ right Hindu nationalist organization that uses human rights rhetoric.  Critics argue that HAF is linked to militant Hindutva organizations in India such as the RSS by forming an arm of the sangh parivar, or, family, of groups.

As you will see in the materials, there are some surprises (jointly lobbying for religious worker visas with Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others) and some of the old, familiar Hindutva rhetoric (“India first faced Islamist violence, dating as far back as the 8th century, to the time of the Mughal invasions…”)

A quick and dirty assessment: the rhetoric is often fine and might work perfectly well to inform an American congressperson of, say, the most salient points of anti-minority violence in Bangladesh; at the same time, the materials are one of several ways that the slanted agenda and ideas the intellectual framework of virulent sangh organizations can make their way into American policymakers’ minds.   Why, after all, does one need to lobby U.S. Congresspeople on the alleged need for a uniform civil code in India or defend Narendra Modi against claims that he was involved in religious pogroms?  The answer is that one doesn’t need to.  So why is HAF doing it, if all it cares about are human rights of Hindus?

Bonus: a list of donors to the HAF is included on the last page of their newsletter, including someone with the same name as Obama appointee Sonal Shah, whose nomination was controversial in South Asian progressive circles exactly because of alleged ties to Hindu right organizations.

On second thought: a conversation about fascism and the 2014 Indian elections

In the aftermath of the Indian elections, South Asia Labor Watch was one of many groups and individuals to be dismayed by the victory of Narendra Modi based upon an analysis that emphasizes the role of the RSS as the shock troops of prospective fascism.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Shamik Sarkar, a Kolkata-based activist, who put things in a different light.  Sarkar argues that a true understanding of the idea of fascism in India has more to do with state-media-corporate collaboration than it does with the foot soldiers of Hindu nationalism.

As you’ll see, ‘fascism’ can have very different meanings to different people, and their analyses for the process for making change can differ alongside that.  On to an edited transcript of the conversation:

SALW:  Greetings, Shamik.  I’m very curious what you make of the elections.

SS:  For us, election is not a big thing, you know. Whoever comes to power, life of the working people in this country will remain same. Moreover, electing, and electing a ruler, and electing a powerful ruler in this election are agenda of powerful middleclass (almost 30 pc of total electorate/population) in our country. They always decide the election, as they swing to here and there. In most of the time they are fractured, thanks to their attachment with regional powers. In this election, in most of the states they overwhelmingly opted for a ‘strong’, ‘decisive’ ruler in the Center (barring a few, like TN, WB, Odisha, Punjab, Kerala). Their idea of being governed by a stick-yielding one, of being ruled by a strongman, of getting f**ked by a hot rod in the a** is indeed an indication of fascist mindset. Our electoral democracy and party system has every element of making this wish fulfilled. But I think their lust of self-repression will not get a go as a diverse country like us cannot be governed with iron hand, and BJP is wise enough to understand this. Rest of the people are least interested about electioneering apart from casting their votes, sometimes calculating immediate material gain out of it.

Thus, I am not in the chorus of Fighting Fascist Ruler, which in my opinion is more ideological than practical or real life. But we will surely fight the fascist tendencies of middle class and common working people, not only in their politics but in everyday life as well, and will watch the liquidation and reform of fascist ideology of RSS by their own man.

SALW: What do you think is the answer to the kind of class tyranny you describe and won’t conditions for organizing worsen under RSS-rule?

SS: We are in favour of organizing at grassroot level, with whatever popular issues are in hand. It is not wise to fight them face to face. Actually, for some years (2008 onwards when people’s movement against land acquisition subsided), face-to-face fight against any ruler has become almost impossible for common people. Perhaps since 2001. The State has turned into a fascist direction since the War on Terror has arrived. The RSS today is not more powerful than State-Corporate-Media, and thus people are under a systemic fascism and a little change would occur if RSS is made a little more powerful organisationally. Left in India is still visualizing RSS as the face of fascism and doesn’t see the actual structural fascism through state-corporate-media combination. That is pity.

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