Bhopal – Extract from the Documentary “I Vajont”

Dr Vandana Shiva and Arun Gandhi talk about the relentless struggle for justice of the people of Bhopal after the Gas Disaster occurred in 1984.
Extract from the Documentary “I Vajont” directed by Maura Crudeli and Lucia Vastano, produced by ESC

Children, women and men, drowning in a sea of indifference while we watch, waiting cynically to be upset by a photograph. We need a name, a story to move us to take sides, on one side or the other, as we ride the waves of our respective ideologies. But the sea is much deeper than all our reflections that splash incoherently: ‘Let’s take them all, welcome them all!’; or, ‘Let’s make war’, ‘Oppose the invader with iron strength!’ Or that most magic of phrases which should resolve everything, ‘Let’s help them where they are!’

Right, help them where they are, sure, like the way the American multinational Union Carbide helped them over there in Bhopal, all the wealth and well-being it brought to that miserable slum consisted in piles of money for the masters above and a toxic cloud for the poor bastards below. It was 1984, December the 3rd, when the murderous wave from Vajont, carrying with it the interests of the few and its justice at the service of the powerful, arrived in faraway India, all the way there, because profit is the law everywhere, and this time the wave outdid itself, with 35,000 immediately dead, more than 600,000 people made into permanent invalids and generations of children born with terrible deformities.

But in Bhopal the women, those women who didn’t even know how to read or write, those women have done it. No, they haven’t won or obtained justice yet but they have succeeded in preserving the memory so it can be passed on to future generations. The women are there, pointing out the guilty, and with them are the new generations too. Few of us know who they are, but Chandra Devi, Rashida Bee, Rachna Dingra and thousands of other women are there, always fighting on and, like David against Goliath, never losing the hope of winning one day.

 ARUN GANDHI, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violent activist

First of all we must free ourselves from fear and only then can we begin to fight for justice. We’re afraid of prison, of suffering, of losing what we have, our jobs, our economic stability, we worry, ‘Who will take care of my family?’, and so we continue to accept things the way they are, and so we allow them to go on exploiting us.

VANDANA SHIVA, President of Navdanya Association and activist for biodiversity and the defense of nature

I started working to promote sustainable ecological agriculture in 1984, following the Bhopal disaster and the violence in Punjab. I remember that I was always carrying around a bag of neem leaves. Neem is a natural anti-parasite we’ve been using for centuries in India, the scientific name of which is “azadirachta indica”, and naturally they laughed at us; “Neem?” they cried, “But it’s just a superstition that doesn’t work!” Then when we demonstrated that it did indeed work, they patented it for themselves. So I gave neem seeds to some farmers and said, “Enough of Bhopal, let’s grow some neem plants!” As for the patent game and the multinational pirates of biological products, the starting level in the struggle for justice is to liberate ourselves from the structures that create the injustices.


We have to decide what is important for us and once we have decided that we want to build a better world, we have to make sacrifices to create that better world. If we don’t sacrifice ourselves the world will never change. One person alone cannot be a protest movement but if that person becomes thousands this can make a difference. My grandfather said, “In a non-violent struggle, at first the authorities ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you but in the end, you win”.


Resistance means liberating ourselves from what oppresses us; if we continue to collaborate with a destructive, oppressive system, that system will continue to dominate us. Gandhi said “As long as you live under the illusion that you must obey unjust laws and submit to unjust power, slavery will continue to exist. At the beginning of every struggle the authorities will grant you scant attention, then they will deride you, then fight you, but if you continue to struggle for the values that protect the earth, for social justice and human rights, at the end of the day after they have derided you, attacked you, insulted you and wounded you, at the end you will be free of them. All the movements will free themselves of them.

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