‘Museum’ gives voice to Bhopal survivors - Symbol of Protest
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- Published 1.12.14
|An enduring image of the Bhopal gas tragedy placed at the heart of the museum. Picture by Rama Lakshmi|
Bhopal, Nov. 30: A “museum” to Bhopal gas victims opens on the disaster’s 30th anniversary on Tuesday — as a symbol of defiance against government attempts to chronicle the horror.
The “Remembering Bhopal Museum” is no sprawling edifice but a nondescript flat a stone’s throw away from the defunct Union Carbide factory from where deadly gases leaked on the night of December 2, 1984, killing thousands and maiming countless.
The flat has pictures and memorabilia — such as the clothes of children who died — besides audio recordings of some 50 survivors.
Ruby Parvez, 39, recalls in one of the tapes her agony at giving birth to a handicapped child years after she inhaled the gas as a nine-year-old. “The germ in my body was passed on to my baby. My child, who is nine, can’t stand on his feet, can’t walk. ”
In another audio, Gangaram, 67, recollects the fateful night. “Suddenly I started to cough and my eyes began to inflame.… there were bodies, bodies and only bodies. There was no one to... pick them up…. After that, I couldn’t see.”
A brainchild of Rama Lakshmi, a journalist-museologist, the museum follows public protests by victims’ groups and court cases against government attempts to set up a memorial — including a Rs 10-crore grant for one at the plant from the UPA regime in 2009.
The victims’ groups allege that governments were also responsible and that any official account — including the toll of 15,000 against claims that up to 50,000 actually died — would be far from the truth.
“If they are going to build a museum after 30 years (at the plant), what will they put there? The ground is still poisoned,” asked Rasheeda Bi, a 62-year-old campaigner for the survivors.
Rasheeda met Lakshmi and urged the journalist to take up the plan. “It (the government) had no right to tell their story as it was complicit in the injustice,” said Lakshmi. She also referred to the museum as a “site of conscience”, like Bangladesh’s Liberation War Museum in Dhaka.