I think Tolstoy would have forgiven me for stealing the crux of his novel.
I wasn’t aware that fangs of Bhopal gas tragedy have transcended a limited periphery to carry on’legacy of death’ until the day I attended Dr Suroopa Mukherjee’s presentation. The title of her note “Oral History and Monstrous Memories: The Case of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy” took me to IIC as both History and Memories are close to my heart.
She uncorked the suppressed fact how government punished the victims of crime and not the perpetrators. As a one who has been spearheading the errand of seeking truth, Dr Mukherjee deftly put it how ‘profit comes before people’ for the ones at the top.
Recollecting her stint as a researcher and sustained engagement with the Bhopal victims, she narrated anecdotes, which qualify as testimonies to deliberate suppression on bureaucracy’s part. Her research on women’s ordeal was not a fact-finding mission. It was rather an attempt to delve deep into the abysmal loss and unearthing what we should have known and not what government wanted us to know.
As Aaron Levenstein once took a dig at efficacy of statistics and quantitative methodology he said “what it (statistics) reveals is suggestive, what it conceals is vital”. It is this ‘vital’ that Dr Mukherjee said was crucial in understanding magnitude of loss and earnestly considering a barrage of emotions which generally go unnoticed.
While explaining the voluminous recollections that came out of the interviews, she admitted that compiling them in a cogent manner was not easy. Listening to the gripe of the women survivors from a novelist (Dr Mukherjee had two books in her ‘kitty’ prior to her involvement with Bhopal victims) was moving to say the least. It was unnerving to know the crafty modalities of both state and centre. Strange, they didn’t manifest even a tincture of repentance.
As a listener, the feeling was that of disgust. It was crystal clear that our leaders quantify immediate and tangible loss without probing into the humanitarian crisis and the impact that won’t leave its footprints for eons. Being the power holder the least a government is expected to do is defend people’s rights and not suffocate them with regressive policies and alienate them from the mainstream. It needs to overcome its indifference towards those women living with ‘monstrous memories’.