Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Sunil Verma's suicide - A symbol of a lost generation
I first read about Sunil in Harsh Mander's Unheard Voices. He is in the very first chapter, "After Bhopal". Sunil was one of the survivors of Bhopal Gas Tragedy and was largely active fighting for justice for the victims. Barely eleven years old when the gas leak occurred in december 1984, Sunil lost his parents and five siblings on the dreadful night.
He was the star witness for Indian government for the $3 billion compensation case on Union Carbide in the NY district court. He was the symbol of both the magnitude of the tragedy and the survivor's long battle to regain a life of dignity. He was a source of inspiration for the entire movement. Sunil committed suicide yesterday. He was 34.
Sufferring from schizophrenia for quiet some time his death was not entirely unexpected, shocking though it was. I have only read about him and from everything I have gathered, Sunil was a wonderful individual. During the trial as Mr. Mander says, "he told his story fluently in hindi" and after coming back to India participated actively in the group "Children Against Carbide".
After 1984, Sunil had the responsibility of raising his infant brother Sanjay and sister Mamata. He left his studies, survived on the compensation money, gathered skills doing odd jobs and attended court proceedings. Howevr he managed to finish his class Xth, inspite of all the responsibilities.
In later years, some communal elements tried to make friends with him with an eye on his compensation money. They forced him to arrange drinking parties and give donations to them. The entire experience left him extremely bitter and was one of the reasons for the deterioration of his mental health. He used to hear voices in his head and had attempted suicide earlier as well. Ironically, Sunil died wearing a t-shirt with "No More Bhopals" printed on it.
Sunil was a ray of hope for nearly three generations of people who had sufferred from the Bhopal gas tragedy and its aftermath. His death is a terrible loss for his family. My condolences are with them. My condolences are with those 150000 victims who are still fighting to get effective compensation, with the million of activists worldwide who have lost a close friend.
The death of Sunil left me extremely sad. I don't know him, have never met him. Why does a person like Sunil, an inspiration for millions commit suicide, while Warren Anderson is enjoying his mega-rich luxurious lifestyle in New york and Florida.
How can Mr. Anderson survive all these years with the knowledge that his profits caused more than 15000 deaths, 8000 in a single day. But then, mass murderers are made that way, they bask in the knowledge of having killed thousands of human beings. How can those politicians of India, who settled for a meager $470 million in compensation from UCC, and instead of disbursing this money to the victims, decided to use it for supporting the budget deficit.
The fight is still on. May Sunil's soul rest in peace.