Navin Shah Intensifies Campaign In London And Bhopal To Seek Justice
An Ahmedabad native and the first Indian in the London Assembly — which holds the mayor of England capital to account —has launched a robust campaign against Dow Chemicals, a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics. Navin Shah, the NRG seeking justice for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, is a councillor representing the northwest London boroughs of Brent and Harrow. The areas accommodate the highest Indian population in the UK (50,000). But Shah has spoken up for Indians in Bhopal as well.
He led a protest march in the Madhya Pradesh capital this week. He feels it would be embarrassing for Indians if they don’t stand up to a company that is getting space on the Olympics platform despite the disaster. The gas leak killed 25,000 people and about 1,00,000 still suffer its after-effects.
Shah recently urged Lord Sebastian Coe — a former Olympic champion and chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG ) — to withdraw Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of a decorative wrap around the Olympics stadium.
“London games are governed by a code of environmental, cultural and ethical values,” Shah said. “Dow Chemicals’ record in Bhopal is in total contrast to those important values established by the LOCOG.” Shah said that since he represented the voice of 50,000 Indians and because he is a British-Indian, the matter of sponsorship had a special significance for him. Shah was born and brought up in Sarkhej till he finished his primary schooling.
“I stood outside the compound wall of the Union Carbide factory, stunned with mixed emotions of sadness, shame and anger,” he said. “Sadness, because 25,000 people were killed; shame because the tragedy occurred at the factory owned by Union Carbide which was bought by Dow Chemicals in 2001; and anger because Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals to date are refusing to fully admit their liabilities and have treated victims like dirt.”
Shah said he felt deeply ashamed that LOCOG had decided to award the wrap contract to “the very company at the centre of the ongoing and inhumane conduct leading to the ongoing injustice to the victims of Bhopal.” The International Olympic Committee has reportedly rejected India’s protest and has backed Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship. But Shah is undeterred.
“The protest is getting stronger day by day,” said Shah. A few weeks ago, he joined a campaign in London launched by Barry Gardiner, an MP, for the immediate withdrawal of the Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship. That was followed by the creation of a petition in the Sattavis Gam Centre in Brent. “We are hopeful of getting justice and are grateful for the the Brent Indian Association’s support,” Shah said.
His campaign was an apolitical initiative, Shah said. He has called for more support and has uploaded the petition at his website, www.navinshah.com. The public has been invited to sign the petition. During his visit to Bhopal, Shah launched a local petition. Indian organizations like Sambhavna Trust and Chingari Trust from Bhopal have backed his campaign.
“I was born in Sarkhej. I have an ancestral home in Sarkhej and a residence near Adalaj,” Shah said. “My extended family including siblings and relatives, and large number of friends reside in Ahmedabad — a city where I completed my primary schooling. I reside in London but my heart is in Ahmedabad.” He said major humanitarian issues were close to his heart. “As an Indian, I could not stand by and see the massive injustice meted out to the poor in Bhopal.” TNN
Navin Shah says the decision to award the sponsorship to Dow Chemicals was inconsistent with ethical standards. The victims deserved justice and fairness, he said. “It is also important to protect London’s reputation and the Olympics legacy,” he said. TNN