Regional (M.P & C.G)

Bhopal: Beyond the Bylines

Akbar Khan

25 years have passed since that fateful night shook Bhopal out of its slumber and into international limelight. A quarter of a century is a long time, by any standards. But the memories of the Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) leak are vivid in those that suffer its after effects and even more so in those that rekindle the tragedy each time it’s about to die a natural death.

Reams and reams of newsprint have been sadistically used to restructure the gas tragedy and to depict the terrible living conditions of those that survived what is notoriously known as the ‘world’s worst industrial disaster’.

The gas tragedy, like several other holocausts that preceded or followed it, would’ve met a quiet burial, save for some unstinting and self-satisfying resuscitation provided by activists and fellow journalists, as the subject provisions sure-shot national headlines and bylines especially around this time of the year.

Come November and Bhopal is back in the bylines, as snotty hacks Velcro their Woodlands and make a beeline for the dingy old city by-lanes – the habitat of the gas victims – and that elusive story. The excursion often includes stopovers to meet activists, who sensing reprieve, after a year-long wait, are only too glad to help.

Photographers are hurriedly requisitioned to capture the zillion wrinkles that shroud an old woman’s eyes, and morbid copy makes your breakfast table the next mo(u)rning (it sometimes takes only that long to edit).

The task accomplished and the story done, the victims and their plight is consigned to a sleepy conscience, until next year, when it would be professionally correct to cover the infamous Bhopal tragedy that snatched away thousands of lives, a number still unspecified and buried, perhaps, beyond the bylines.

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