The Bhopal Gas Tragedy—not the 1984 one but the 2010 repeat—had everything going for it to be quickly consigned to the deepest crevices of our consciousness. A ridiculously long overdue verdict, a farcical sentence, poor (mostly Muslim) victims in a non-metropolitan city, the short memory of the public.
And then the fact that 1984 happened before the era of satellite TV.
“Will media activism secure justice for Bhopal?” was, therefore, a question well worth asking on 8 June, after Judgment Day saw the eight accused get a comical two-year term (with a proviso for immediate bail) for killing 15,274 and maiming 574,000 people 25 years and six months earlier.
Would the media go hyper like it had done for Aarushi, Jessica and Ruchika, was a doubt on many a cynic’s lip.
To its redounding credit, it has.
The Bhopal issue has had an incredible run over the last two weeks, each day unravelling new and unknown facts and facets of the complicity of politicians, bureacurats, diplomats, industrialists—all those who allowed the tragedy to happen, all those who let the killers to run away, all those who want us to forgive some and forget the rest.
The media is often accused of lacking stamina and hunting in a pack. But for once, print and television—and indeed online—rose to the challenge, in India and the United States. And if the prime minister has had to constitute a group of ministers, the other reason is media pressure; the main reason of course is obvious.
The grid above gives a sampling of the vast array of people the media tapped over the last 12 days. Quotes, photographs, videos, official documents, CIA reports, newspaper clippings have all been unearthed to get to the bottom of the story and piece together the jigsaw.
So much so that former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson‘s house was staked, and his wife was interviewed at her doorstep.
The media hasn’t done a favour to the nation, of course, but a service that is expected of it. But in the ocean of cynicism that surrounds the media—of political patronage, ideological bias, paid news, corruption, etc— surely there is no harm in saluting a passing island?