Bhopal: Abdul Jabbar, a key figure in the iconic struggle for justice by survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, died literally in penury late on Thursday night after a prolonged illness. He was himself a survivor of the gas tragedy. He was 63.
‘Jabbar bhai,’ as he was famously known in Bhopal, died of cardiac arrest in a private hospital here while waiting for help from the state government to arrange proper treatment for him.
His death, incidentally, came barely an hour after Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, announced that he would be shifted to a specialised hospital in Delhi in an air ambulance for treatment.
Jabbar’s never-say-die spirit inspired the poverty-stricken survivors of the gas tragedy to continue their fight for three and half decades. Billed as the longest stir in the world, the struggle was not only to get justice but also bring to book the ‘high and mighty’ responsible for the catastrophe.
He had rehabilitated over 6,000 survivors by providing them vocational training. His relentless efforts led to the revision of a verdict by the Supreme Court in 1989 to fix criminal accountability on the promoters of Union Carbide for causing the tragedy that had left more than 15,000 people dead and over one lakh others maimed after being exposed to the deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas that had leaked from the pesticide plant of the multinational company’s factory in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984.
“My biggest regret is that I had failed to get the then chief executive officer (CEO) of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, to face the law in India for the disaster,” the activist had earlier told this newspaper.
Jabbar had also filed a case in a court here to bring to book the then district collector Moti Singh for ‘facilitating’ Ander-son’s escape from India at that point. Jabbar, as he told this newspaper, was walking along with a friend to his house near the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the fateful night when he smelt a pungency in the air and suspected the leakage of poisonous gas.
The activist who lost 50 per cent of his vision and developed respiratory problems following exposure to the gas, lost his mother and elder brother to the incident....