“I am heading for the imposing Buddhist ruins at Sanchi. Driving through the city I first pass the incredible Taj-ul-Masajid mosque, then the site of the Union Carbide Company gas poisonings in 1984. Activist slogans, poetry and street art adorn high concrete walls either side of the road there. The pictures portray anguish and despair, the slogans anger, the poetry Hope. Written across one wall in perfectly executed typeface were the words:
‘Union Carbide You Can’t Hide.
We Charge you with Genocide’.
Not a single piece of graffiti or mindless spray paint ‘tags’ defaced it.
There is no sense of defeat here, not even in death. Ghosts prick at one’s conscience. Here sits an obscenity as terrible as Katyn, or Belsen, but the presence of the walls masks and dilutes the outrage. It is not a place or time for humour, not even of the blackest kind. I take photographs but cannot see over the surrounding walls into the expanse of the factory complex hidden beyond. The site, this place, needs a viewing platform. My driver urinates by the roadside. I do not know if the timing of this act of bladder evacuation is a political statement or an artefact of human physiology. I do not ask.” (from ‘A Passenger through India’, Post 46, Day 25.)
I could have started my short text to this photo essay with inadequate descriptions of the vibrant artwork that adorns the otherwise architecturally humble walls of the heritage craft village of Raghurajpur located somewhere on the road to Puri in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Or maybe a brief reflection on the pictorial oddities encountered in the back alleys of Varanasi, the fading images of symbols appropriated for political purposes, pictures suggesting religious associations of which I am ignorant, or just pictures that symbolise nothing more profound than bits of wall-board advertising. These all have street merit, and I will let the graphic attributes of the photographs selected for this post, speak for themselves. Back in Hometown Australia all would have long been targets for vandalism.
But Bhopal, large as the disaster remains in the mind of the Western World, demands constant reminder. Like so many acts of human immorality and calamity before it, it is already slipping away from the world-memory. Other terrible events of the moment vie for our attention.
Visit Post 46 for backgrounding on the Bhopal tragedy.
(photo locations: Bhopal, Varanasi, Kolkata, Raghurajpur)