Bhopal disaster victim and campaigner found hanged

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The Independent Online

A victim of the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster, who became a leading campaigner for justice for the victims of the deadly gas leak, has committed suicide.

Sunil Kumar died in his home in Bhopal on the evening of 26 July. He was 34 years old. He was found hanging from a ceiling fan, wearing a T-shirt that said "No More Bhopals".

He was a survivor of the gas disaster at the Union Carbide plant, which caused up to10,000 deaths within three days. More than 20,000 have now died as a resultof the gas released.

Two of Mr Kumar's brothers, three of his sisters, and both his parents died in one night. He was just 13. He learned of their deaths when he saw their photos stuck on a wall. He claimed not to have cried then, or at any time after. "There were so many corpses. After a while, the heart becomes quiet."

In an interview in 1985, Mr Kumar, who later founded the group Children Against Carbide, said: "The people must know who was responsible for the disaster. And those who are found responsible must be hanged."

Although the Indian government and Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, reached a "settlement" in 1989, the terms were never accepted by the victims of the disaster. No criminal charges have been successfully brought against any company official.

Mr Kumar toured the world in 1989 to garner support against the "settlement". He was arrested in Houston for trying to deliver a report to a Union Carbide annual meeting.

Satinath Saranji, a fellow campaigner in Bhopal, said: "While those responsible for the disaster have still not faced trial, Sunil was the one who was finally hanged - by his own hand."