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BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY: ‘My brother knew what it was like to lose parents, siblings; he killed himself’

Sanjay now makes a living from working on research projects, “mainly on the gas tragedy”.

Bhopal Sanjay Verma, 30, was 6 months old in 1984, he survived because his sister wrapped him up in a blanket and fled, but lost most of his family.

“Thank God I was not old enough to understand what was happening. My brother could — he was 13. He committed suicide. He knew what it was like to lose his parents and five siblings. The thoughts would keep revisiting him,’’ says Sanjay Verma of his elder brother Sunil.

Eight years after his elder brother died, survivor-activist Sanjay is still coming to grips with the Bhopal gas tragedy. “I was then six months old. I did not know what it was to have parents, so I never really missed them — except during parent-teacher meetings in school,’’ says the 30-year-old, who has travelled the world to share the story of his loss and who has featured in Bhopali, an award-winning documentary on the survivors.

That night, Sanjay, the youngest of eight siblings, survived because his sister Mamta had wrapped him up in a blanket and fled their house. Another sister, the eldest of his siblings and married, was visiting them and was among the dead. “I know what happened that night from what my sister Mamta told me. But we rarely discuss the tragedy. It hurts both of us. I would rather talk about it with others than with my sister,” says Sanjay.

After the tragedy, their relatives took them to Lucknow, but the siblings later returned to Bhopal. While Sunil became an activist, Sanjay and Mamta lived in SOS Children’s Village in Bhopal. After about eight years, the siblings returned to live with Sunil who had by then started Children Against Carbide, an organisation to fight for child victims of the tragedy. By the mid-1990s, the elder brother “started hearing voices in his head. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He attempted suicide several times and finally, in 2006, hanged himself from the fan’’.

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In 2005, the brothers  had moved into a flat in Sheetalnagar, less than 200 metres from the abandoned Union Carbide plant, which Sunil had bought with compensation money. They regularly travelled abroad to campaign for the victims, and to the US where a court was hearing a suit against Union Carbide and its then chairman Warren Anderson.

Sanjay now makes a living from working on research projects, “mainly on the gas tragedy”.

First published on: 02-12-2014 at 04:07:45 am
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