Bhopal gas tragedy victims take Dow protest to UK govt

Activists and victims of India's Bhopal gas tragedy submitted a petition signed by 20,000 people on Monday calling on British authorities to drop Dow Chemical as sponsor of the London Olympics.

About 60 campaigners handed over the petition to the British High Commission in New Delhi before holding a protest outside the office of the Indian sports minister where they shouted slogans and staged a mock funeral.

Campaigner Rachna Dhingra said that the British government had been "pumping money into building the stadiums. They can't shy away from their responsibility."

US-based Dow is the parent company of Union Carbide, whose pesticide plant leaked gas into the central city of Bhopal in 1984, killing tens of thousands of people.

Separately, India's sports ministry said in a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge that it was "dismayed" with Dow's sponsorship of the event, a ministry spokesman said Monday.

"We are dismayed that the IOC has not respected the sentiments of a large group of stakeholders including Olympians and withdrawn its association with Dow Chemical," said the letter, which was sent on Friday.

The Indian Olympic Association had previously sent a letter of protest to its British counterpart, but stopped short of calling for a boycott.

Bhopal activists have been campaigning against Dow's role at the 2012 Olympics since last year, but the International Olympic Committee earlier this month insisted that the company would remain as one of the sponsors.

"The Indian government is spineless. They just want to protect the interests of the big multi-national companies. They have not even issued a proper threat of a pull-out," said Balkrishna Namdeo, another campaigner.

The Indian government in May filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for higher compensation from the company, which was initially set at $470 million in a settlement reached in 1989.

Dow, which bought Union Carbide after the disaster, insists that all of the company's liabilities were settled in the 1989 agreement.

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