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Agence France-Presse

Thousands Protest in India Over Dow Chemical's Olympic Sponsorship


Indian protesters burn a car during a protest in Bhopal, India on Saturday, December 3, 2011. Thousands protested in India against the country's decision to compete in the London Olympics despite sponsorship of the Games by the US corporation, Dow Chemical, responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

BHOPAL, India -- Thousands protested in India Saturday against the country's decision to compete in the London Olympics despite sponsorship of the Games by a US firm linked to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

Marking the 27th anniversary of the industrial disaster which killed tens of thousands of people, protesters gathered at two sites in the central city of Bhopal to demand India pull out from the Games, which are sponsored by Dow Chemical.

Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, the firm blamed for the lethal gas leak, a decade after the company had settled its liabilities with the Indian government by paying $470 million for Bhopal victims.

"This protest is against both the Olympics and government indifference towards gas victims," activist Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action told AFP.

As placard-waving protesters attempted to block trains travelling to and from the Bhopal railway station, police baton-charged the crowd, which responded by pelting stones at the officers, an AFP reporter said.

"We are resorting to peaceful agitation but the police used force against us in a bid to silence us," Dhingra said.

Senior district official Nikunj Srivastava told AFP that police were acting under a law prohibiting unlawful assembly.

"The situation is well under control," he said.

Dhingra said later in a statement that many Bhopal disaster survivors who took part in the protest were injured and one was in "critical condition".

She added that at least eight women survivors had been arrested.

Authorities could not immediately confirm the injuries and arrests.

Earlier this week a senior Indian official said India had ruled out a boycott of the Games, but would inform the International Olympic Committee of its opposition to Dow Chemical's sponsorship deal.

Shivraj Chauhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state where Bhopal is located, has urged India not to attend the Games.

Indian activists have been battling for more compensation money for victims of the gas tragedy.

Dow Chemical insists liabilities over the 1984 disaster have been resolved.

The accident killed thousands instantly and tens of thousands more from its lingering effects over the following years, according to official Indian figures.

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