The Olympic Jhadoo (Broom)

Written by an International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) volunteer.

The jhadoo (broom) is a major symbol of ICJB. The slogan Jhadoo Maro Dow Ko (Hit Dow With a Broom) has gained a lot of recognition, to the point where representatives of Dow either try to make “no jhadoo” a condition of meeting with Bhopal activists, or else run away when they see someone wielding a jhadoo.

The jhadoo has a double meaning. As a non-Indian, I initially assumed the use of the jhadoo as a symbol represented the demand for Dow to clean up after themselves, both by taking responsibility for the lives they have affected and by cleaning up the factory site so that no more lives are affected. I have since learned that the main reason the jhadoo has been taken as a symbol of the campaign is that the jhadoo is what a woman picks up when she is really angry and wants to give someone a thrashing. In India to be hit with a broom is a supreme insult, worse even than to have chappals (slippers) thrown at one. This meaning of the jhadoo is recognised across India, across linguistic barriers. For example, Nityanand Jayaraman described the following situation in a press conference in Pondicherry in 2002:

Champa Devi and Heera Bai are travelling in true Bhopali style with their trusted jhadoos (brooms) forever within reach. Having the brooms has made communications easy, even in this compulsively non-Hindi speaking part of India. Despite the language difficulties, the Tamil-speaking journalists at the Pondicherry Press Club were vigorously shaking their heads in comprehension when Champa Devi and Heera Bai wielded the woman’s weapon. They got the point with very little recourse to translation. (“The Universal Language of Jhadoo: Champa and Heera in South India” http://www.bhopal.net/oldsite/jhadoomaro.html)

It appears that Dow’s PR have issued instructions that Dow executives around the world must accept a jhadoo if one is offered to them (see here for more details and pictures).

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