As the gas cloud began to spread over the City of Bhopal in India shortly after midnight on December 3, 1984, equally tragic events were befalling humanity elsewhere in the world. To the West, a million Ethiopians were starving to death in the middle of civil wars. To the East of India, Vietnamese and Cambodian armies were slaughtering many thousands. To the Southeast, a violent ethnic conflict was upsetting the island republic of Sri Lanka threatening the lives and fortunes of thousands of persons. To the Northwest, two bloody wars were downing their victims by the thousands and four nations -- Afghanistan, The Soviet Union, Iran and Iraq -- were involved. We do not speak of troubles along the vast Northern regions of the Indian border. Only over the great ocean to the South of India did peace reign, and uneasily at that.
Within India itself, the month preceding the Bhopal tragedy had witnessed the crazed killing of thousands of innocent Sikh Indians in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the number of deaths being on the order of that visited upon Bhopal by the killing cloud of gas. A pall of psychic depression already hung upon the City. Nor should one overlook, in seeking to view the Bhopal case in perspective, the toll that pesticides, such as were being made at Bhopal, were taking around the world, an annual total of 10,000 fatalities and 375,000 poisonings in the Third World alone, according to the latest estimates; nor that a gas explosion a few days earlier had killed five hundred people in Mexico City, again poor people of the neighborhood.
These events are mentioned to fit the events at Bhopal into their place in a world society that cannot govern itself and take care of its people. But here we are charged to discover what happened at Bhopal. In that city, there occurred an immense and dramatic tragedy whose lessons are both local and worldwide. As we move out from the Center of India drawing upon these lessons, we can see the tragedy merging with the great stream of world tragedies that must be controlled all together, and the sooner the better, by a world power operating under a single benevolent and beneficent code of law and conduct.
I apologize to the victims for not describing fully their agonies and sorrows in this book. If I did, I could not possibly say all else that I need to say, which I believe to be in their interest and which is itself abbreviated. I realize also that the dying, the pain, the sorrow and the testimony are not yet ended.
4th April, 1985.