New Delhi: The team that produced the video ‘Kodaikanal Won’t‘, featuring Chennai-based rapper Sofia Ashraf, has come together to produce another video, ‘Kodaikanal Still Won’t’. Through the video, activists are hoping the garner support and signatures for their campaign against Hindustan Unilever’s “environmental racism”.
The original video, featuring Ashraf rapping a song set to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’, was released in August 2016. It was an attempt to make Hindustan Unilever clean up the waterworks in and around Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, that were poisoned with mercury by a now-shut thermometer factory owned by the company, and highlight the plight of workers who had been affected by the company’s work.
The video went viral, bringing widespread public attention to the issue that activists had been raising for years. This attention is believed to have made Unilever agree to compensate 591 affected workers, who had been struggling for 14 years.
After the compensation decision was announced, activists had insisted that the company also fulfil their second demand – clean up the mercury it dumped in Kodaikanal’s Pambar Shola reserved forest. And it’s this demand that the makers of the video are now raising again. “Though environmental clean up work was taken up, its intensity was 20 times less than what they are supposed to do. This is what we call ‘environmental racism’ and we protest this, and demand the same standard that is applicable in developed countries. The new video is called ‘Kodaikanal Still Won’t’ and aims to bring awareness about the present polluted environment in Kodai. We won’t rest until our demand is met,” Rathindran Prasad, director of both videos, told Deccan Chronicle.
According to a press release announcing the new video,
The relaunch of the campaign was triggered by Unilever’s failed trial remediation in November 2017 that ended up mobilising more mercury into the environment than it recovered. The company’s proposed clean-up will leave behind 20 times more mercury in Kodaikanal’s soil than is considered safe for residential areas in the United Kingdom, and 66 times more than levels considered safe for soil, plant and animal life in the Netherlands.
In addition to Ashraf, ‘Kodaikanal Still Won’t’ also features T.M. Krishna and Amrit Rao, and is a fusion of Carnatic, rap and Tamil Gaana Kuthu genres. The music video was launched at an event in Chennai on June 29.
According to the press release, “Sofia Ashraf, T.M. Krishna and film-maker Rathindran said they will travel to the Netherlands and United Kingdom later this year, and collaborate with local artists to generate solidarity among Dutch and British citizens against Unilever’s double standards.”