Fifteen years of protests. Plenty of picketing. A struggle that has spanned the length of the millennium against Hindustan Unilever. Who'd have ever thought the lynchpin would be a video on Youtube? Not Sofia Ashraf, for starters. The Chennai-based rapper who shot to fame when her video 'Kodaikanal Won't' supporting the workers affected by mercury poisoning at Unilever's Kodaikanal plant went viral, admits that she didn't think it would help broker a settlement in nine months flat.
|Music Album to Ramp up Support against Unilever|
And the news made her nearly tear up. "It feels like half the battle has been won. We have been very cynical about this, but the fact that the workers have been compensated practically moved me to tears because I never thought that something that we did could actually result in change," she told Express right after news of the settlement got around. The lady whose video racked up 3.6 million hits on Youtube and generated a lot of heat towards the UK-based corporation, added, "It has given me hope that the work that we do is not for nought...but of course this is just half the battle won. We still need the environmental clean-up, but I think for the moment it's really heartening because this was a win we really needed."
Sofia, who has done a lot of rapping in Mumbai and Chennai, including a short stint for Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman, explained that the whole campaign deserved credit. Not just her song. "There were a lot of factors, I can't say it was just the video that caused this change. I think it was primarily public pressure, the fact that a lot of publications, both Indian and International, picked it up, the fact that a lot of Indian and international NGOs who got involved," she said modestly.
Now that they've ensured that Kodaikanal Won't and well, simply hasn't given in to corporate pressure, this opens up hope for a lot of activists to leverage the power of music on social media, "The movement would carry on for environmental clean-up because unfortunately human tendency only reacts to human suffering. So once we see that people are ok we really don't care about mercury polluting the environment, endangered species of plants dying out, about fish dying, and many of them are slowly gonna eat away at people too eventually. As long as we don't see an apparent danger seem to ignore it, but we are trying to keep the conversation alive and bring about a clean-up as soon as possible," she said.