Trigger warning: Mentions of death and suffering In the wee hours of 3 December, 1984, Dr Divya Kishore Satpathy was summoned from his deep sleep.

The former forensic doctor with the Madhya Pradesh Hamidia Government Hospital was asked to rush to the mortuary which had at least 600 corpses.

Dr Satpathy narrates how he saw hundreds of corpses stacked one on top of another — a result of one of the worst industrial disasters in history, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

They couldn’t but wonder how four forensic experts could perform the post-mortem on these many nameless individuals.

“Just as prisoners are numbered, we began counting the bodies as we conducted their autopsies. I allotted 10 corpses each to the interns and final year [medical] students, respectively,” says Dr Satpathy, now 76.

“I instructed them to write down whatever identification markers (colours of clothing, bindis, jewellery) they could in whatever language they could write — English, Hindi, Marathi, Odia,” he adds.

Dr Satpathy ended up performing autopsies on 876 bodies that night.

The team identified the cause of the mass casualty. Other than frothing mouths and noses, red eyes and rashes, there was something more troubling.

“We saw that the corpses had engorged lungs and that their blood was deoxygenated. This occurs when there is cyanide poisoning,” he asserts.

The next day, the team was informed of the gas leak from Union Carbide. Nearly 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, along with other chemicals, had leaked into the atmosphere of Bhopal from the Union Carbide India Ltd factory.

Around 5.58 lakh people were poisoned on that fateful night and the tragedy left 25,000 people dead.

On 7 June, 2010, a Bhopal court convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) to two years imprisonment in connection with the incident.

But Dr Satpathy says, “There should be an international law to know the A to Z of toxic chemicals before it is sanctioned for use in factories. But to date, we haven’t learnt anything.”

He adds, “If this tragedy were to take place in a posh area where ministers or officers lived, the situation would be very different. This happened where daily wagers and the underprivileged resided. That’s why almost 40 years have gone by without anyone batting an eyelid.”