Looking Back: Rajiv Gandhi’s hand ensured Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson’s escape

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy took place in Madhya Pradesh’s capital on December 2-3 night in 1984. Exactly 38 years ago, a poisonous gas, methyl isocyanate leaked from the factory of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, as per government figures.

Those who survived suffered terribly with issues ranging from physical disability to blindness.

The CEO of the Union Carbide Corporation, Warren Anderson, who was the main accused in the horrific incident managed to flee the country after arriving here and could never be brought back.

The demand to hold Anderson accountable echoed all over the country after the tragedy but the accused was able to leave India easily.

Questions regarding his escape remain unanswered to this day.

# Then PM and CM accused of helping Anderson in fleeing

It was alleged that the then MP Chief Minister, Arjun Singh ordered Anderson’s release from custody at the behest of then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Although the allegations were not taken up in court, sections of the chargesheet filed were enough to show that the government’s approach was insensitive even after thousands of deaths.

It was also said that Gandhi was pressured by high US officials to release Anderson.

Moti Singh, Collector at the time of the tragedy, in his book ‘Unfolding the Betrayal of Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ exposed the truth behind Anderson’s release on bail.

Mentioning the entire incident, Singh wrote that Anderson was released on the orders of Arjun Singh. He was released on bail despite the first FIR that was registered under non-bailable sections.

# Timeline of Anderson’s escape

There was a huge public outcry against the Union Carbide Company and Warren Anderson after the incident.

A case was registered in Bhopal’s Hanuman Ganj police station on December 3 evening.

According to information, Anderson along with some of his colleagues reached Bhopal on December 7 at 9.30 a.m. by an Indian Airlines flight. The then SP Swaraj Puri and DM Moti Singh received him at the airport, following which he was taken to UCIL’s rest house where he was apprised that he was being taken into custody.

It is said that very afternoon, Arjun Singh ordered his immediate release.

After this, at 3.30 p.m., Puri dropped Anderson to the State Hanger, from where he flew to the US via Delhi.

Singh later said that he was asked by the Union Home Ministry to release Anderson.

# Anderson’s obscure death in 2014

According to information, on February 9, 1989, the CJM court issued a non-bailable warrant against Anderson. He was declared a fugitive on February 1, 1992.

Several NGOs fought for compensation and for Anderson to be brought back from the US.

Anderson died on September 29, 2014, at a nursing home in Florida, USA, which was revealed a month later.

# Mystery of Anderson’s escape remains despite inquiry commission’s formation

A one-person Justice S.L. Kochhar commission was set up in 2010 to investigate Anderson’s release and the provision of a special flight to Delhi.

SP Swaraj Puri had said before the commission that there was a written order for Anderson’s arrest, but the order for his release was verbal. He said that the order was received over the wireless set.

The details and facts pertaining to Anderson’s escape got recorded in statements and courts but never got close to justice for the victims.

No proper effort was ever made to arrest Anderson and bring him back to India.

The ones responsible within India were let off easily.

In 2010, the court sentenced the factory workers to only two years for their role in the tragedy and deaths.

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