La affaire Warren Anderson, who was the chairman of Union Carbide Corp, the American parent company of Union Carbide India Ltd when deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from its pesticides factory in Bhopal killing at least 15,000 people — many of them died during the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984; others died a painful, slow death over a period of time — gets murkier with each passing day. Anderson arrived in Bhopal four days after what turned out to be the world's worst industrial disaster, apparently to see for himself the extent of death and destruction caused by the leak which had resulted from Union Carbide's criminal indifference to safety measures at its hazardous unit in order to save money and increase profits. The police arrested him, and rightly so, but that action proved to be inconsequential. Anderson, instead of being carted off to jail, was taken to Union Carbide's well-appointed rest house so that he would not suffer any discomfort. A couple of hours later, the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh summoned the Collector and Superintendent of Police of Bhopal and instructed them to release Anderson on bail, accompany him to the airport, and put him on a plane that would be waiting for him. Anderson was granted bail, escorted to the airport, and put on the plane waiting for him. It turned out to be the State Government's aircraft. The man who was to be later declared an absconder by the courts was flown to Delhi from where to he took a flight to America, fleeing India forever. This is the brief story of a wanted man's flight from justice and how he escaped the punishment he richly deserved. These details have tumbled out of the closet this past week, with officials spilling the beans after last Monday's judgement.
What is intriguing is that the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Arjun Singh, should have gone to such extraordinary lengths to protect Anderson from the law of the land. The Chief Secretary was merely carrying out instructions given to him by Mr Singh; he couldn't have acted independently. The evidence implicating Mr Singh is far too overwhelming to give him the benefit of doubt. But did Mr Singh act on his own? Did he decide to facilitate Anderson's escape without consulting anybody? Or was he acting according to orders received from the Union Government, which was then headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi? Given the scale of the disaster and the implications of letting one of the prime accused flee the country in so brazen a manner, it is unthinkable that Mr Singh acted on his own. It is equally implausible that if there was any American pressure to let Anderson go free — Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says the Government acted under US pressure — it would have been applied on the State Government directly: The Americans would have contacted the relevant people in the Union Government. Are we then to assume that it was the Centre's, and not the Madhya Pradesh Government's, decision to free Anderson and help him jump bail? These are some questions that need to be answered by the UPA Government and the Congress immediately as the nation has the right to know the truth and not be subjected to such grotesque mockery of the law. A full closure will elude the Bhopal tragedy unless the truth is placed on record and those who colluded with Union Carbide are brought to book.