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Anderson assured safe passage
Published on 16 Jun. 2010 12:46 AM IST
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A former US diplomat, who was the deputy chief of mission at the New Delhi embassy, said then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson came to India following the Bhopal gas tragedy only after getting assurance of “safe passage” from the Indian government.
Now a visiting professor of economics at Emory University in the US, Gordon Streeb was the charge d’affaires at the US embassy when poisonous methyl-isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant on Dec 2-3 night in 1984, killing nearly 3,000 people instantly and thousands over the years.
Streeb recalled that Union Carbide contacted the embassy indicating that its chairman, Anderson, wanted to fly to India to see for himself what had happened and to show “concern for the victims” at the “highest level of the company”.
“The issue was whether he would be guaranteed access to the site and eventual safe return to the US,” Streeb told IANS in an e-mail, adding: “This was a reasonable precaution since legal systems differ so widely around the world.”
With the ambassador, Harry G. Barnes, out of India, Streeb was liaising with the ministry of external affairs on the sensitive issue.
The ministry “advised that it would be a very welcome gesture if Anderson could come to India and that the government of India could assure him that no steps would be taken against him during his visit”.
Anderson came to India and reached Bhopal with the plan to meet with then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh.
Instead, he was arrested on Dec 7 by the state police.
“I immediately contacted the foreign ministry and was assured the (that) government of India would honour its commitment to provide Anderson safe passage in and out of India,” said Streeb in his communication to IANS.
Based on the Indian government’s assurance, Anderson was brought to New Delhi and “departed on the next commercial flight back to the United States”.
Streeb said that then foreign secretary, M.K. Rasgotra, had been his chief interlocutor during this period.
“I am in no position to comment on the decision making process within the government of India, i.e., who made the decisions referred to above and how Anderson’s release was arranged,” said Streeb, who is also member of the India China America Institute’s advisory board.
When IANS made efforts to contact Rasgotra, his secretary first said he was not available. In a second attempt, Rasgotra himself came on the line to say gruffly: “I have nothing to say (on this).” Told that he was described as the interlocutor on the Anderson issue by Streeb, Rasgotra said “That is bloody nonsense” and disconnected.
While Arjun Singh has still not spoken publicly about the incidents, Indian ministers have said that the decision to let Anderson leave Bhopal was strictly a law and order decision.
Arjun Singh faces court complaint
A complaint has been filed against veteran Congress leader Arjun Singh in a local court here for allegedly letting off Bhopal gas tragedy’s main accused and former Union Carbide Corp (UCC) CEO Warren Anderson.
A lawyer, Farkhan Khan, filed the complaint here in Chief Judicial Magistrate R.G. Singh’s court Monday seeking registration of a criminal case against then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Singh allegedly for ensuring the escape of Anderson from the aftermath of the world’s worst industrial tragedy.
The disaster struck the Madhya Pradesh capital Dec 2-3, 1984 night, killing and maiming thousands when lethal methyl iso-cyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL).
The court has set June 29 for taking up the complaint.
Anderson, UCC US and UCC Kowloon Hong Kong were declared absconders by a Bhopal trial court which punished seven others June 7 for the tragedy.

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