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Arjun blames Rao, clears Rajiv Gandhi for Bhopal gas tragedy
Published on 12 Aug. 2010 12:09 AM IST
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Breaking silence, Arjun Singh today appeared to blame the late P V Narasimha Rao for the escape of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson after the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984. Singh, thereby, gave a clean chit to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
“The Chief Secretary informed me that there have been persistent calls for granting bail to Mr Anderson from Home Ministry officials in Delhi,” said Singh, who was then the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, pointing fingers at Rao, who was then the Union Home Minister.
Singh, who did not share a good relationship with Rao during his days as HRD minister in Rao’s Cabinet at the Centre later, said he had ordered the arrest of Anderson and wanted it to be recorded so that he could be produced before courts when needed.
Participating in a debate on the Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst disaster in December 1984, that had claimed more than 15,000 lives, Singh said he had informed Rajiv Gandhi, who was in Harsukh town in Madhya Pradesh, immediately after the arrest of Anderson on December 6, 1984.
“Rajivji did not utter a single word in the next two days either in support of Anderson or try to mitigate his problem. Attaching motive to the then Prime Minister would be a figment of imagination of persons who can see nothing constructive of a person of that stature,” he said giving a clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi.
Ever since a Bhopal court gave a light punishment to the accused in the gas disaster case, there have been opposition allegations Gandhi could have a hand in the exit of Anderson soon after his arrest in the case.
Anderson was directly responsible for the disaster. I had made up my mind to arrest him as soon as he landed in Bhopal after the leak, says Arjun Singh, then chief minister.
Singh said he had met Rajiv Gandhi and narrated the events leading to the arrest of Anderson. Gandhi “heard me out without any comment and said let us move to another (election) meeting. Rajivji did not have any kind of sympathy for anyone, much less Mr Anderson.
“I am not shifting any blame on anybody. Whatever is the blame, I am ready to suffer as an ordinary citizen. The clamour for my speaking out, should now subside.”
Justifying the state government’s decision to take Anderson to an official rest house after his arrest, the then Chief Minister said he had to carry out this job “with a heavy heart” in order to prevent any physical or personal harm to the Union Carbide chief.
Maintaining that large number of people, particularly the next of kin of people who had died, had gathered outside the airport, Singh said he would have been “lynched from the nearest lamp-post” had the people come to know about Anderson’s arrival.
Singh said Anderson, whom he tauntingly described as “Bada Saheb”, had the audacity to come to Bhopal after the tragedy even though he was directly responsible for it.
“He could not be coming to share our grief”, Singh said. After his arrest while he was being escorted to the rest house, Anderson kept asking why the Chief Minister was not saving him. “That is the kind of arrogance these people have”.
Singh said he was not seeking a “bargain” from anybody for recounting the events with “great anguish”. “I do not want to lay blame on any side not in the hope of a bargain,” he said.
He said allegations against him were started by a handful of people. “In our country, gossip has a stronger force than reason,” Singh said while noting that he had set up a Commission of Inquiry which could start from questioning himself. The Congress leader said the government of Manmohan Singh today was committed to get Anderson extradited and he had no opinion to give on how it should be done.
“People responsible know how it is to be done,” he said. Arjun Singh said India had “unspoken promise” from the US on Anderson’s extradition and the Prime Minister should take up this issue with Obama when the latter visits India in November. “Adequate and full compensation can be asked from him (Obama),” Arjun Singh said.
He said news reports had quoted Obama as saying that “let somebody make reference to us (about Anderson), then we will see.”

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