New Delhi, June 17 (Calcutta Tube) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday hit out at the Congress over the release of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, saying there was a ‘lot of evidence’ to prove that the then Rajiv Gandhi government ‘strategically downplayed Union Carbide’s liability’.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here that there ‘was a conspired attempt to ensure safe passage of Anderson’.
The BJP also slammed the Congress for terming its criticism of Rajiv Gandhi as ‘unpatriotic’.
‘How can the Congress say it is unpatriotic to criticize Rajiv Gandhi? We condemn outright this undemocratic comment of the Congress party,’ Prasad said.
He charged the then Congress government with ‘knowingly’ facilitating Anderson’s safe passage.
Holding out a newspaper clipping of Dec 7, 1984 (the day of Anderson’s arrest and release) as ‘evidence’, Prasad told reporters here that the Union Carbide statement published on that day in American dailies was a confirmation of the ‘conspiracy of assuring safe passage to Anderson’.
The company statement as published in the Pittsburgh Press said: ‘A company statement issued at its headquarters in Danbury said the arrest violated an Indian government promise to provide Anderson with safe passage. Warren Anderson went to India fully expecting to be of assistance and was provided with safe passage assurances from the Indian government.’
Gordon Streeb, who was then the deputy chief of mission at the American embassy here, told IANS Tuesday that Anderson came to India only after getting an assurance of ‘safe passage’ from New Delhi.
Also, referring to recent newspaper reports, Prasad said Streeb had spoken openly that when Anderson was arrested, he asked the ministry of external affairs to intervene.
‘It is clear that this step was taken by the government of India when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister. There was an agreement and Arjun Singh (the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister) executed it. So, such a person (Anderson) who is responsible for the massacre of around 15,000 people, was taken to Delhi on a government plane,’ Prasad said.
He said even if there was a security issue in Bhopal, Anderson need not have been flown out of the country.
‘You could have kept him in Delhi or Jabalpur. There is lot of evidence that proves that the government of India strategically downplayed Union Carbide’s liability,’ Prasad said, alleging that the Congress was ‘telling lies’.
Anderson, who was briefly arrested in Bhopal December 7, 1984 and then quickly released on bail, was later declared a proclaimed offender by an Indian court. He is now retired and lives in the US.
Tonnes of lethal gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2-3 in 1984, killing nearly 3,000 people instantly and many thousands over the years.