KOLKATA/NEW DELHI: Giving a new spin on why Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson was allowed to leave the country after the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said Mr Arjun Singh had taken the decision keeping in view the prevailing law and order situation.
Though Mr Mukherjee, like many Congress leaders, squarely put the onus of the decision on Mr Singh, the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister, he said this was “thought necessary” as tempers were running high.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties mounted pressure demanding action against those who allowed Anderson to flee and justice for the victims of the tragedy.
In Kolkata, Mr Mukherjee told reporters, “The statement made by Singh as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister five days after the Bhopal disaster had been published in a newspaper.”
“It is very clear from the statement of Arjun Singh, which was published in The Times of India on December 8, 1984, that the law and order situation in Bhopal would have deteriorated and people’s frenzy and temper were running high. Therefore, it was thought necessary to send him (Anderson) out of Bhopal,” he said. Mr Mukherjee was asked if the Congress was trying to shield Mr Singh on the issue of exit of Anderson from the country.
On whether the government was considering Anderson’s extradition to India, Mr Mukherjee said the government would look into the legal avenues available for the possible extradition. “Though we cannot comment on the court judgement, we have to go to a higher judiciary where there is an appellate provision. We will appeal there,” he said.
Mr Mukherjee’s comments came after several Congress leaders had emphatically dismissed suggestions that Mr Singh had acted at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi and mounted pressure on the senior Congress leader to break his silence on the issue.
In Bangalore, Union Minister Mr Salman Khurshid said emotions should not be allowed to be mixed with law and stressed the need for enacting a special legislation to deal with disasters such as the Bhopal gas tragedy.
In Patna, BJP sought action against those who allowed the “guilty to flee.” “The life of an Indian is not cheap in comparison to any American or anybody else. The gross injustice which the victims of Union Carbide gas tragedy in Bhopal have suffered must make us all alive to this critical aspect. The BJP demands that all requisite steps must be taken for expeditious justice to the victims of Bhopal tragedy,” the party said.
In Bhopal, Left parties announced that they will launch a fortnight-long protest in the state demanding justice for the victims of the gas tragedy. The Left parties demanded retrial of the accused under stringent sections of the IPC, extradition of Anderson from the US and his prosecution.