Bhopal gas tragedy fugitive Warren Anderson died a month ago
BHOPAL: Warren Anderson, the then chairman of the
Union Carbide Corporation, the MIC gas leak from its plant killed over 3,700
people in Bhopal in December 1984, died at a hospital near his home in Florida
more than a month ago.
Word of his death filtered out early Friday and was
received with regret in Bhopal by families of the victims and those fighting on
their behalf for compensation and rehabilitation.
The New York Times reported that Anderson died on
September 29 but it was not announced by his family. He was 92.
ND Jayaprakash, co-convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedith
Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS), said, “This will be a regret forever. There
never was any intention of any Indian government to get him back to India to
stand trial and prosecute him for his crime. It is tragic that while thousands
of gas victims have suffered and waited years for justice, the criminal was
allowed to lead a comfortable life and die a peaceful death. The victims will
forever feel cheated by their own government which allowed him to go
Anderson’s death went unnoticed for a month before The
New York Times accessed the information from public records. The Union Carbide
was held responsible for leakage of toxic methyl isocyanate, used in the
production of pesticides, from its Bhopal factory.
“In Indian tradition, we do not speak bad about anyone
who has died. But it will no doubt be a regret that someone whose negligence
led to deaths of thousands of people was never brought to book, thanks to a
political and administrative nexus that sabotaged criminal justice system. His
extradition to India was never pursued seriously,” said Sanjay Parikh, a lawyer
representing the victims in various cases in the Supreme Court.
The BGPSSS issued a statement in which it called on
the present government to expedite the trial of other accused.
“Successive governments at the Centre are guilty of
lowering the prestige of the Indian judicial system by trying to project the
Indian judicial system as a hapless institution incapable of trying and
prosecuting a foreign accused who is charged with committing heinous crimes
against the people of India.
If the present government at the Centre has any
intention or commitment to uphold the dignity of the people of India… it must
forthwith take necessary action to bring other representatives of the guilty
company to stand trial,” the BGPSSS stated.
Three days after the gas leak, Anderson, then in his
60s, had come to India and was arrested. But he was allowed to leave the
country in controversial circumstances. Activists working among survivors have
accused the state and Central governments of facilitating the “escape” of the
powerful executive who never returned to face the law though summons were
periodically issued and he was declared an absconder.
Burning and hanging effigies of Anderson after mock
trials became a ritual with activists and survivors who said his refusal to
face trial in a Bhopal court symbolized all that was wrong with the judiciary
and the government which failed to get him extradited.
“His death (before spending time in jail) is a black
spot. But there are many Indian Andersons who are still alive and the judiciary
should ensure that they are sent to jail. The Supreme Court should intervene in
the matter before wasting any more time,’’ Abdul Jabbar, a leading activist
told The Indian Express.
After a protracted trial, a local court in Bhopal in
2010 sentenced seven officials of Union Carbide India Limited to two-years in
jail leading to an outcry over the quantum of the punishment. They were
immediately released on bail and the accused later challenged their conviction.