Indian Decade

Gandhi Name Gets Mauling

Did Rajiv Gandhi sell Indians down the river and let Union Carbide boss Warren Anderson flee?

Not for several decades has the image of India’s first family of the Nehrus and Gandhis received such a mauling as it's currently receiving. It now seems apparent that Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister, permitted Union Carbide Corporation boss Warren Anderson to flee India and escape punishment for the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Rajiv’s widow, Sonia, leads the Congress party, and its managers have been trying to shift the blame for Anderson’s escape to the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Arjun Singh. When Anderson flew into Bhopal days after the disaster, gas mask in hand, Singh had him promptly arrested. Mysteriously, soon after it seems he was granted bail and put on a state government plane to Delhi, whence he fled to the United States never to return.

Gordon Streeb, who was deputy chief of the mission at the US embassy in Delhi in 1984, has told a news agency that Anderson came to India assured of ‘safe passage’ from the Indian government. The assurance was given by then Foreign Secretary MK Rasgotra. When Singh had Anderson arrested, Delhi was in a tizzy, and his release was quickly ordered and executed.

But who asked Rasgotra to assure a ‘safe passage’ to Anderson? If the situation had been replicated in the United States, with thousands dead from a gas leak from an Indian multinational’s plant, the CEO would have been hunted down and punished. But apparently Indian blood is cheap, and the Nehru-Gandhi family, for all its avowed nationalism, won’t baulk at selling India’s interests down the river, as the Bhopal episode reveals.