For all his portrayal as a fugitive, who had escaped Bhopal stealthily hours within arriving in the gas-disaster hit city on December 7, 1984, it would seem that Warren Anderson, the former chairman of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), had not wanted to leave Bhopal immediately despite being offered a safe passage.
This is what is conveyed by the description of the events of Anderson’s arrival and exit from Bhopal in a book by erstwhile Bhopal district collector Moti Singh.
Though Singh’s book in Hindi ‘Bhopal Gas Trasadi ka Sach’ (The truth of Bhopal Gas Tragedy) was published in 2009, its content in context of Anderson’s visit to Bhopal is in renewed focus after the recent death of the former UCC chairman.
On pages 65-70 of the book, the former collector details the events that occurred in the few hours that Anderson spent in Bhopal four days after the gas disaster. Singh had escorted the ex-UCC boss from Bhopal airport (after his formal arrest) to the Union Carbide Guest House on Shyamla Hills and then back to the airport a few hours later, from where the state plane had carried Anderson back to New Delhi and consequently out of India.
Singh describes on pages 68 and 69 of the book that after the decision of the state government that he was to post a bail and leave Bhopal by state plane was conveyed to Anderson, the ex-UCC head "did not appear satisfied and kept on saying that he wanted to look at the scenario here (Bhopal) and to meet the chief minister."
Despite being told that there was huge resentment among people and it was not possible for him to visit anywhere and that it was rather unsafe for him to remain in Bhopal, Anderson "kept on evading the proposal to leave for Delhi" (Kintu Anderson Delhi jane ki baat ko baar baar taalte rahe), the book says. It goes on to say that "Anderson agreed to leave Bhopal only after a discussion of 1.5-2 hours and only then signed the bail documents."
Activists working for suriviors and victims of the gas tragedy, however, are unanimous in believing that irrespective of any description, it is highly unlikely that Anderson might have been concerned about the disaster-hit people. Activist Abdul Jabbar says, "He left the country with help of the Indian authorities and never came back to face the law despite being declared fugitive. He also did not share the details of antidote for the killer gas or any other internal detailing of the plant that could have been helpful for the victims. He should have been brought to books for his role."
Another activist Rachna Dhingra says that the only thing in black and white is the assurance by Anderson in his bail papers that "he would cooperate with Indian authorities in the legal process" but failed to do so. The Indian authorities on their part failed miserably to bring him to justice. "He never tried to help survivors in any manner. It seems, for him profit remained important than people."
Survivor Shanti Devi said that Anderson could never be forgiven for his role in the tragedy and his totally insensitive behavior later. "He would remain a villain for us forever."
Another survivor, Hajra Bi said, "He has now died but what we would remember is that he never tried to apply any balm on the deep wounds of the tragedy-hit people."