It was one phone call that secured the sudden release of Warren Anderson, chairman of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation after he was arrested amidst high drama in 1984 on the charge of causing death by negligence — 15,000 deaths in this case.
Who made that phone call is one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Only one man has the answer — Arjun Singh, then chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh.
Will he take the secret with him? Or will he reveal the name of the person who made that phone call in the autobiography he’s writing?
The Madhya Pradesh police arrested Anderson soon after he arrived in Bhopal on December 7, 1984, four days after the disaster.
A posse of senior police officers whisked him away from the airport to the posh Carbide guest-house where he was kept under house arrest.
“The government has done its duty to thousands of citizens whose lives have been devastated by the criminal negligence of Union Carbide,” declared the state government.
The corporate world, from the Danbury headquarters of Union Carbide to Delhi, was shocked. Anderson had travelled to India after receiving assurances of safe passage.
Arjun Singh was at an election rally in interior Madhya Pradesh at that time. He received a call and immediately asked his officials to release the American.
Three hours later, Anderson was released on a personal bond of Rs 25,000, put on a state government plane and flown to New Delhi.
In his bond, Anderson promised to return to India to stand trial in the case whenever summoned. He never did.
The CBI failed to get him extradited. The Government of India has admitted it was impossible to get him extradited.
Today, he is an absconder, the only accused in the criminal case against the UCC to escape trial.
Now 89, Anderson lives near New York. Activist groups keep tabs on him. After all, he has been the most hated figure for a quarter of a century in a town called Bhopal.