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12-year-old Indian-American attempts to summon Anderson

world Updated: Jun 15, 2010 09:29 IST

PTI
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A 12-year-old Indian American activist tried to issue summons for Warren Anderson, former chief of Union Carbide over the deadliest 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal.

"Today we are here to appeal to Warren Anderson and summon him to the Indian court where he has been charged with culpable homicide, which is the equivalent of manslaughter in America," Akash Viswanath Mehta said, standing outside a skyscraper on Park Avenue, which houses the law firm that represents Union Carbide.

Mehta along with his older brother, Gautama, 15, were asked to leave the premises by the building owners who said it was private property owned by HJ Kalikow. The media was also not allowed to film on the property.

Akash who had the 1992 summons along with a criminal chargesheet in an envelope requested that the package be delivered to the legal offices of Kelly, Drye and Warren. The owners of the building responded that there was no one in the office and the activists should make an appointment or send the summons by post.

"Do you know they represent the CEO of a corporation that is absconding from justice in Bhopal India?" said Adrianne Raff Corwin, an activist from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB).

"He is being charged with culpable homicide...they are protecting a man who is basically responsible for murdering thousands of people in India and he should be extradited from America," she added.

"It is not necessary for me to be able to understand you," responded the building representatives who refused to identify himself.

The protest was organised by ICJB and Kids for a Better Future based in New York. The two groups noted that their objective was to remind that Anderson was still absconding and needed to respond to the outstanding charges.

When the summon bearers were told to leave, Akash read out a statement to a handful of building owners and cops. By the end of the demonstration the number of police officers had increased from one to six.

"Twenty-five years ago Warren Anderson escaped arrest and his day in court. I would like today to appear to Warren Anderson's conscience, his guilt and his grief and ask him to stand beside me," Akash said.

"If he is truly haunted by the disaster that happened on his watch, which destroyed an entire community I ask him to come forward and make a moral statement about what the right thing is for DOW and Union Carbide to do", Akash added.

"According to American law the polluter must pay and so DOW the owner of Union Carbide must pay to clean up its mess" he said.

On the same day, another demonstration was organised outside the Indian embassy in Washington. "Because the Indian Prime Minister has not taken adequate action to ensure that these parties show up in court, activists are taking it into their own hands to provide summons," the activists said.

In India, seven managers of the subsidiary company Union Carbide Indian Limited (UCIL) were sentenced to two years in prison, but released on bail of Rs 25,000. Its parent company Union Carbide maintained that it was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Bhopal court since none of its officials were involved in operation of the plant.

"Union Carbide and its officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of Indian court since they did not have any involvement in the operation of the plant," the company said in a statement.

Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide in 1999, asserts that there is no outstanding liability since a 470-million-dollar out-of-court settlement was reached with the Indian Government in 1989.

The US has made it clear that it will not extradite him to stand trial in India.

"I don't expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary, we hope that this is going to help to bring closure," said Robert Blake US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, last week after the sentencing.

The activists also called for the Obama administration to reverse its position that extraditing Anderson would have a chilling impact of investment in India.

"If they're refusing to extradite an American CEO to India, then British Petroleum (BP) and the government of the UK can refuse to cooperate when that case comes up for trial," Robert Mooney, a ICJB supporter and anthropology professor at New York University.

Mooney was referring to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been coined as one of the worst environmental disasters. "I'm sure the American public won't stand for that, why should Bhopali survivors get any less," he said.

"That is one of the biggest tragedies, even though its the worst industrial disaster in human history because its in the poorer country it is virtually unknown," said Akash. "No-one really knows about it. It appears in the news for a week or so when it happened and then people just forgot about it."

"I have been teaching at New York University since 2002 and each year there is dwindling awareness among my new students because they've never heard of it because they were born after it happened" said Mooney. "But the disaster is still ongoing so they should know about it."

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