Information received by Bhopal.Net suggests that the Indian government
has gone to great trouble to stifle news of its move to extradite Warren
Anderson, ex Chairman of Union Carbide, from the U.S.
Written confirmation from an official within the Indian Embassy in Washington
D.C. reveals that the extradition papers were passed to the U.S. Department
of Justice by the Embassy as long ago as 20 May. Yet until the story broke
just over a week ago in the Indian magazine The Statesman, nothing
at all was said.
to the ICJB's Sarvadarshi Gupta, "The government was desperate to
suppress the news until after the June visit to the United States of Indian
Deputy Prime Minister, K.L.Advani, who met Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Advani and Ashcroft must have talked about Anderson, but clearly they
didn't want the media getting hold of the story. It would have been embarrassing
and would have overshadowed the other issues they discussed."
was one of the subjects discussed by Ashcroft and Advani, who also met
George Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell.
The two countries last December signed a bilateral extradition treaty,
agreeing not to extradite each other's nationals to third parties. This,
although clearly intended as a snub to the International Criminal Court,
does not protect Anderson against extradition from the U.S. to India.
to the extradition request has so far been received from the Americans,
and Bhopal survivors fear that some kind of behind the scenes deal may
have been attempted.
ICJB campaigner Krishnaveni Gundu said, "We will mobilise our huge
support in the United States and campaign strongly to make sure that justice
is done and clearly seen to be done. Justice has been held up too long."
Nearly two decades after the world's worst industrial disaster, no officer
of the company responsible has ever had to appear in court to face questioning.
The current case in Bhopal, which was revived in 1991 by order of the
Indian Supreme Court, cannot proceed without its principal accused and
survivors want Anderson and Union Carbide Corporation to appear before
the court in order that the matter can finally be resolved.
Says survivor Sunil Kumar, "Anderson and Union Carbide claim they
have done no wrong. Fine. Let them come to the court. They need have no
fear, because in India just like in the U.S., a person is assumed to be
innocent until proven otherwise."
According to another survivor, S. Gangaram, "Anderson and Union Carbide
are behaving like guilty people. It looks like they themselves believe
they are guilty because they fear the court and have been running away
from it for eleven years."
In fact eighteen and a half years have passed since Warren Anderson signed
a bail bond promising to return
to India if required to do so by the police or court. He never returned.
In 1992, a non-bailable warrant was
issued for his arrest.
Media attention has refocused on Anderson's case since last August when
the Indian government sought to reduce criminal charges against Anderson
from "culpable homicide" to "a rash and negligent act".
The move provoked an international outcry. Survivors and supporters went
on a globally publicised hunger strike with 1,000 people around the world
joining the fast, demanding that the original charges should stand and
that Anderson should be extradited to face trial.
On 28 August 2002, Judge Rameshwar Kothe threw out the government's application,
rebuked it for wasting the court's time and ordered the CBI (India's FBI)
to proceed immediately with Anderson's extradition.
Months passed until February 2003 when an all-party committee of Indian
MPs savaged the government for unaccountably dragging their heels with
the extradition request.
On 20 May, the papers were finally served to the Americans.
Despite furious street demonstrations nine days later in Bhopal
demanding Anderson's extradition, and despite the Ministry of External
Affairs coming in for heavy criticism for its apparent unwillingness to
proceed, there was no comment from the government.
This was apparently infuriating to CBI officials, whose frustration at
being blamed for the delays is well known.
month passed before a frustrated official decided to leak the sensational
news and contacted reporter Aloke Tikku, whose story, citing an unnamed
source, duly appeared in The Statesman where the world's media
missed it, but the keen eyes of the ICJB did not.
Additional reporting by Sarvadarshi Gupta in Washington