Editorial. John Dayal. June 15, 2010
EDITORIAL. John Dayal. VI. XV. X
Crime & Punishment
by Dr. John Dayal
The great thing about Mossad, possibly the only positive thing one can say about the noxious Israeli covert agency, is that it always gets its man. He may be the doddering 95-year-old masquerading as a retired farmer in an Argentine farm, or someone living an anonymous life in a small town in middle Russia, if various Israeli Human Rights and Holocaust memory agencies point to a possible suspect – a minor guards at an SS camp, or the adjutant’s secretary, and once in a while, a camp commander himself, that man can be presumed to have been arrested, abducted or executed.
Unending of memories,
merciless pursuit, fanatical sense of retribution.
Anderson, once an appointed honcho of Union
Carbide – remember their battery cells with
the cat o’ nine lives? – is lucky that
there is no one in India, not in the Central
Bureau of Investigations (CBI), not in its legal
system, and certainly not in its governance,
politician or bureaucrat, who has that single
mindedness of purpose, or sense of crime and
punishment. The government of India has spent, it
says, about Rs 2,80,000, in trying to find out
the whereabouts of Anderson these last 26 years,
when the merry old white haired was living in
a posh New York apartment all along,
evading the Indian laws with impunity, his
country’s government backing up his efforts
to evade the law of an inferior and poorer
country. Anderson, of course, does not figure in
the list of the guilty who have been given a
two-year punishment each in the death by
industrial poisoning of over 20,000 men, women and
children of the city of Bhopal early in December
It had been a traumatic year, that one, with the Army clearing out terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale after a sacrilegious Army invasion of the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indira Gandhi, a near coup by political upstarts who wanted to become interim prime ministers, the eventual swearing-in of Rajiv Gandhi, as India’s youngest Prime Minister. No one can say, there were many with a cool head in the government of the day, or the India of that time, given the swiftness of the sequence of national tragedies.
It was quite an arrogant Anderson, I and my fellow Indian journalists had encountered in Bhopal in December 1984, after the escape of the poison MIC gas from the Union Carbide factory. He had come as quite the burra sahib, come to survey the scene as much as the horde of American journalists carrying their gas masks and filtered water bottles in their hands, as they stepped down the aircraft’s ladders, followed in turn by American lawyers, then called legal vultures or ambulance chasers, who were wondering if there as a financial killing to be made in pursuing the law of Torts and class interest litigation in US courts. There was a financial killing to be made for sure, and it is my hunch that eventually bureaucrats and politic viands and even judges had their fill long before several Supreme Court justices – one rose to be in the World Court at The Hague – had diluted case and compensation, and junior courts killed time before finally delivering the joke of a judgment.
Anderson then had been coddled, and even after an angry public opinion and a thousand questions from Indian journalists had forced his token arrest, he felt quite safe and cocky in the Carbide guest house, where he had been ensconced. Reporters nearly smashed the gates and the doors before they could confront the man for a few questions. We were not surprised, when he was finally escorted in an Ambassador car to the airfield, put on board a State plane and whisked away – to New Delhi onwards to America on board a commercial flight. Could it have been done at the behest of a senior clerk, or did it involve men in high positions? P C Alexander, the ingrate former principal secretary of Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, who rose to be governor of several states and then member of the Rajya Sabha – he even dreamt of the Presidency – hints at the Prime minister of the day, but that may be just a petty mind playing out its frustrations. But for sure, the buck would stop somewhere in the Cabinets of the state and the Centre, as much as later, it would stop in the cabinets of Prime Minster Atal Behari Vajpayee and the BJP chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh who had so many chances in their years in office, but never bothered to lift a finger in the cause of justice to those who died like flies.
They did, indeed, die like flies. Birds falling dead off their perches in the trees, and cows and buffalos swollen overnight as they died tied to their safe staves. The 20,000 souls did not even know they were about to die. The one thing noticeable was the peace on their faces. They had died in their sleep. The super poison gas had acted in the fraction of a second as the death cloud rolled on its trajectory.
Those of us who saw it – one girl reporter fell ill with the residual gas in the morgue, from where Rajiv Gandhi was whisked away by the doctors because the atmosphere was so acrid – wonder if justice ever will be done. But it will help if symbolically, some people in high places, President Barack Obama for instance, speak a word of comfort, say that an Indian dead has the same rights as an American dead in an industrial disaster. And some others, even the geriatric Anderson and his Indian equivalent in the corporate world, spend a day in jail.