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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Arjun’s book gives new twist to tale of Warren escape

Singh was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh at the time of the tragedy

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi | Published: July 3, 2012 2:35:49 am

Former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson was released from custody following the Bhopal gas tragedy after “union home secretary R D Pradhan,upon the instructions of the then union home minister P V Narasimha Rao”,telephoned the chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh,Arjun Singh has claimed in his posthumous autobiography.

Singh was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh at the time of the tragedy. Anderson was arrested and released on December 7,1984,four days after the leak of deadly methyl isocyanate at Union Carbide’s Bhopal plant.

Reached for a reaction on Monday,Pradhan denied having called the Madhya Pradesh chief secretary that day,and said he wasn’t even the union home secretary at that time.

“How could I (make the call)? I was chief secretary,Maharashtra,then. I took over as union home secretary on January 15,1985. There must be some mistake or misunderstanding,” Pradhan told The Indian Express.

Pradhan,author of Working with Rajiv Gandhi,later became governor of Arunachal Pradesh. After Sonia Gandhi became Congress president in 1998,he was in charge of her office,and was subsequently made an AICC secretary. He was nominated for election to Rajya Sabha,but lost. Subsequently,Pradhan headed the 26/11 probe panel.

Arjun Singh had told Rajya Sabha in August 2010 that on that day in 1984,his chief secretary had informed him that there were persistent calls from home ministry officials to secure Anderson’s release.

In the posthumous autobiography — A Grain of Sand in the Hourglass of Time,written with Ashok Chopra and to be published by Hay House India — Singh has given a chronology of the events leading to Anderson’s arrest and release on bail,and has identified Pradhan as the official who called the then Madhya Pradesh chief secretary.

Singh has said that on December 7,1984,after Anderson was arrested and put in a guesthouse,he had left Bhopal to join Rajiv Gandhi on the election campaign.

“As soon as I met him (Rajiv),I informed him about all the developments that had taken place in the morning,including the arrest of Anderson. I emphasized the point that I had to order the arrest of Anderson to retain the confidence that the people had reposed in me. Rajiv heard me out quietly but made no comment. A little later,while we were touring,I received a wireless message from Brahma Swaroop informing me that a top official from the union Ministry of Home Affairs had rung him up repeatedly from New Delhi advising us to make sure that bail was granted to Anderson. After that,we were instructed to send him to New Delhi in ‘a state plane’,” says the book.

“I would like to make it clear that at no point of time did Rajiv talk to me about this matter or intercede on Anderson’s behalf. I came to know later that the union home secretary,R D Pradhan,upon the instructions of the union home minister,P V Narasimha Rao,had telephoned Brahma Swaroop to ensure Anderson’s release.”

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