Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy has come under intense scrutiny after Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused him of being ‘Corrupt No. 1’. While the Congress party was enraged over Modi’s allegation, the Prime Minister raised the stakes many times over by accusing Rajiv Gandhi of using an Indian Warship as his personal taxi.
As soon as Rajiv Gandhi was being widely criticised, Congress supporters dug up an old video of Rajiv Gandhi’s USA visit to Washington where Ronald Reagan was seen holding an umbrella for him. This was touted as an undying symbol of respect and affection between Ronald Reagan, the then US President and Rajiv Gandhi.
पहली बार वोट करने वालों को बताया जा रहा है कि 2014 के पहले भारत की विदेश में इज्जत नहीं मिलती थी, देखिए 1985 का वीडियो अमेरिका के राष्ट्रपति रोनाल्ड रेगन और भारतीय प्रधानमंत्री राजीव गांधी pic.twitter.com/KCcQWi0IBd
— Dinesh Kumar (@DineshRedBull) May 4, 2019
As discovered by Monica on Twitter, The video is from 12th June 1985. A ‘rainy day’ as evidenced by Ronald Reagan’s diary.
As it so happens, Adil Shahryar’s clemency was signed by the Reagan on the day of Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to the U.S, on 11th June. From the 12th June video that is being touted by Congress supporters, Reagan and Rajiv did appear to share an unusually good relationship given the circumstances of the time.
Monica speculated that perhaps, the secret of this “respect” between Rajiv Gandhi and Ronald Reagan lay in Bhopal. She insinuated quid-pro-quo asserting that while Reagan had pardoned Rajiv’s boyhood friend Adil, Rajiv had perhaps given him something back in return. Perhaps, ensuring that Warren Anderson, the prime accused in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy flees safely back to the United States. Warren Anderson was made to escape from India, many believe with Rajiv Gandhi’s support in 1984, days after the Bhopal tragedy.
Let me tell you the back story of this “respect”. Ronald Reagan had personally telephoned Rajiv to make sure US Citizen Warren Anderson, culprit of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy was sent back to US safely. So this respect was in return for selling the country to corporate greed ? https://t.co/WFLvrXd6K9
— Monica (@TrulyMonica) May 6, 2019
Adil Shahryar was found guilty on five counts, including felony and fraud, by a Florida District Court. He was held guilty of attempting to firebomb a ship and was charged with defrauding shipping authorities and the American Express International Banking Corporation. As appears obvious, these are extremely grave charges. But perhaps it was the “close bond” between Reagan and Rajiv that allowed his boyhood friend, Adil, to secure a Presidential pardon.
One of the episodes of 1984 that remains a blot on Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy is the manner in which Warren Anderson was allowed to escape. People have often speculated whether Rajiv Gandhi allowed Warren Anderson, widely believed to be responsible for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, to escape in a quid pro quo over the release of his close friend Adil Shahryar. As it turns out, Rajiv Gandhi was called by the then US President Ronald Reagan himself requesting for Anderson’s release.
As per a TOI report from June 2010, Reagan had personally called Rajiv to ensure Anderson’s release. The report states, “Chief minister Arjun Singh had apparently not consulted the caretaker Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi before ordering the arrest of Anderson on December 7. After the arrest, Rajiv Gandhi’s powerful aide and cousin, Arun Nehru, telephoned Arjun Singh and told him that US President Ronald Regan had called up the Indian PM and ‘requested’ him to release Anderson immediately. Now, Rajiv Gandhi was an Indian Airlines pilot, accustomed to taking only orders from air traffic control. The job of prime minister was thrust upon him because of his mother’s assassination just one month before the gas disaster. He couldn’t have resisted the top man in the White House.”
According to Pranab Dhal Samanta in the Indian Express as well, there was US pressure to release Anderson. “Although Mr Arjun Singh had given directions to the Chief Secretary, he was acting under the directions of Rajiv Gandhi who, in turn, was under pressure from the highest levels in the US government,” R.C. Jain, the Agriculture Secretary in the then MP government, told TIE.
The report states further, “Additional Secretary M S Singh Deo, who was considered close to Arjun Singh, is said to have met the CM the next day after he returned from the rally. It was he who then disclosed to his colleagues that Rajiv Gandhi had told Singh after US President Ronald Reagan had personally intervened in the matter.”
Not too long after Anderson was allowed to flee India to escape trial, Reagan issued Adil Shahryar a Presidential pardon.
According to another theory that has been floating around, Muhammad Yunus had threatened Rajiv Gandhi that if he was unable to secure Shahryar’s release, then he would reveal damning secrets about Nehru’s involvement in the Netaji mystery. “Yunus threatened Rajiv that he would unmask his grandfather in the Netaji matter if he did not seek his son’s release,” the late Pradip Bose, nephew of Netaji Bose, apparently said.
There is little reason to doubt that Anderson’s release was authorized by the Central Government headed by Rajiv Gandhi. Even declassified CIA documents attest to the same.
Thus, while Congress may continue to rave and rant against Narendra Modi, it remains a fact that Rajiv Gandhi’s conduct with regards to Warren Anderson was despicable of the highest order. The escape of Warren Anderson is still a great betrayal of the victims of the tragedy.