External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj came full guns blazing in Parliament on Wednesday and tore into the Congress party, which had been demanding her resignation over the so-called ‘Lalitgate’ issue.
Responding to the allegation of quid pro quo in the issue of she helping former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi procure some travel documents in the UK, Swaraj reminded the Congress of one Adil Shaharyar.
Rewinding the rancid history of the Bhopal gas tragedy, quoting liberally from Congress leader Arjun Singh’s autobiography, Swaraj alleged former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had allowed Warren Anderson, the then Union Carbide chairman and an accused in the gas leak case, to flee India after the latter was arrested. This, she said, was done under a deal to secure Presidential pardon for Adil Shaharyar, Rajiv Gandhi’s childhood friend, who was serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US.
Son of Muhammad Yunus, an Indian civil servant and former ambassador to Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq and Spain, Shaharyar had been charged with felony. Yunus was a close associate of the Gandhi family, and a mentor of Rajiv Gandhi and his brother Sanjay.
Shaharyar had been arrested in Miami on August 30, 1981, after attempting to set his room at the Sheraton Beach Hotel on fire. Following a probe, he had been remanded to custody under an unusually high bond of Rs 90 lakh, according to an India Today report. He was tried on five counts — attempting to firebomb a ship; false statements on various certificates in connection with the shipment; mail fraud; making of a firearm; and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
On April 6, 1982, The Miami News reported that Adil Shaharyar would stand trial for his part in an alleged $243,000 fraud scheme.
However, on August 17, 1985, The New York Times reported that the then US President Ronald Reagan had commuted Shaharyar’s sentence, on the day Rajiv Gandhi was arriving in Washington for a visit.
According to Swaraj, the Rajiv Gandhi government allowed Anderson to flee under a ‘quid pro quo’ arrangement with the US, in return for presidential pardon for Shaharyar.
However, at the time of Shaharyar’s release, Rajiv Gandhi had told India Abroad that he had not asked for his friend’s sentence to be commuted, but added: “We do believe that he has been wrongly imprisoned.”