CM’s house, Bharat Bhavan cultural centre a stone’s throw away

A forest fire on the slope below the abandoned Union Carbide Guest House was contained before it damaged the structure. A caller alerted the Bhopal Municipal Corporation Fire Brigade Control Room at 5.20 p.m. on Thursday about a fire in the dry scrub vegetation that covers the steep slope between the Guest House and the Boat Club on the Upper Lake. At least eight fire tenders were at the site when this report was filed.

Situated atop Shyamla Hills, the minimalist concrete and glass guest house is roughly 7 km by road from the Union Carbide factory where the gas tragedy occurred in 1984.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s house and the Bharat Bhavan cultural centre are a stone’s throw from the fire’s path. This was the guesthouse where Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson was kept in custody and later released on December 7, 1984.

Shyamla Hills police station sources said that fires during summer, when the vegetation is dry, are common. “The fire was sparked near the boat club, probably by some guy who came with his girlfriend to sit in the jungle and smoke. It looks like it started around 4 p.m. A smaller fire happened last year too, further up the banks of the lake. We have to bring tenders inside the guest house as fires on slopes can only be put out from heights,” said a policeman who did not wish to be named.

Hearing today

On Friday a chief judicial magistrate is scheduled to hear a petition by Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors, questioning the role of then Superintendent of Police Swaraj Puri and Collector Moti Singh in allowing Mr. Anderson to leave Bhopal.

The guest house has been under dispute after Mr. Anderson left. It has a shikargah or hunting watch tower built by the Begums who ruled Bhopal before Independence. The campus is under the supervision of the district administration. Employees of Eveready Industries India Limited, the successor of Union Carbide India Limited are also found on the premises. The employees prevented this reporter from taking pictures of the fire, even though the police did not object to it.