How a Congress supporter's site is spreading lies about Netaji's death

Ashis Ray has been cherry picking data to conform with his views that Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air crash in Taipei in 1945.

 |  6-minute read |   10-01-2016
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It’s a classic case of packaging old wine in a new bottle. Except that the wine went sour long ago, and the 3D labelling on the bottle shows the Congress party marking if you hold up the bottle against light.

Banking heavily on the obsolete 1956 report of Shah Nawaz Khan, then an MP on Congress ticket and would be minister in Nehru and Indira governments, a UK-based site has dished out some details about the “death” of Subhas Chandra Bose in Taipei in August 1947.

The man behind the site is Ashis Ray, a grandnephew of Subhas Bose whose connection with the Congress party is apparent from his tweets. It is important to underscore the Congress connection as like most Netaji supporters, majority of his family members detest the grand old party for all that it did to Bose and his legacy. Ashis Ray is one of the exceptions.

Ray, a former journalist, has been cherry picking data from the reams of records available to conform with his views that Netaji died in an air crash in Taipei in 1945.

Unlike several members of his family, including his own mother and sister, Ray played no role in the movement seeking declassification of the Bose files. He also did not present his case before the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (1999-2005) set up on Calcutta High Court’s order to find out the truth about Bose’s reported death.

And now all of a sudden he is going the whole hog with his selective interpretations, which he is trying to pass off as truth.But much of what Ray’s site says is trite, hackneyed and even misleading.

In his latest installment, Ashis has quoted from the testimonies of survivors of the alleged air crash that reportedly killed Bose. The list includes Habibur Rahman, Netaji’s ADC and sole Indian witness to the “air crash”, and Japanese officers Lt Col Shiro Nonogaki, Major Taro Kono, Captain Nakamura.

Taken on the face value, the dozen or so witnesses to Subhas Chandra Bose's death said all that could be said. What was left to be done then? A proper investigation. One couldn't have cursorily gone only by one side of the story. The matter concerned a man who could have changed the destiny of a huge chunk of humanity. The evidence had to be scrutinised, the bottom of the barrel had to be scraped to erase the last vestige of doubts.

Did Shah Nawaz do that? Not exactly. Ray quotes Shah Nawaz’s report to contend that “in essence they [eyewitnesses] were unanimous on the fact of the crash; and on Bose suffering severe burns and injuries as a consequence”.

Ray further quotes from the Shah Nawaz’s report (available in public libraries since 1957) to cite three instances of independent confirmation coming from the findings of an intelligence team comprising of Messrs Finney and Davies, HK Roy and KP De" which looked into that matter and according to Ray, "returned with the story of the crash".Second, the matter was looked into by Lt Col J G Figgess of Military Intelligence and he "ratified the story of the crash" in May 1946.

Three, in August 1946, Harin Shah of Free Press Journal visited Taipei, delved into the matter and came up with the same conclusion. Let’s deal with these points first.

Finney and others, who formed a team called Combined Section, did not conclude that Netaji had died in the reported crash. They actually suspected that Bose had made his way to Russia.

finney_011016093738.jpg [National Archives, New Delhi]

Two, Colonel JG Figgess was a wholly unreliable character in the context of the mystery surrounding Bose’s reported death. He merely reproduced the statements of a few Japanese witnesses in his report. He had everything to gain by confirming the theory that Bose died in an air crash and burnt along with him was the INA treasure. Secret official records created during Nehruvian era, as reported by India Today last year, reveal that Figgess and some other supporters of the air crash theory looted the INA treasure.

Three, Harin Shah, editor of the official journal of an organisation affiliated to the Congress party, cooked fictitious details to make his account appear convincing, which in any case did not prove Bose’s death. He did not publish his findings till 1956, when the Shah Nawaz’s inquiry was set up under public pressure.

One of the members of the Shah Nawaz Committee was Subhas’s elder brother Suresh, who came out with his separate report stating that his brother had escaped to Russia with the Japanese help. Suresh Bose also threw some light on Shah Nawaz’s modus operandi in the following words:

“Whenever any witness made a statement that did not fit in with his opinion, he [Shah Nawaz] would make a suggestion to him as to whether he remembered it definitely, as the incident had taken place about eleven years ago or would put other questions or suggestions to him to confuse him and to make him modify his answer or change his definite statement to a vague one.”

All the same, the eyewitness accounts were disbelieved. The following, for example, is the crux of the interrogation of Habibur Rahman. B1269 is the code assigned to Rahman at the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre. This report dated March 1946 has been signed by CSDIC India boss Lt Col GD Anderson.

hrreexamination2_011016093838.jpg [National Archives, New Delhi]

Also, it is clear according to the testimonies of many Japanese eyewitnesses before Khosla Commission in 1971 that their version was disbelieved by the British. Several years after the crash report, the Japanese were re-examined by the allied authorities. Nonogaki said that his statement, and that of Kono, was recorded at the British embassy at around 1950.

Finally, completely missing from Ray’s tall tale is the government of India’s own assessment of the oral evidence concerning Netaji’s reported death.

In 1997, a PIL was filed in the Calcutta High Court seeking inquiry into Bose's fate. The government was asked to make its stand clear. It was.

In their history-bending order which was to lead to the formation of the Mukherjee Commission, Chief Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra and Justice B Bhattacharya observed that:

"The Government of India… is maintaining even now that a further probe is required and the information that Netaji died in the plane crash on August 18, 1945 is full of loopholes, contradictions and therefore inconclusive."

As late as 2005, the government of India, then led by Congress party, held on to this stand. One of the reasons the Mukherjee Commission reached the conclusions it did was the following assertion made by the government counsel before the commission:

jmci-page-53_011016094314.jpg [Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry report, page 53] 

But after the Mukherjee Commission report was submitted in 2005 with the conclusion that rather than dying in Taipei, Bose appeared to have escaped toward the USSR, the government did a 180. In a somersault that can only be inspired by political considerations, the then Congress-led government said that it was reverting to the findings of previous inquiries carried out by Shah Nawaz and GD Khosla, who had clear links with the first family of India.

Ashis Ray effectively supports the arbitrary and undemocratic rejection of the report of Justice Manoj Mukherjee, an upright former Supreme Court judge, by the previous Congress government. There are no points for guessing why.


Anuj Dhar Anuj Dhar @anujdhar

Anuj Dhar has researched the issue of Subhas Chandra Bose's mysterious disappearance for over a decade. His 2012 bestselling book India's Biggest Cover-up triggered the demand for declassification of the Bose files.

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