Why was UPA government hell-bent to 'kill' Netaji?
[Part I] It rejected the Mukherjee Commission report which said Subhas Chandra Bose didn't die in the alleged plane crash in 1945.
- Total Shares
[The recently declassified files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose clearly demonstrate that the UPA government failed to falsify the Justice Mukherjee Commission's key finding that Netaji did not die in the alleged plane crash in 1945, but nevertheless proceeded to reject its report on purely political grounds as accepting the findings would create problems it didn't want to face. The first part of the article traces the developments as they appeared in the public domain. The second and third parts will analyse the files to show what went on behind the scenes.]
Concluding the investigation into the fate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (JMCI) held that the story of his death in a plane crash on August 18, 1945 was not true, and therefore the ashes preserved in Japan's Renkoji temple are not his.
Yet, at the end of six long years of investigation, the commission could not put forward any concrete information on Netaji's whereabouts post-1945. On the basis of the average Indian lifespan, it presumed that Netaji could not be alive anymore in 2005 as he would be more than 100 years old.
These findings overturned the conclusions of two earlier inquiries - that of the Shah Nawaz Committee (1956), and the GD Khosla Commission (1970-74).
In one way, the Mukherjee Commission's findings proved right those who had found the two earlier inquiries to be contradictory and full of loopholes and were not convinced by their approach and findings. Among those who held such views were not only many former freedom fighters and followers of Netaji, but also the Calcutta High Court, and, believe it or not, the Indian government.
On August 28, 1978, the then prime minister Morarji Desai, who was neither a fan nor a follower of Netaji, told Lok Sabha that his government discarded the findings of the two earlier inquiries. This was reiterated by the minister of state for home the next year. As late as in 1998, the counsel of the government of India accepted before the Calcutta High Court that those two inquiries were full of contradictions and loopholes and therefore a new investigation was needed.
Now that the fresh inquiry had yielded completely different conclusions, the general expectation was that the government would act upon them with due sincerity. The public expectation was belied, however, when then home minister Shivraj Patil informed Parliament while tabling the Mukherjee Commission report on May 17, 2006, that the Manmohan Singh government had rejected the findings of the commission.
For those who wanted to know the reason, there was no answer, as the Congress government communicated its decision in one sentence without explaining the grounds for it.
The reasons for rejecting the report were outlined by the home minister nearly three months later, when he stood up on the floor of the Lok Sabha on August 7 to respond to the vigorous criticism by opposition parties, which united on this issue.
In a rambling speech, Patil went on to justify the rejection of JMCI report through a mix of pop psychology, history, politics and sweeping assumptions. The crux of his speech was that the earlier inquiries were conclusive and were closer in time to the event and hence more reliable, and that Morarji Desai's statement was politically motivated against the Congress, without having any material basis.
In other words, he not only rubbished the work of the commission which had demolished each piece of "evidence" which had been produced so far to prove Netaji's death in the plane crash, he took a stand which was diametrically opposite to the views expressed by high court judges and the government of India even a few years ago, and accused a former prime minister of lying to Parliament.
He conveniently ignored that the Congress government itself had questioned the evidence presented by the two earlier inquiries. As the commission observed in its report:
"Shri Tarakeswar Pal, the learned senior counsel appearing for the government of India, fairly submitted that there were glaring discrepancies in the evidence adduced regarding the accident as also the date and time of death, news of death, death certificate and cremation of Netaji." [JMCI Report, Vol 1, p 53]
The most important factor that appeared to have bothered him was that although the Mukherjee Commission found the story of Netaji's death in a plane crash in 1945 to be false, it could not throw any light on what might have happened to him. "The government has preferred the findings of the two previous enquiries and, not the third finding, because it is inconclusive and not definite," Patil told the Lok Sabha.
A normal course of follow-up action would have been to consult Parliament and the people at large on how to move forward after such a groundbreaking finding by a commission of inquiry.
Instead the government chose to bury the work of the commission. That was evidently more convenient than to open up a pandora's box. Clearly there were avenues which the government had not seriously explored and were required to be done if a conclusive finding was to be reached regarding Netaji's fate.
Persuading the governments of foreign countries which were likely to hold information on Netaji and helping the commission move forward with the DNA analysis of the ashes at the Renkoji temple were some of those avenues. But what mattered at that time to the government was to get rid of what had become an albatross around its neck.
The files declassified on January 23 this year throw more light on how the government had no substantive objection to the JMCI's findings, but based its decision on shallow grounds, driven by political and administrative expediency.
It was simply not ready to make the additional effort required to reach a closure on this case which has perplexed generations of Indians for over seven decades. The UPA government simply refused to consider the matter with an open mind. In line with its long-held belief, the Congress-led government found it easier to put a cover on the findings of the commission, which it found problematic.