Nehru winked as Subhas Bose's war chest was looted
The missing treasure was said to be worth $700,000. Netaji had created it to sustain the freedom struggle.
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Documents declassified on January 23 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have confirmed previous claims that the Indian National Army (INA) treasure was looted. Worse than that, the perpetrators were allowed to go scot-free in free India. The INA treasure "scam" was first detailed by this writer in his 2012 book India's biggest cover-up. It then made a big story in India Today last year.
At that time some people had questioned the genuineness of the documents that laid bare the details about the loot of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's war chest.
Ministry of external affairs file No 25/4/NGO - Volume 1, which used to be top secret is now available at the National Archives, and it establishes that the government had zeroed in on the names of the perpetrators, two of which were former Netaji aides.
Munga Ramamurti, the head of Indian Independence League (IIL) in Tokyo, and Bose's propaganda minister SA Ayer were accused in the file of having made away with the war chest Bose had created with public help to sustain the freedom struggle. Assisting the duo was Colonel JG Figgess, the military attaché at the British embassy.
Ramamurti, Ayer and Figgess are often cited in proving the reported death of Bose in Taiwan following an air crash. It now turns out that all of them had a reason to support the theory, which also held that the INA treasure was burnt along with Netaji.
Ramamurti and Ayer had reportedly deposited an urn containing the "ashes of Netaji" in Tokyo's Renkoji temple. Later, Ramamurti coughed up some burnt jewellery to the Indian mission in Tokyo following a secret trip by Ayer backed by the government in 1951. By this time New Delhi was fully aware of the reports that Ramamurti and Ayer had a hand in the loot.
These charges were subsequently confirmed by the Tokyo Mission chief.
KK Chettur wrote on October 20, 1951 that the Japanese government confidentially informed the mission that Bose had with him "substantial quantity of gold ornaments and precious stones, but that he was allowed to carry only two suitcases on the ill-fated flight".The National Archives, New Delhi.
According to a clipping of the Nippon Times kept in the file, the missing treasure was said to be worth $700,000. The report referred to deep suspicions in the Indian community in Japan with regard to Ayer and Ramamurti, who seemed to have become rich overnight.
"In the years since the war, Mr Murti has become a successful and prosperous Tokyo businessman. His trading company is a store which sells fancy, expensive watches, filmy lingerie and other American-made luxuries. Mr Murti owns three automobiles - including a Cadillac and a large Chrysler, according to Indian officials here," reported 'United Press' correspondent William Chapman.The National Archives, New Delhi.
The Tokyo Mission head's damning report further stated that Bose "must have carried very much more that has now been handed over to us [by Murti and Ayer], and even if allowances are made for the loss of the part of the treasures when the plane crashed".
Saying that "Netaji's collection weighed more than himself", the report added that "there is a party here who has seen the (treasure) boxes in Ayer's rooms and who was also to buy off the contents of these few boxes. What happened to these boxes subsequently is a mystery as all that we have got from Ayer is 300gm of gold and about 260 rupees worth of cash".
The mission informed New Delhi that Ayer came to Japan in 1951 to "decide the loot" and "to solve his and Murti's conscience by handing over a small quantity to (the) government in the hope that by doing so he would also succeed in drawing a red herring across the trail".The National Archives, New Delhi.
On November 1, 1955 a further secret report on the issue was made in the ministry of external affairs for the perusal of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had been kept in the loop throughout, as evidenced by several other reports kept in the file.
Titled "INA treasure and their handling by Messrs Ayer and Ramamurti", this report was authored by RD Sathe, a would be foreign secretary. Sathe confirmed that "Mr Iyer's activities in Japan have been rather suspicious".The National Archives, New Delhi.
Sathe also added this damning detail:
"Suspicion regarding the improper disposal of the treasure is thickened by the comparative affluence in 1946 of Mr Ramamurti when all other Indian nationals in Tokyo were suffering the greatest hardships. Another fact which suggests that the treasures were improperly disposed of is a sudden blossoming out into an oriental [word unclear] expert of Col Figgess, the military attaché of the British mission in Tokyo, and the reported invitation extended by the colonel to Ramamurti to settle down in UK."
The note carried the prime minister's signature with date November 5, 1951 and the noting of the foreign secretary that "the PM has seen this note".The National Archives, New Delhi.
While Ramamurti continued to flourish in Japan for a while, Ayer was given a warm welcome by the prime minister when he met him in New Delhi on his return. His involvement in the loot of the treasure did not prevent Nehru from appointing Ayer in 1953 as an adviser for the publicity of his flagship five year plans.