Was Netaji in Tashkent in 1966? No

Sreejith Panickar
Sreejith PanickarDec 14, 2015 | 16:39

Was Netaji in Tashkent in 1966? No

Tashkent brings memories of a war-ending declaration India inked with Pakistan on January 10, 1966. But most Indians remember Tashkent for Lal Bahadur Shastri's sudden demise on the following day. A London-based scientific lab has recently come up with a forensic study of a few photographs from the Tashkent summit and claims an unidentified man who attended that event was the missing Indian leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. How fascinating!

What gave me a shock was the New Indian Express report that said the researchers of Mission Netaji made this startling revelation. That's completely wrong. I am one of the five founder-members of Mission Netaji and we have no connection with this report. The people who the report claims to be the members or founder members of Mission Netaji are in no way connected to Mission Netaji.

News about the forensic study indicates that the resemblance between Netaji and the unidentified man supports the possibility of them being the same person. I saw the report and understood that N Millar, the analyst who conducted the tests and prepared the report, himself is not sure about certain key aspects of the analysis.

The analyst admits that the images supplied to him were not of great quality and were insufficient to assess the details of potential differences between the two men. He writes in paragraphs 78 and 79, "[Netaji's reference image] shows two small dark toned markings in the skin on the left side of SCB's [Subhas Chandra Bose's] face, geographically positioned near to/in the area of the temporal process/Zygomatic arch... I have identified these markings in other known images of SCB albeit of poor quality. There are few images of TM [Tashkent Man] that are of good quality and show the same area as the SCB image…, however, it is difficult to determine whether the markings or lack of markings, in regards to the TM imagery are as a result of compression artefacts or similar."

Millar suspects there is a difference in the hairline and the frontal bone of the two men. He writes in paragraph 80 of the "Differences" section, "The hair style of TM is noticeably different to SCB as TM has a full head of hair, albeit worn high across the forehead. The hair is a transient feature and therefore can be cut, styled and replaced or covered with a hairpiece. I noted in [a reference image] of this report that the shape of the frontal bone is slightly different. One must consider whether this is a difference in the shape of the head; or that the hairline and its appearance in the imagery combined with the capture angle create a different shape."

Millar does not rule out the possibility of the Tashkent man being a Netaji lookalike. He writes in paragraph 81, "One of the most obvious points is whether TM could be a person who shares very similar facial features to SCB when he was last photographed in the mid 1940s, a potential lookalike." He further writes in the same section that he is "unable to comment on any differences in the race or origin" of the Tashkent man for want of good quality material to assess his skin tone.

Millar says he tried to identify unique features from multiple images to rule out the involvement of circumstances spoiling the photographic material, such as digital compression of images or the presence of debris on the imagery during digital scanning. Despite that effort, he couldn't find evidences for facial markings or skin tone, which are significant features in identifying a person.

The most interesting parts are to follow.

Even while giving a favourable opinion to the possibility of the Tashkent man being Netaji, Millar still wants other experts to study and comment on certain important facial features of the Tashkent man. He writes in paragraph 87, "I would recommend consulting with a consultant who specialises in ear and nose biometrics who might be in a position to further expand and comment in regards to the ears and nose and any potential changes in those features, as a result of ageing over a 20 year period."

Millar further stresses in the following paragraph, "It is also widely considered that no two ears are the same, even when on the same person. I would opine that these areas should be explored further."

In the subsequent paragraph, Millar says not just the nose and ears, but the hair growth and pattern should also be studied further by another expert. He writes, "I would also recommend consulting with a consultant who specialises in both hair growth and associated patterning to expand further into the one significant transient difference found between SCB and TM."

Wait! Not just the nose, ears, and hair pattern, Miller also wants the eyes of the two men investigated by another expert. He writes, "Finally, the observations made in regard to the size and visual difference in the eyes of SCB and TM should be investigated further by an appropriate expert such as optometrist or similar."

Reiterating these points, the analyst observes, "As these areas are not within my expertise or current knowledge, I would be of the opinion that pursuit of this expertise may or may not add weight to the overall area of contention."

In his conclusion, Millar observes there are noticeable similarities between Netaji and the Tashkent man, and the imagery "lends Support leaning towards Strong Support to the contention that they are one and the same person." He writes he could give Powerful Support to the case only if further imagery of the Tashkent man are available and the observations could be settled.

For easier understanding, if we map the observations to a 5-point scale system - amid the differences and need for further studies - Millar gives a score of 3.5 to the possibility of the Tashkent man being Netaji - that is a 70 per cent possibility. At the same time, the analyst ends the report by saying, "However, should additional imagery or information be supplied of the Tashkent Man or Subhas Chandra Bose be provided, the results of my analysis might change."

It is clear that such a report where the analyst himself has pointed out that various other possibilities including the Tashkent man being a Netaji lookalike, and the need for further analysis on the skin tone, frontal bone, hair pattern, nose, ears, and eyes, can we really say the report is conclusive? Sound judgement is "No, it indicates only a possibility". Millar has also said only that much.

Tomorrow, in light of fresh evidence, it might turn out that the man was Netaji himself or someone else, with 100 per cent accuracy. The current revelations only stress one point - declassification of secret files from the Indian archives and foreign archives is a must to settle the Netaji mystery. Rumours will only help spin incredible conspiracy theories. We have had enough in the last seven decades.

Last updated: December 14, 2015 | 16:39
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