India deserves to know what happened to Subhas Chandra Bose

It is impossible to sustain the belief that the Boses' surveillance was based on any threat perception emanating from them.

 |  3-minute read |   20-09-2015
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Subhash Bose, or Netaji as he was called, was a towering figure. The latter part of his life is shrouded in mystery. But what we do know was that he was outstanding, a shining example of a progressive, secular, fearless and charismatic leader. He opposed what is now called Hindutva, and when the Hindu Mahasabha started revealing its communal agenda in the mid-thirties, he allied with the Muslim League to rule the Calcutta Corporation in 1940 to keep the Hindu Mahasabha out. Bose stood for Congress party presidentship in 1938, defeating Gandhi's candidate Pattabhi Sitaramaiyya, which indicated the very large following he had. A major contribution of Bose was to set up the National Planning Committee in 1939 with Nehru as chairman. The NPC initiated the process of planned development in India.

In 1939, he chose to get support from the Axis: Germany, Italy and Japan to defeat the British empire and other Allies, to win independence for India. This was a controversial choice, but based on the maxim that the enemy's enemy is a friend. It is an understandable choice since Japan was an Asian power in direct conflict with the British, relatively closer to Indian shores. It is incontrovertible that the INA or Azad Hind Fauj fought within the rules of war in the Eastern sector, coming up to the Manipur border. There have been no accusations of war crimes against the INA, though there were many against the Japanese Army.

In 1945, Netaji apparently died in a plane crash in Taiwan. It was a great loss. But later sightings of him were claimed, as it turns out, even in intelligence files. Since he "was dead" why was the Bose family followed by intelligence operatives and the police? In the immediate post Independence period, the home minister Vallabhbhai Patel must have sanctioned these covert operations. Patel was no minor or weak bent on embarrassing the Congress. He was a major Congress leader, earlier a rival of Nehru. After all, most agreed that Netaji was dead. It is impossible to sustain the belief that this surveillance was based on any threat perception emanating from the Bose family. So what was the threat? It had to be something intimately connected with Netaji.

When the Vajpayee government came to power it set up the Mukherjee Commission to investigate Netaji's mysterious end, and if he died later and lived somewhere else. By 2001, the Commission could not prove much or more than that was already known, but questions were raised about a missing file of 1972, last known to be in the possession of the West Bengal government of Siddharth Sankar Ray. This matter was not followed up, for reasons best known to the Commission and the Union government. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has delisted 64 files, but crucial facts are missing. The files with the PMO and the National Archives need to be thrown open. The NDA has stated that this can't be done, because this would negatively impact on external relations.

There are incredible surmises about Netaji's life or death after the plane crash in 1945. But facts about Netaji 70 years ago can hardly threaten external relations. The Soviet Union is history, as are Japan, and the once divided then reunited Germany, not to speak of the sunset of the British empire. So who is going to object to 70-year old information of by now a dead Indian hero? There must be some other reason. The Indian people have a right to know.

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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