‘MI6, in fact, was looking for Bose till as recently as 1964'
'Netaji was forced to resign in 1939, due to pressure from Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru’
Ardhendu Bose, nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, emphasizes why the Centre should declassify files on the legendary freedom fighter
The West Bengal government on Friday declassified 64 files containing information on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The files, which have been made public, not only raise questions about his death in an air crash in 1945, but also reveal the extent of snooping that was ordered on his family after his reported death.
Ardhendu Bose, Netaji’s nephew talks to Dhruv Munjal about the need for the Centre to declassify more such files, why Netaji was forced out of the Congress and whether enough is being done to preserve his legacy
What has been the Bose family's reaction to the West Bengal government declassifying files related to Netaji? Does it reveal any new detail that the family wasn't aware of?
I personally welcome West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to declassify information related to Netaji. It is fair to say that this was long overdue. Everybody is aware that Netaji was very much in India till 1941, before he escaped house arrest and embarked on his travels to Afghanistan, Russia, Germany and Italy. But more importantly, these files contain letters from British and American intelligence that claim that Netaji was definitely alive till 1948-49 and there was no plane crash in 1945 -- something that my family has maintained all these years.
These files will also shed some light on his activities as a Congress leader. Netaji was the party president till 1938 and won a thumping victory in the re-election the following year -- despite Mahatma Gandhi dissuading him to contest as he wanted his nominee, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, to win. Netaji was forced to resign in 1939, due to pressure from Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. In fact, after Netaji won the 1937 presidential election, Gandhi proclaimed that "Subhas's win is my defeat". All this will come out from these files.
In the past, you have often accused Nehru of ordering the government to snoop on the Bose family? Do these files contain new details pertaining to that?
Our family was snooped on right till Nehru's death in 1964. If Netaji had indeed died in 1945 -- which Nehru had maintained throughout -- then what was the need to keep a watch on the family? This is further evidence that the plane crash theory was completely false. These files contain all these details. Moreover, we will also get to know about the snooping that Nehru ordered on the soldiers of the Indian National Army. The soldiers of INA were spread across the country and they were being watched all the time.
Do you think the West Bengal government's move will force the government at the Centre to take a similar route and declassify more files related to Netaji?
This will hopefully set a precedent for the central government, and make the prime minister declassify the files that are lying in New Delhi. The current government has shown a keenness to declassify files related to Netaji in the past and I'm sure it will honour that commitment.
But more important are the files that are lying with the erstwhile KGB in Russia and MI6 in England. All countries apart from Russia and England have declassified World War II files. The MI6, in fact, was looking for Bose till as recently as 1964. I wrote to John Major, when he was prime minister of the United Kingdom in the 1990s, requesting him to allow me access to some of their archives. I did get the chance to go through some of these files -- none of the important ones, of course -- but some of them contain some key information. I wish the government would make an effort to declassify these files.
Over the years, why do you think that governments at the Centre have been reluctant to declassify files related to Netaji?
I can think of only one simple reason: they have something to hide. Since Independence, we have mainly had a Congress government in power at the Centre. And, there's definitely something that the party wants to hide. They probably did not want to declassify something that would hurt Nehru's legacy. Hopefully, the current government will be able to do what past governments miserably failed at.
Earlier this week, former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju came out and labelled Bose as a "Japanese agent." He even described Rabindranath Tagore as a "British stooge".
He's probably being influenced by somebody to say all this. We all know that this is not true. Bose always had only India in his heart. How can he call Tagore, a Nobel laureate, "a British stooge"? All these comments are ludicrous and shouldn't be taken seriously.