Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945, a Union Cabinet note 50 years later said amidst the raging controversy over the Indian National Army chief’s mysterious disappearance.
However, a full five days after the air crash, a top official of the British Raj had weighed the pros and cons of “trying” Netaji as a “war criminal” and suggested that the “easiest way” would be to leave him where he was and not seek his release, suggesting that he may be alive then.
This emerged from documents that form part of 100 secret files, comprising 16,600 pages which were made public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Netaji’s 119th birth anniversary on Saturday.
Reacting to the development, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded that Bose be given the title of “Leader of the Nation”, and said the country has the right to know the truth about his mysterious disappearance.
“The country has the right to know about the fate of Netaji. Seventy-five years ago, Netaji left the country, but we still don’t know the fact about his disappearance. People have the right to know the truth,” Banerjee said at a function in Darjeeling.
In Delhi, Congress made a strong pitch for declassifying all files related to Bose, but said the way prime minister has set about the task, raises doubts about his intentions.
“Congress has already said that it would like to see all files to be declassified because attempts are being made to raise a controversy and misguide people of the country through a mischievous political campaign”, party’s senior spokesman Anand Sharma said.
Among the declassified documents was a Union Cabinet note of February 6, 1995, signed by then Home Secretary K Padmanabaiah, which said, “There seems to be no scope for doubt that he died in the air crash of 18th August 1945 at Taihoku. Government of India has already accepted this position. There is no evidence whatsoever to the contrary.”
The note further said, “If a few individuals/organisations have a different view, they seem to be more guided by sentimentality rather than by any rational consideration.”
“The belief of these people that Netaji was alive and out of contact with any individual, but would appear when found necessary, has also lost relevance by now.”
The cabinet note was prepared for the government to take a stand on bringing the “mortal remains” of Netaji from Japan to India, kept in the BoseAcademy in Tokyo.
In the documents written five days after the air crash at Taihoku aerodrome in Taipei, Sir R F Mudie, Home Member of the Clement Attlee government’s India Office, wrote to Sir Evan Jenkins, Home Secretary and the last Governor of Punjab, weighing pros and cons of how to treat Bose as a “war criminal” and its likely impact in India.
“In many ways the easiest course would be to leave him where he is and not ask for his release. He might, of course, in certain circumstances be welcomed by the Russians.
“This course would raise fewest immediate political difficulties, but the security authorities consider that in certain circumstances his presence in Russia would be so dangerous as to rule it out altogether,” Mudie said in a letter and note dated August 23, 1945.
Among the documents released was also a series of letters exchanged between the government and various official agencies, after late MP Samar Guha claimed that Bose had made a speech on Radio Moscow following the signing of the Tashkent
Pact between Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistan President Muhammad Ayub Khan in the presence of Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin on January 10, 1966.
Guha and several MPs had also raised the matter in Parliament, quoting Indian and Western press reports.
These documents have been put up by the National Archives on a separate website for digital display. The archives also plan to release digital copies of 25 declassified files on Bose in the public domain every month.
The papers declassified today contain 36 files of Prime Minister’s office, 18 files of ministry of home affairs and 46 files from ministry of external affairs covering the period 1956 to 2013.
The documents related to the death or disappearance of Netaji, reports of the three Commissions of Inquiry into it, those relating to the Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj, the INA treasure, letters by MPs and family members and papers relating to various court cases, many of them demanding clarity on the freedom fighter’s last days.
In his letter, Mudie said various options -- ranging from Bose’s trial for waging war in India, or in Burma (now Myanmar) or Malaya (Malaysia) or intern him in “some other British possession e.g. SeychellesIslands” were considered.
However, he analysed the extreme impact it would have on the Indians in India and abroad and warned of a volatile situation in case of his trial and finally suggested that keeping Bose “out of sight would be to some extent out of mind and agitation for his release might be less”.
The letter was in response to Jenkins’ communication to Mudie, saying His Excellency the King would want him to analyse and advise on how to deal with Bose, the men of the Indian National Army and his civilian supporters across the length and breadth of the country.
Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi garlands the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose before the release of digital copies of 100 declassified files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the National Archives of India. Photograph: Subhav Shukla/PTI