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Riot woes forced Rao govt to drop plan to bring Netaji's ashes to India: Kin

October 22, 2021 20:02 IST

The P V Narasimha Rao government in the 1990s had been on the verge of bringing to India the ashes, believed to be the mortal remains of Subhas Chandra Bose now kept at the Renkoji Temple in Japan, but was dissuaded from doing so due to an intelligence report, which warned that controversy surrounding the issue could lead to riots in Kolkata, a grandnephew of Netaji said.

IMAGE: A worker painting Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose statue in Kolkata, October 22, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

Making a fervent plea for bringing back the ashes kept in an urn in the Buddhist shrine in Tokyo since September 1945, Ashish Ray, also an author and researcher on the legendary freedom fighter, said the legal rights to the mortal remains should belong to Netaji's daughter Prof Anita Bose Pfaff, an economist living in Germany, and the Indian government should allow her to take charge of it.


Ray was speaking at a virtual seminar to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the founding of the Azad Hind government by Bose, on Thursday, organised by the Indo-Japan Samurai Centre in collaboration with the ministry of external affairs.

The author whose books include 'Laid to Rest' on the controversy over Netaji's death, said a high-powered committee that included Pranab Mukherjee, who later became India's President, was set up by then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to look into the issue of bringing back the ashes.

However, 'the Intelligence Bureau came up with a report warning of possible riots in Kolkata' over the issue, as many in the country believed in theories that Bose did not die in a plane crash on August 18, 1945 in Taipei, he said.

Among the theories floated are that Netaji survived the crash or it never happened and he was later incarcerated in a Soviet prison. Other hypotheses have it that Bose returned to India and lived as a sadhu (monk), which has even spawned a popular Bengali film.

Prof Sugata Bose, former MP and Gardiner Chair of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University and author of several scholarly works on Bose, also speaking at the seminar, said “the meaningless controversy over Netaji's death should end.”

Prof Bose, also a grandnephew of the Independence movement leader, who had established a provisional government for free India in Singapore and raised an army that fought the British to enter the northeast, however, said Netaji and his mortal remains were a national issue and not merely a family matter.

Pointing out that "Bose was the only frontline leader of the national Independence movement to have died on the battlefield,” he, too, sought a formal closure to the issue of his death.

Supporting the demand to recognise Bose's death, T V Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education and former director of Infosys, said as India would be celebrating the leader's 125th birth anniversary next year, it would be “fitting to construct a prominent memorial in the country's capital to Netaji.”

He sought a social media and lobbying campaign among the country's legislators to “install a statue of Netaji under the canopy near India Gate in Delhi.” The canopy to the east of India Gate had a statue of King George V of Britain, which was removed after Independence. Since then, it has stood empty.

Aftab Seth, former Indian ambassador to Japan, also speaking at the virtual seminar, noted that Netaji was held in high esteem by the Japanese and he had been invited to speak at the Diet, Japan's parliament, a rare honour for any global leader.

Even as late as the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, former officers of the Hikari Kikan, the Japanese liaison office to the Azad Hind government, had come forward with donations citing their links to India through Bose, he added.

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