Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s name is still a part of the Indian war criminals’ list in the United Nations, and no Indian government has made any efforts to get his name removed, says the freedom fighter’s great-grand-niece, Rajyashree Chaudhuri. The British had included Netaji’s name in the United Nations’ list of Indian war criminals because he fought against them during World War II. Even Jawaharlal Nehru described Netaji as a “war criminal” while corresponding with British Prime Minister Clement Attlee after Bose’s disappearance in 1945. According to Chaudhuri, India did not ask the UN to remove the name when the world body ratified the war criminals’ list in 1971.
When a Bangalore-based RTI activist, Choodamani Nagendra, asked the Central government this year about the efforts, if any, it was making to remove Netaji’s name from the list of war criminals, she was told that no information on the matter was available. Choodamani had also asked for a number of UN records relating to Netaji’s war criminal status that were with the government. Has the Indian representative in the UN taken up the matter of removing Netaji’s name from the list, she had asked.
Rajyashree Chaudhuri has now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to get the “war criminal” tag removed, before starting the process of declassification of files on 23 January 2016. She has received an acknowledgment from the Prime Minister’s Office on the matter.
“Does it make any sense to open the secret files of a ‘bad person’ who is a ‘war criminal’?” asked Chaudhury, who has started a signature campaign under the banner of Jatiya Jagran Mancha, asking the Centre to ensure the immediate removal of the tag by the United Nations.
Chaudhuri and a group of experts, professionals and social thinkers organised a signature campaign and protest meeting at Hazra More in Kolkata on 14 November on the matter.
“Though he was declared a ‘war criminal’ by the British, no effort was made by successive Indian governments to get this tag removed. This was done deliberately to ensure that Netaji did not appear before his countrymen. The government should honour him by getting this tag removed, before files related to him are declassified,” said Chaudhury.
The war criminal tag was given by the British for Netaji’s association with the Germans and the Japanese during World War II. Significantly, Jawaharlal Nehru too used this tag to describe Netaji on 26 December 1945, after Netaji disappeared after the so-called plane crash on 18 August 1945.
In a deposition before the 1970 Khosla Commission to probe Netaji’s disappearance, Shyamalal Jain, the confidential steno of INA Defence Committee, had said, “Jawaharlal Nehru gave four papers from his writing pad to make four copies of a letter, which he would dictate to me on typewriter, which I also complied... The contents of the letter, as far as I could remember, were as follows.
“Prime Minister of Britain
“10, Downing Street, London
“Dated: 26 December 1945
“Dear Mr Attlee,
“I understand from most reliable source that Stalin has allowed Subhas Chandra Bose, your war criminal, to enter Russian territory. This is clear treachery and betrayal of faith by the Russians as Russia has been an ally of the British-Americans, which she should not have done. Please take care of it and do what you consider proper and fit.
Chaudhury feels that the situation has now changed and it should not be difficult for the Indian government to get the tag deleted by the UN. “The government should write to the UN Secretary General in this regard. Nations have progressed since our Independence and they should not hesitate in supporting our endeavour,” Chaudhury added.
Historians and experts have reacted sharply to the matter. Defence and security expert Wing Commander (Retired) Praful Bakshi demanded that an independent committee be set up to find out the “status” of Netaji in the eyes of the government. “The committee should find out whether Netaji continued to remain a ‘war criminal’ even after Independence. If yes, it should be found out what crimes he committed for which he was given the tag of ‘war criminal’. The committee should find out his present status,” he said.
However, Prof Kapil Kumar, a noted historian, said that there was no need to remove the tag as it was not given by “our government”. “People like Bhagat Singh or Sukhdeo were ‘terrorists’ for the British government but ‘freedom fighters’ for us. Similarly, Netaji might have been a ‘war criminal’ for the British government, he was a ‘national hero’ for us,” said Kumar, who is also the director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Freedom Struggle Studies and chairperson of Faculty of History, School of Social Sciences, IGNOU.