The riddle over the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on 18 August 1945 has come to haunt the Congress party and various governments that have been in power at the Centre and in West Bengal until now. It has been virtually confirmed that there was no plane crash on that particular day and the flight from Taiwan to Manchuria, which was under Soviet occupation at the time, had landed safely. So the question that arises is, who was responsible for spinning the yarn about a plane crash involving one of India’s greatest heroes, whose contribution in making the British leave the country is widely acknowledged? There have been reports that Netaji was captured alive and taken to Moscow and kept in a jail there, before being transported to Siberia where he breathed his last many years later. If this is true, then several top leaders and functionaries of the government and various parties shall have to be held responsible for hatching the most diabolic conspiracy, if one ever existed, of denying a legend his rightful place in the annals of history and also depriving him of a chance to shape the destiny of Independent India.
Narendra Modi has the advantage of being the first Prime Minister to be born after Independence and someone who is seen by the Bose family as a tall leader who shall help to uncover the truth by declassifying files in this country as also those in England and Russia, which pertain to the freedom fighter. In any case, there is no purpose served in denying the people access to these files which should have been a part of the archives a long time ago. This review should also be applicable to files relating to other heroes such as Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad.
It appears to be shocking to believe that leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Saradar Patel or Mahtama Gandhi could connive with the British rulers to get rid of a valiant freedom icon, who became a major cause for the decision by England to leave the Indian shores, a fact apparently admitted by the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten. If for nothing else, declassification of files shall help in clearing the names of the top Congress leaders of that time. And if the information in the papers shows a complicity of any kind, it shall help in exposing them. But justice has to be done to Bose, who from indications available through a thorough research by scholars such as Anuj Dhar, languished in Soviet jails for a considerable period until he died some years later.
The government has done well by ordering the review of the decision of not declassifying the important papers. It should also take advantage of the good chemistry between the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and PM Modi to get access to the Japanese records. Further, there should be a DNA test conducted on the ashes said to be of Netaji lying at a temple in Tokyo to establish whether they indeed had anything to do with the legendary figure. The suspicion is that the ashes are not those of the leader and thus this impression needs to be either denied or confirmed.
Amongst several questions that have arisen, the most worrying is about the supposed meeting of former President S. Radhakrishnan (who was India’s ambassador at that time) with Netaji in a Moscow jail in 1949. There is no reference to it available in the writings of the former President or his son, S. Gopal, a noted historian.
But if records prove otherwise, the country shall have to look at the scholar President in a different light. Similarly, there are indications that the Janata Party government and the NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee made no attempts to ascertain the truth behind Netaji’s disappearance. It needs to be also found out why.
Netaji’s family members have been making serious allegations about Nehru’s role and his alleged attempts at buying out those close to the former head of the Indian National Army as also someone who left the Congress as he did not see eye to eye with him and some others at that time. Most people see Nehru as a great visionary and in the 125th year of his birth, his name must not be smeared with allegations if he had nothing to do with the cover up about Netaji getting out of sight.
Those interested in the freedom movement’s history have often wondered that while lakhs of Indians participated in it, only those who had an association with Britain through their education (bar at law, etc) got prominence in history. And this was at the expense of several others like Bose, who decided to choose their own path of ousting the British. If for nothing else, the declassification of papers should be done for an accurate account of our history. Between us.