Born on January 23, 1897, in Cuttack, Odisha, Subhash Chandra Bose was one of the most famous and brave freedom fighters of all time. However, Netaji’s supposed death on August 18, 1945, had bewildered the world. There has been compelling evidence which has refuted the mantra that “Netaji is dead” over the decades. Research institutes for Netaji have been working for years to uncover the truth behind his mysterious disappearance. What happened on that fateful day of August 18th? If not dead, where was Netaji all these years? These questions have riddled masses for years.
On the 119th birth anniversary of this freedom fighter, on 23rd January 2016, Narendra Modi declassified 100 classified files, approximately 16,600 pages out of which more than 30 records belong to the Prime Minister’s Office and several others belong to Home Ministry and others. This first lot of files were declassified and submitted to the NAI(National Archives of India) last year in December. The digitized versions would be uploaded soon.
On August 18, 1945, in Taihoku, Formosa (now Taipei, Taiwan) the flight took off and moments later passengers heard a loud explosion. The plane crashed, and the pilots and Lt Gen Shidei were killed, Col Habibur Rahmanwho was also present there fell unconscious. However, Bose didn’t die instantly, but he was severely wounded and burnt. After being taken to a nearby military hospital, few hours later, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose passed away. He was cremated, and his ashes now rest in Renkoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan.
But, nonetheless, over the years several committees were made who would look into the matter of Netaji’s disappearance and supposed demise.
There were contradictory points which came up during investigations.
The Controversy: Challenged. The Truth: No progress.
1. It was found that Netaji did not die in a plane crash because according to the Taiwanese Government no such aviation accident occurred in Taipei on August 18, 1945. This news spread like wildfire in 2005 when the BBC reported that the Taiwanese government denied the airplane crash in Taipei story.
2. No dead body was recovered, nor was any death certificate issued. How can such an important record of a person that famous be neglected? This has attracted several questions from the mass, who don’t believe that Netaji died in a plane crash.
3. Extensive inquiries were done by the government of India on Bose’s family after his death till the 1960s. The family was made to go through several inquiries by the Government which led the people to think that Netaji was still alive and in hiding which made the Government panic.
4. There have also been “messages” that declared Bose to be a war criminal. Messages written five days after the air crash at Taihoku in Taipei by Sir R F Mudie, Home Member of the Clement Attlee government’s India Office to Sir Evan Jenkins, Home Secretary and the last Governor of Punjab, showed them discussing the pros and cons of how to treat Bose and what would be its impact on Indians. “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,” by Mudie in a letter August 23, 1945.
5. Inquiries and Commissions: several committees were set up by the government in the following years which have done detailed research on this person.
The Official Burial. Sorry, Investigation.
• The Figgess Report of 1946 was the first official inquiry into Bose’s death, which reported: “As a result of a series of interrogations of individuals named in the following paragraphs it is confirmed as certain that S.C. Bose died in a Taihoku Military Hospital (Nammon Ward) sometime between 1700 hours and 2000 hours local time on the August 18, 1945. The cause of death was heart failure resulting from multiple burns and shock.”
• The Shah Nawaz Committee of 1956 was the next inquiry which included one Member of Parliament- Shah Nawaz Khan, West Bengal government-selected ICS officer SN Maitra, and Suresh Chandra Bose who happened to be Bose’s elder brother.The committee is said to have interviewed 67 witnesses within India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the people who were present during the crash but survived it. But the most important interview was with Colonel Habibur Rahman, who accompanied Bose on the Mitsubishi Ki-21 twin-engine heavy bomber. Based on these inquiries, the two members of the Commission Khan and Maitra said Bose had died in the plane crash of Taipei. But the committee’s third member Suresh Chandra Bose, rejected the report that agreed that Netaji died in the crash and claimed that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru arranged the inquiry to make the death by plane crash story the official one.
• However a decade and 4 years later, the Government of India authorized another bench of inquiry, The Khosla Commission of 1970. Confessing before the Commission, Dr Satyanarayan Sinha said that Colonel Habibur Rehman who accompanied Bose on the flight, had confessed in 1946 that he lied about Bose’s death in that crash. But, the commission again concurred with the conclusion of the previous inquiries.
• More than 2 decades later, another enquiry was sanctioned by the Government of India, a BJP government. In 1999, The Mukherjee Commission was built which was led by the retired Supreme Court judge MK Mukherjee. He began his probe into this fascinating puzzle. In 2005, after going through hundreds of documents, oral testimonies, and after making several visits to Japan, Russia and Taiwan, the commission concluded and this time the report was different saying that the Japanese and the USSR had a secret plan to help Bose get a safe passage into the USSR. The commission also believed that the ashes at Renkoji Temple, believed to be Bose’s, were of a Japanese soldier who died of a heart attack and not Bose.
The 007 Point Of View:
Then there have been the talks of Netaji becoming a Sadhu in Shaulmari in the North Bengal in the 1950s, who went by the name of Srimat Saradanandaji. This fact was also supported by the “Subhashbadis”, the old associates of Netaji, who formed the Subhashbadi Janata.
And it goes on…
Another Sadhu in Faizabad, who was known as the Gumnami Baba, was thought to be Netaji. It is said that for more than 30 years till 1985 when the Baba died he had contact with Dr. Pavitra Mohan Roy, the former top Secret Service agent of the INA. Several objects were said to have been found in possession of the Baba after his death like the spectacles, clippings on Netaji’s death, German binoculars, original copy of the summons issued to Suresh Chandra Bose to appear before the Khosla Commission, a map of undivided India, an album containing family photographs of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, torch pencil generally used in map-making by military personnel, even the Forensic expert Dr B. Lal told the Mukherjee Commission that the handwritings were a match to Netaji’s.
Several scintillating pieces of evidence came up to support the fact that Netaji was alive after 1945, but, however, no straight conclusion was made. The files declassified on his birthday this year are now under scrutiny by the research foundation of Netaji. The air of mystery thickens around Netaji yet again.