Prelude: This article is not based on mere speculations or concoction of facts. Rather it is based on solid evidence and leaked top secret intelligence reports exposing how Indira Gandhi and her cohorts had forced Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose into isolation.
Media’s grand lies
On May 31, 2017, Indian daily the Economic Times published a news item stating: Ending 70-year old mystery over the death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, government has replied to a RTI reply that Netaji died in a plane crash in Taiwan on August, 18 1945.
In a reply to a Right To Information query filed by Sayak Sen, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has reportedly said: “After considering the reports of Shahnawaz Committee, Justice GD Khosla Commission and Justice Mukherjee Commission of Enquiry, the Government has come to the conclusion that Netaji has died in plane crash in 1945.’’
Sayak Sen had also asked the government about information on Gumnamibaba or Bhagwanji who lived incognito in Uttar Pradesh till 1985 and was rumored to be Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
Relying to this MHA said: “Some information regarding Gumnami Baba and Bhagwanji is available in Mukherjee Commission report on page 114-122. This report is available in mha.nic.in.”
“Mukherjee Commission had come to the conclusion that Gumnami Baba/Bhagwanji was not Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Ministry of Home Affairs has declassified all available files (37) relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,’ it said.
Unfolding the mystery of Subhash Chandra Bose
“I believe Subhas is still alive and bidding his time somewhere”.
This is what Mahatma Gandhi said in 1946, though already the Japanese government on August 23, 1945 announced that Netaji had been killed in a plane crash in Taihoku, now Taipei city of Taiwan.
Like Gandhi, many did not believe the crash theory, which has become India’s official version on Netaji’s disappearance.
The Indian government till date maintains that after the defeat of his ally Japan in World War-II, Netaji sought safe haven elsewhere. As part of this journey, Netaji flew out from Formosa on August 18, 1945.
The plane broke into two while taking off and Netaji was badly burnt in the crash. He died a few hours later in a local hospital and his body was cremated within two days. His ashes were taken to Tokyo and handed over to the Renkoji Temple where they remain to this day.
Bose’s companion Colonel Habibur Rahman mysteriously survived the plane crash.
Was there really any plane crash?
Although Indian authorities are vigorously trying to convince the world about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose been killed in the plane crash, there are several things wrong with this story. According to top secret intelligence documents, there was no plane crash at the airport on that day or during the weeks before or after August 18. The nearest was the crash of a US transporter in September, that too 200 miles from the airport.
The documents also say, there is no record of Netaji or any of his companions on the plane being cremated on that day. Most seriously, several people saw him alive after his supposed death, with one American reporter Alfred Wegg noting Netaji was still in Saigon where he saw him three days later.
All these loophole lead to a question that was the death of Netaji faked so that he could escape possible execution by the British as a traitor and take his fight for Indian independence unimpeded to Russia?
Rejecting the official version, many researchers and activists kept demanding all the secret papers relating to Netaji mystery be classified.
But successive governments were reluctant to solve the mystery haunting India since the 1947 partition. Like the previous UPA administration, the NDA government has refused to make public the files on Netaji’s disappearance or death, saying the revelations would “prejudicially affect” relations with foreign countries.
There are 41 files on Subhas Chandra Bose, created between 1953 and 2000. Of them, four are “Top Secret”, 20 “Secret” and five are “Classified”
Two of the four “Top Secret” files are about the transfer of Netaji’s ashes to India and the official correspondence with, and about, his widow and daughter. The other two are titled “Death/Disappearance of Netaji SC Bose Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry”.
Most of the 20 “Secret” files pertain to Bose’s disappearance, while one of the “Classified” files is on Bose’s mortal remains “kept in the Rankoji Temple in Japan on behalf of Government of India”.
In all, 21 files pertain to disappearance or circumstances of Netaji’s death, and the appointment of inquiry committees.
Those asking for the files to be declassified hope those documents will reveal the truth behind Bose’s disappearance. At least three judicial commissions have probed the matter, but their reports were never accepted by the Centre. The Justice Manoj Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry set up in 1999 said Netaji was indeed dead, but he did not die in a plane crash over Taiwan, and the ashes in a Japanese temple were not Netaji’s.
But the government did not accept his report. As the mystery continued, demands for the files to be made public kept coming.
Jawaharlal Nehru spied on Netaji’s family
Two declassified Intelligence Bureau (IB) files have revealed that the Jawaharlal Nehru government spied on the kin of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose for nearly two decades. The files, which have since been moved to the National Archives, show unprecedented surveillance on Bose’s family members between 1948 and 1968.
Nehru was the Prime Minister for 16 of the 20 years and the IB reported directly to him. The files show the IB resumed British-era surveillance on the two Bose family homes in Kolkata: 1 Woodburn Park and 38/2 Elgin Road.
Apart from intercepting and copying letters written by Bose’s family members, agency sleuths shadowed them on their domestic and foreign travels. The agency seemed especially keen to know who all the Bose kin met and what they discussed. A series of hand-written messages shows the agents phoned in “Security Control”, as the IB headquarters was called, to report on the family’s movements.
For reasons still not entirely clear, the agency focused on Netaji’s nephew siblings Sisir Kumar Bose and Amiya Nath Bose. These sons of Sarat Chandra Bose were the closest to Netaji in his two decades as a Congress activist. They also wrote several letters to their aunt Emily Schenkl, Netaji’s wife, in Austria.
The revelations have shocked the Bose family.
Nehru spied on a hero of the liberation war of India
“Surveillance is conducted on those who have committed a crime or have terror links. Subhas babu and his family fought for India’s freedom; why should be they placed under surveillance?” asks his grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose, a Kolkata-based businessman.
Netaji’s only child Anita Bose-Pfaff, a Germany-based economist, says she is startled.
“My uncle (Sarat Chandra) was politically active until the 1950s and disagreed with the Congress leadership. But what surprises me is that my cousins could have been under surveillance… they had no security implications at all,” she says.
“The documents show the intensity of the bias against Netaji and his family,” says former Supreme Court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly, adding: “More shockingly, the bias is by a government of independent India against a man who sacrificed everything for the country.”
“The government was not sure whether Bose was dead, and thought that if he were alive he would be in some form of communication with his family in Kolkata. But why would the Congress be apprehensive? The nation, after all, would have welcomed Bose’s return. But that exactly was the reason for its apprehension. Bose was the only charismatic leader who could have mobilized opposition unity against Congress, and offered it a serious challenge in the 1957 elections. It is safe to say that if Netaji Subhash Bose were alive, the coalition that defeated the Congress in 1977 would have trounced it in the 1962 general elections, more precisely, 15 years sooner,” he says.
IB files are rarely declassified. The original copies of these files are still classified by the West Bengal government. Anuj Dhar, the author of ‘India’s Biggest Cover-Up’ who first spotted the files at National Archives in January 2015, believed these were accidentally declassified.
“There have been such cases in the US where documents classified by the CIA, like the mole in Mrs. Gandhi’s cabinet in 1971, were declassified by the state department,” he adds.
INC president Subhash Chandra Bose was the Indian National Congress president in 1939 but quit following political differences with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. He escaped from India, first to Hitler’s Germany, and later to Japan, where he revived the 40,000-strong Indian National Army in 1943, the first military resistance to the British since the 1857 War of Independence.
The ‘Gumnami Baba’ was actually Subhash Bose
Thirteen people were present during a cremation at Guptar Ghat on the bank of Saryu River flowing through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It was on September 18, 1985. When the pyre was lit, one of the 13 cried out, “…there should have been 13 lakh people here!”
This is the story of Gumnami Baba, a saint with a lost name, also known as Bhagwanji of Faizabad. He was reported to have come to Faizabad in the 70s and was first reported to the police by a local in 1977 for his “suspicious” activities.
Gumnami Baba started living as a lodger at Rambhawan in 1983.
Gurubasant Singh, his landlord, remembers the day when a physician, Dr. RP Mishra, walked in and booked two rooms of the house for his “grandfather” and two caretakers.
Bhagwanji was very secretive in his ways. His rooms were to the back of the main house and could be reached through a narrow lane next to the main pathway. Another passage led from the rooms through the backyard and towards the cantonment. People, including army and police officials, who used to visit him at night, could walk in without being noticed.
Even Gurubasant never met Bhagwanji face-to-face. “I heard him speak …His voice was heavy and crisp, like that of a military general… But he was always behind a curtain.”
The Gumnami Baba, aged over 80, needed medical care. Dr. Mishra and two other physicians – Dr. T Banerjee and his son Dr. Priyabrat Banerjee – were always there for him.
Priyabrat in an interview with HindustanTimes.com recalls that the mysterious saint once said, “Dekho to, kahi main Subhas Chandra Bose to nahi hoon?” (Look, am I not Subhas Chandra Bose?).
On another occasion, the Gumnami Baba said, “Despite having a nation I have none, despite having a home I am homeless, despite having a people, I have no one…”
Durga Prasad Pandey, who was Netaji’s companion for many years, also recalls a meeting when Gumnami Baba said: “Take me to be Netaji if you will.”
Srikant Sharma, who was among the few to have met Gumnami Baba face-to-face, said the saint told him many personal things about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and also about the great escape from Kolkata to Berlin in 1941.
The UP government has 24 big boxes that contain Gumnami Baba’s personal belongings. All these boxes are secured under double locks put by Faizabad Treasury.
The articles include round frame spectacles, Belgian typewriters, many newspapers of pre-independence and post-independence time with Baba’s comments scribbled on them, boxes full of books of international relevance, several books gifted by ‘sister’, cigars from Germany and Italy, and some huge-size family photographs.
One of the items was a letter addressed to a man called Prasad. In the seven-page letter, Gumnami Baba refers to the commissions formed to probe Netaji mystery, saying there is “no point in constituting loaded dice commissions to find out what happened to him… his death is …an impregnable mystery…”.
Leela Roy, freedom fighter and social worker, was in constant touch with Gumnami Baba from 1963 to 1970 till her death. On 25 March 1963, Gumnami Baba asked one of his trusted men to convey Leela: “My coming out is not in country’s interest. It would not do anyone any good if I emerged now.”
After her death in 1970, Gumnami Baba paid her homage through a letter; its handwriting reportedly matches with that of Netaji.
Many such stories (for example, he used to mentioned Sarat Bose, Netaji’s elder brother, as ‘mejda’). After his death in 1985, the stories were splashed on the first pages of many local newspapers. The news even travelled to Parliament, although soon after – and quite strangely – the stories got spiked.
Of many questions, the big one was about his cremation. After his death on September 16, 1985, people were physically prevented from entering the house by his followers. Even Gurubasant was stopped at the door. The body was kept in the house for two days after which his confidants draped his body in a tricolor [Indian National Flag] and took his body in a van to Guptar Ghat.
There was an interesting development in 2010 when Justice Mukherjee’s comments made off-the-record to independent filmmaker Amlan Ghosh. The former Supreme Court judge, who led a commission to probe Netaji mystery, said he was “100 percent” sure that Gumnami Baba was Netaji.
On January 31, 2013, a new chapter was opened with the Allahabad High Court directing the Uttar Pradesh government to consider constituting an inquiry headed by a retired judge into the Bhagwanji episode.
“It is not my claim that Bhagwanji of Faizabad was Netaji,” said Anuj Dhar, who has written a book on Netaji – “India’s Biggest Cover Up.”
“All I am saying is that I probed the matter as a journalist and have found reasons that the possibility cannot be ruled out. For example, the handwriting of this man in English and Bangla matched with Netaji’s and that constitutes — like it or not — a direct evidence of Bose’s remaining alive decades after his reported death,” he said in an interview with Zeenews.
“If the counter argument is that the Faizabad holy man’s DNA test was negative, I have explained in the book that the same cannot be relied on as the test was conducted in a lab controlled by the Government whose agenda from the day one was to cover-up the matter.”
Gumnami Baba reportedly claimed he spent some years in a gulag and left Russia in 1949 and got engaged in covert activities to counter world powers, especially America’s, clout in Asia.
He might have feared that if he came out in the open, the world powers would go after him and Indians will be caught in crossfire. If there is any truth in Gumnami Baba ‘s claims, several governments and their intelligence agencies would have files on him, added Dhar, also a well-known Indian journalist.
“But we cannot expect to get these files so long as our own government continues to sit on its own pile of secret files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.”
The story of Netaji being killed in Russia
“… As the things stand today, not to enquire about Netaji’s fate in Russia will be a blunder of national magnitude with far reaching consequence. Posterity will never forgive us for such a criminal negligence in the affairs of a national hero of the highest order.”
The above paragraph is extracted from the 1965 book “Netaji Mystery” by Dr Satyanarayan Sinha, now deceased lawmaker and diplomat, who had played a pivotal role in creating awareness about resolving the controversy surrounding Netaji’s disappearance.
On October 17, 1970, Sinha, then in his 60s, was summoned before the Khosla Commission formed by Indira Gandhi to probe Netaji’s disappearance. Under oath, he told the commission that Netaji did not die in the plane crash and was imprisoned by the Soviets in Yakutsk Prison in Siberia.
Several camps were erected in Yakutsk by the river Lena to lodge prisoners of war and political dissidents. They were employed in building new shafts for coal mines, roads, dams etc. Each camp, known as Gulag, had 500 to 1,000 captives living with minimum facilities.
Very few could survive the harsh weather and primitive living conditions in this coldest city on earth. One of the lucky ones was Kozlov, a former Soviet secret police agent rehabilitated later by the Soviet government.
Sinha testified that in 1954, he met Kozlov in Moscow. The former agent told him that Netaji was imprisoned in cell number 45 of Yakutsk Prison in Siberia. The commission had received this overwhelming evidence but ultimately decided to ignore it.
Sinha was not the only one to believe this version.
Purabi Roy, a professor of Calcutta University and prominent Indian academician, found out a report written by a KGB agent in 1946 about the political situation in India. The report said, “…. it is not possible to work with Nehru or Gandhi, we have to use Subhas Bose”. That implies in 1946 Bose was still alive.
Purabi Roy was sent as part of Asiatic Society’s three-member team to the Oriental Institute, Moscow to study Indian documents from 1917-1947. Her findings were: There are a lot of materials on Subhas bose in the Military Archive in Omsk, where the Free Government of India in Exile (or Azad Hind Government) had a consulate during the Second world War. Just a request from the Government of India would be sufficient for the Russian authority to open that archive. Prof Purabi Roy wrote to New Delhi about it and as a result her research was terminated by the Indian government and she could not go back to Russia again.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy claimed that Netaji did not die in a plane crash in 1945 but was killed at the instance of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
“According to the papers that exist with us, Bose had faked his death and escaped to Manchuria in China which was under Russian occupation, hoping Russia would look after him. But Stalin put him in a jail in Siberia. Somewhere around 1953, he hanged or suffocated Bose to death,” said Swamy.
Swamy also claimed that the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was aware about Bose being held captive in Yakutsk Prison.
According to leaked intelligence reports, this story of Netaji Bose being executed by Joseph Stalin also is a damn lie. It is a matter of grave shock as to why a prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also had joined the Indian National Congress party’s foul bid of establishing the fake story of Netaji’s death and never returning to India?
What journalist Kuldip Nayar wrote about Subhash Bose?
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has done well to declassify the files on Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have followed suit and make available to the public the documents and papers which the Centre possesses on Bose. While declassifying 64 files comprising 12,744 pages, the chief minister informed the media that documents proved the Bose family was spied upon. “It’s proven…I will only say it is unfortunate,” Banerjee said. The first disclosures in April by a media house revealed a 20-year surveillance on the Bose family, between 1948 and 1968. These were accessed from only two declassified special branch files of around 50 pages. The papers reveal how dozens of spies of the Intelligence Branch, as the state IB was then called, mounted surveillance on Netaji’s older brother Sarat Chandra and his sons Ameya Nath Bose and Sisir Kumar Bose.
The IB sleuths intercepted letters at a post office near their residence and tailed the family members around the country, drafting secret reports that were sent to IB headquarters in New Delhi. These early revelations from the huge mass of documents have rightly incensed the Bose family.
“This kind of surveillance is usually done on anti-national elements and not freedom fighters like Sarat Bose,” Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose said. The Bose family has reiterated their demand for a probe by the Centre into the snooping.
A Special Branch letter, from the trove of documents declassified on Friday, reveals the government order which first authorized interception of the Bose family letters from their residences on 38/2, Elgin Road and 1, Woodburn Park, Calcutta (Government Order No. 1735, dated 20/9/48). The special branch cites this letter to ask its headquarters for a one-year extension in the interception period because it had been carried on ‘with good results’.
This is a sad reflection on Jawaharlal Nehru. Understandably, the Congress party is quiet. Yet, the party should have privately assured the Bose family that it would have no objection if there were an inquiry to apportion responsibility.
Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose were the two leading lights of national struggle against the British rulers. Both were close lieutenants of Mahatma Gandhi, who was guiding the movement. The difference between the two was that Nehru, distinctly against weapons, had come to have full faith in non-violence as the method against the mighty British masters to win freedom.
Even when he differed with Gandhiji, who found no difference between Germany’s Hitler and Great Britain’s Winston Churchill, Nehru’s sympathy lay with the Allies fighting against the Axis to protect and preserve democracy. For some reasons, Gandhiji had come to believe that Germany would win the war. He took many years to change his viewpoint. But this did affect the thinking of the Congress party leading the national movement.
Nehru often expressed his sympathy with the Allies in the sittings of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s apex body. However, he followed Gandhiji who, Nehru believed, would release the country from the British bondage. Bose was clear in his view that violence should be used if necessary. When he escaped from jail in Kolkata, and travelled all the way to Germany through Afghanistan, he thought that there was no harm to get assistance from a dictator to liberate India. (I have visited the two-storey house where Bose spent the night).
With the disclosures of files in Kolkata, a forgotten chapter of India’s freedom movement has been restored. Bose, who constructed Indian National Army (INA), with the support of Indians living in South East Asia, has got the spotlight.
There is no doubt that he guided Indians living in South East Asia to establish the INA. Whether the Japanese would have allowed India to live as an independent nation after liberation is difficult to imagine. The fascists had their own agenda and had no place for democratic thinking. But there is no doubting Bose’s determination. He would have fought against the Japanese if they had tried to make India their colony.
New Delhi, the centre of the British rule, has the key files. I doubt that when they are made public, the question that would still nag the nation is whether everything had been disclosed or whether some files that showed Nehru in a bad light had been destroyed. One thing which has been proved without any doubt is that the Nehru government was keeping surveillance on the Bose family even after his death in an air crash in 1945.
In fact, the air crash story has come under suspicion after the files were made public. It has become all the more necessary for the central government to throw open all the files and papers relating to Bose. The Narendra Modi government should have no compunction in doing so, whatever the fallout.
One argument advanced for keeping the files secret is that the disclosures may have an adverse effect on relations with foreign countries. How that could be, is not yet explained. The Soviet Union, where Bose took shelter, has disintegrated. Moscow is now a far more liberal place than it was back then. The archives should have some papers to throw light on that period as well.
For some reasons, the Modi government is reluctant to let the nation know the entire story. Whatever his compulsions, PM Modi would ill-serve the democratic norms which demand that the people have the right to know. Surely, he doesn’t want to be considered a person who acted as a censor and kept back from people what they had the right to know.
Mamata’s remark that what Nehru did was unfortunate will be echoed and may damage his image. But what he did was so un-Nehru like that he deserves to be criticized. Nehru’s name is associated with free information, which is essential for a free response in a democratic setup. In view of the disclosures, posterity is going to pass on a harsh judgment against India’s icon and first prime minister.
Why Indira Gandhi had forced Netaji Subhash Bose into isolation?
It could sound like a conspiracy theory, but after reading all of those leaked top secret intelligence reports, anyone can easily understand – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose did not die in the plane crash. Instead, it he returned to India and was forced to live in isolation under the disguise of Gumnam Baba, simply because, India Gandhi did not want him to emerge as the biggest national hero and make his own place much above Jawaharlal Nehru.