19 April 2012
THE mystery surrounding the last days of Subhash Chandra Bose has been fiercely debated for decades. The debate is likely to revive shortly. New circumstantial evidence has surfaced to suggest that Netaji was alive in 1946.
Two commissions of inquiry probing Netaji’s death stated that in 1944 he died in a plane crash in Taiwan. The Shah Nawaz Commission set up in 1956 concluded that Netaji had died in that plane crash. There was public criticism of this theory. To allay public misgivings the government in 1970 appointed the Justice GD Khosla Commission to probe Netaji’s death. It endorsed the plane-crash theory. The public’s disbelief did not abate. In 1999, the government was compelled to set up the Justice MK Mukherjee Commission. This Commission ruled out death due to the air crash, stating that no plane crash had occurred. But the Commission for want of evidence, failed to establish whether Netaji had lived beyond 1944. The Commission was impeded by the non-cooperation shown by the government. For instance, in 2000 the Union home ministry refused the Commission access to documents related to Netaji citing “reasons of national and public interest”.
Meanwhile, many theories, some bizarre, were publicised. Other theories relied on hearsay and could not be confirmed. One such arose from the claim by Mr Ardhendu Sarkar, an employee of the public sector firm. Heavy Engineering Corporation. He had deposed before the Commission that in 1962, while on deputation in Ukraine, he had met a German named Zerovin who said that he had met and briefly conversed with Netaji in 1948 at a gulag in Siberia in custody. But when Mr Sarkar informed the Indian Embassy in Moscow about this he was rudely snubbed. There were other wild sounding theories about Netaji living incognito as a holy man in India.
Later, there emerged Mr Ashok Rai who resides in Delhi and claims to have personally seen Netaji in Baluchistan in 1946. “Without the shadow of a doubt”, he claims to have seen Netaji in a military car with his hands behind his back and being escorted by four army officers. Mr Rai was residing in Quetta with his parents and belonged to a very affluent and influential family highly respected in the city. His father, Somnath Rai, was a great admirer of Netaji and known to him. Mr Ashok Rai’s uncle, Col JR Nagar, was a Sandhurst-trained officer who had defected from the British army to join Netaji’s INA and was captured later as a prisoner of war.
According to Mr Ashok Rai, his father was very excited after he told him that he had seen Netaji in a car up close. His father took him to Sir Haze, a British officer and his friend, and the junior Rai was closely questioned by the officer to whom he recounted what he had seen. However, even Mr Rai’s version cannot be verified by anybody else. But now there emerges a document (see inset) that raises questions.
Somnath Rai frequently visited Pandit Nehru’s home, Anand Bhavan, in Allahabad. During this time the senior Rai accessed hundreds of Congress Party documents related to the freedom struggle. Unfortunately, during the Partition riots, most of these were destroyed in a fire. However there was one photograph of Netaji recovered from Allahabad. Years later the photograph accidentally fell on the floor and a paper hidden in the frame behind the picture emerged. It was a sensational discovery. It was a printed copy of the Congress Party Bulletin dated 1946 edited by Sadiq Ali who was then the party’s office secretary. The Bulletin among other things contained the notice of the time-table for the Congress Party’s Presidential Election. The last date for filing nominations for the post was April 29, 1946. Five names were reportedly received of which two nominations were rejected. The three left in the field were Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel and JB Kripalani. The rejected names were those of Subhash Chandra Bose and Jai Prakash Narain.
The reasons cited for the rejection were that Bose was not a primary member of the Congress, and Jai Prakash Narain was not in the list of the Bihar delegates. Before the voting on 16, Patel and Kripalani withdrew from the contest and Nehru was elected President.
The question naturally arises: Did Congress leaders know that Bose was alive in 1946? Otherwise, how could his name have been proposed and then rejected only on the grounds of non-membership of the party? The original document is in the safe custody of Mr Ashok Rai. The controversy surrounding the last days of Netaji will continue to haunt the nation till the truth comes out. There is an unpublished manuscript, History of Azad Hind Fauj, written by historian Mr Praful Chandra Gupta in 1950. The work was commissioned by the Indian government to discover among other things the fate of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. In response to an RTI application by Mr Chandrachur Ghosh, Delhi High Court overruled the government and ordered it to either publish the unedited manuscript or provide it to the RTI applicant within four months.
Then perhaps the people will know the final truth about the fate of Netaji; they may also learn why the government hid the truth.