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Netaji plane crash: An enigma that continues to haunt

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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

By Anurag Dey

Kolkata, Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose die of third-degree burns on August 18, 1945, after his plane crashed in Formosa (now Taiwan) or did he survive and escape to Siberia? Or was the “‘crash”‘a mere hoax to help him flee to safety? The questions have been haunting, agitating and engaging Indians, in particular Bengalis, for 70 years, but the mystery endures even today.

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A section of Netaji’s descendants, including his daughter Anita Pfaff, as also some Indian National Army (INA) veterans, hold that the revolutionary leader perished in the accident and his ashes have been interred at Tokyo’s Renkoji temple.

But a large number of Netaji’s admirers, researchers and family members don’t buy the theory.

During her visit to Kolkata in 2013, Pfaff said she was convinced that he died when the Mitsubishi Ki-21 Japanese heavy bomber Netaji boarded at Saigon with his close aide Col. Habibur Rahman on August 17, 1945, purportedly to shift base to the erstwhile Soviet Union and continue his fight for India’s independence, crashed in Japanese-occupied Formosa.

“It would be the perfect homecoming for him if the ashes are brought to India. His ashes should be immersed in the river Ganges,” Pfaff had said.

Netaji’s grand nephew and Harvard University professor Sugata Bose is another big votary of the crash theory and has detailed his viewpoint in his book ‘His Majesty’s Opponent’. Bose bases his arguments on “overwhelming evidence”, citing the testimony of six of the seven survivors of the crash as also that of doctors and paramedics who treated Netaji at the Taipei Military Hospital.

The Indian government’s three attempts to unravel the mystery by constituting probe panels – Shah Nawaz Khan Committee (1956), G D Khosla Committee (1970) and the Justice M K Mukehrjee Commission which submitted its report in 2006 have only fueled the debate.

While the first two panels concluded Bose perished in the Taipei crash, the Mukherjee Commission debunked the theory. The government however debunked the Mukherjee Commission’s findings.

Researcher and author Anuj Dhar stands by the Mukherjee Commission.

“Both to the Mukherjee Commission as well as in letters written to me, the Taiwan authorities have stated that according to their records, no plane crash occurred on Aug 18, 1945”.

“There are many secret files that can prove the air crash theory was planted by the Japanese and Netaji to facilitate his escape to Russia.”

Lakshmi Sahgal, nee Swaminathan, who led the all-woman Rani Jhansi Regiment of the INA, supported the crash theory.

She claimed in an interview in 2005 that the Japanese had destroyed all records before their surrender after losing the second World War.

“As far as the Taiwan government’s denial of any air crash during that period on its soil is concerned, all I can say is that the Japanese had destroyed all records. They did not want one bit of paper to fall into the hands of the Allied forces that could prove as evidence for wartime crimes.,” Sahgal had said.

The answer to the enigma, many believe, lies hidden in scores of secret government files.

Besides Dhar and his Mission Netaji, a host of Netaji’s descendants have been demanding publication of over 100 such files claimed to be in possession of various departments of the central government including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and 64 classified documents with the West Bengal government.

“All information on record – from Indian, Japanese, British and Taiwanese sources – is unambiguous that the man who died in the Nanmon military hospital in Taihoku (Taipei) in August 1945 was a Japanese soldier named Ichiro Okura,” said Dhar.

Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose concurred.

“There are several secret Japanese government dossiers that are lying with the Indian government where Okura has been named. Okura’s name appears in the official records accessed by various authorities.

Col. Rahman, a survivor of the alleged crash, recounting the last hours of Netaji Bose before the Shah Nawaz panel, affirmed he died at a hospital after the crash. But Dhar and Chandra Kumar claim Col. Rahman was only following Netaji’s orders.

“Colonel Rahman’s interrogation reports, declassified in 1997, clearly state that he had not told the truth. In fact, in close quarters including the Bose family, he had confided that he did so following Netaji’s orders,” said Dhar.

Netaji’s elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose had questioned Col. Rahman and rejected his crash theory.

“Sarat Chandra Bose rejected Col. Rahman’s crash theory after questioning for hours,” Chandra Kumar said, quoting his father and Sarat Bose’s son Amiya Nath.

Besides, Sarat Bose had also come across American intelligence reports saying Netaji safely reached Manchuria in China bordering the USSR.

“Justice Radha Binode Pal of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East had told Sarat Bose about American intelligence report that was shown to him by an American judge at the tribunal. The report clearly stated that Netaji safely reached Manchuria on August 18, 1945,” Chandra Kumar maintained.

(IANS)

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Personal life of Subhas Chandra Bose generates divisive views

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Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Kolkata: Netaji’s aura made people curious about the revolutionary leader’s personal life, giving strong and divisive views.

Files declassified by the Narendra Modi government reveal that serious objections were raised about Emilie Schenkl being acknowledged as Netaji’s wife and Anita Bose Pfaff as his daughter.

According to one document, the home ministry, on February 6, 1980, wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the external affairs ministry and the Research and Analysis Wing saying it had “no records of Netaji’s marriage” or “birth of a female child”.

“The ministry (has) no records pertaining to Netaji’s reported marriage to a foreign lady or birth of a female child by that marriage. Intelligence bureau has also been consulted, and they have no record in this regard,” reads the letter signed by Vinay Vasistha, under secretary in the government.

The move from the home ministry came after then West Bengal Governor T N Singh enquired about the identity of Anita Pfaff whom he met at the Raj Bhavan.

Singh made the enquiry following a letter by Arun Ghose, a member of the All India Freedom Fighters’ Samity, raising serious doubts about Netaji’s marriage.

Incidentally, according to another document, the PMO in 1978 had affirmed Emilie Schenkl to be the widow and Anita Schenkl to be the daughter of Netaji.

A cursory glance of the file reveals the following:

– It had been acknowledged that Emilie Schenkl was the widow of Subhas Chandra Bose and Anita Schenkl his daughter.

– The family members of Subhas Chandra Bose had also accepted this.

– Anita Bose visited India in 1960 and was staying in the PM’s house for some time.

– All India Congress Committee has been sending Rs.6,000 annually to Anita upto 1964, reads the PMO document.

The PMO’s reply was made after Justice G.D. Khosla, who headed the enquiry commission to probe the disappearance of Netaji, sought to examine the panel’s report after he was sued for defamation on his claims in his book that Anita was Netaji’s daughter.

In another letter dated November 1963, bearing his stamped signature, then PM Jawaharlal Nehru said he was aware that Netaji had married.

“I had this knowledge that either in Germany or Austria he had married and had a daughter who two-three years back visited India and met Subhas Babu’s family in Kolkata,” reads the letter in Hindi.

There is another document wherein one Hari Pada Bose in March 1962 had written to Nehru enquiring if there existed any official record of Emilie Schenkl’s marriage to Netaji and the birth certificate of his daughter.

In the memorandum attached to the letter bearing the sign of PM’s private secretary ML Bazaz, it has been stated that Hari Pada Bose’s letter was “not acknowledged”.(IANS)

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Netaji files: It’s time to frame declassification policy

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New Delhi: Many questions regarding the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1945 may finally be put to rest starting January 23, 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday posted a series of tweets, in which he revealed that his government will start the declassification of files related to Netaji on 23th January, 2016 on the occasion of his birth anniversary. The Modi government will further request various foreign governments to declassify files related to Netaji. The announcement came shortly after Modi’s meeting with the extended family of Netaji Bose.

Modi tweeted:

The issue of Netaji’s disappearance has been hanging since 7 decades and successive governments had maintained that Netaji had died in the air-crash in 1945. The present decision will earn the government enormous goodwill and respect from thousands of people across the country who were eagerly waiting for this declassification to happen.

By this announcement, Modi has not only shown his respect for National heroes, but also his commitment to bring forward the records of Indian history into the public domain. Contrary to the attitudes of presiding governments that has continued to keep important documents classified even after many decades, Modi government has demonstrated its commitment to come clean on history.

The government must now build upon this and should begin declassification of other important files. This is very important not only for setting the records of history straight, but also to set an example for future governments to follow.

Whitewashing of history has already done enough damage to the nation.

As Modi notes in his tweet: “There is no need to strangle history,” it is time for the government to take bold decision to declassify other classified files dealing with important but controversial issues.

One issue that has been hanging for many decades is the death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri had gone to Tashkent, USSR in January 1966 to sign the peace agreement with Pakistani President Muhammad Ayub Khan that would officially bring an end to the India-Pakistan war.

Just after a day he signed the Tashkent Declaration, he was reported dead at 2 AM on January 11, 1966. The death has been reported to have been due to heart attack. But, no proper account of the incident has been made public. It has been often alleged that Shastri was poisoned and his body had turned blue. It is further pointed that no post mortem of his body was done either in Russia or in India.

The similarities between the death of Shastri and disappearance of Bose are many. First, they both were very popular Indian leaders. Secondly, in both cases, the government has re-iterated its version of events without giving any details or releasing any documents related to it. Thirdly, in both cases, repeated attempts at finding information about the deaths have been rejected.

Anuj Dhar, who has relentlessly strived for finding out information about Netaji and whose efforts have finally begun bearing fruits with the Modi government declaring that it would declassify the files, had also filed an RTI query in 2009 regarding Shastri. The RTI had sought the correspondences between India and Moscow as well as those between the Indian embassy in Moscow and the external affairs ministry after Shastri’s death. But the Prime Minister’s Office had turned down the RTI request by saying that the information will affect ‘security, integrity, and sovereignty of the country.’

Another incidence that adds to the claims of the conspiracy was the death of Shastri’s doctor RN Chugh and memory loss of Ram Nath, Shastri’s personal servant. Both of them met with an accident when they were on their way to depose before parliamentary body in 1977 about the death of Shastri.

Shastri’s family has repeatedly made appeals for declassification of the related documents. Just last month, Anil Shastri, the son of former prime minister appealed to Modi government to declassify. Modi government should listen to those appeals as well and initiate declassification of those files as well.

Another leader who died under mysterious circumstances was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who died as a detenu in Kashmir in 1953. Recently, the family members of Bhagat Singh had also appealed to the Center to declassify files related to him.

Then, there is the Vohra report on the criminalization of politics that was submitted in 1993, the Henderson-Brooks Report that analyzes India’s debacle in 1962 India-China War, and many classified files related to Naval Mutiny of 1946 and other aspects of freedom movement, that are yet to see the light.

Calling for declassification of all such files, Indian academic and writer, Madhu Kishwar tweeted yesterday:

Modi government should form a committee that includes members from intelligence, legal fraternity, historians, and experts from other concerned areas to review all these old files and declassify them in a phased manner. The government should further bring out a declassification policy similar to those in the US or UK so that the declassification of files does not become an issue in future.

UK declassifies its files after 20 years. US follows 10 years declassification. It further has a 25-year review that reviews and declassifies those files that were not declassified at 10 years. In Australia, federal documents are declassified at 20 years and cabinet notes at 30 years. India should formulate its own policy on similar lines.

Modi government has taken a welcome step in deciding to declassify Netaji files. But, this declassification should not be its last. The government should genuinely pursue the issue of declassification and legislate laws for automatic declassification after a fixed number of years. Only this would make India a truly information-rich country, wherein its people can easily access documents related to its recent history.

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Mamata announces release of Netaji files, puts onus back on Modi govt

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The mystery surrounding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s disappearance has taken a step forward to being unravelled with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing the decision to publish the state government files on the Indian National Army (INA) leader.

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Beginning September 18, all documents pertaining to the freedom fighter will be made available at the city police station.

“The mystery surrounding Netaji continues to be unsolved. So whatever files we have we will declassify which may help in unravelling the mystery,” Banerjee told reporters at the Secretariat today.

Speaking on the impediments concerning the prospective declassification, Banerjee said that the documents did not relate to any issues concerning internal security or the like and that she herself was unaware about their existence.

“Even we were not aware that we had such files. We believed all such files on Netaji were with the central government. Nobody before bothered or gave a thought that files on Netaji can also be with the state government.

“Going through other files we came across these documents and we decided to make them public. It is a big decision,” Banerjee stated.

The announcement from the West Bengal chief comes in the backdrop of massive campaigns being staged by a host of Netaji descendants and researchers for disclosing the secret files on Netaji.

According to the campaigners, over 100 such files lie with the central government and at least 64 files with the Bengal government.

Open Platform for Netaji (OPN), a forum comprising a host of descendants of the nationalist leader and researchers is one of the major campaigners for the declassification of the secret Netaji files.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the decision. It is a great decision and will pave the way in unravelling what actually happened to Netaji. I think her decision will also prompt the Centre to take a decision in this regard,” said Chandra Kumar Bose, Netaji’s grand nephew and convenor of Open Platform.

01-mamatabanerjeeSurya Kumar Bose, another of Netaji’s grandnephews, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin in April this year and raised the issue of declassification of the files.

Experts associated with Netaji also feel that Mamata Banerjee’s decision is a step in the right direction, especially considering the fact that bureaucrats at the prime minister’s office, home ministry and ministry of external affairs have so far stonewalled attempts to access the classified files that can throw light on Netaji’s disappearance.

Banerjee’s decision will create pressure on the Modi government to release the files,” says Anuj Dhar, author of ‘India’s Biggest Cover-up’.

“Most of the important files that can really blow the Netaji cover-up are with the central government. Mamata Banerjee has given a huge boost to our fight for declassification. This will surely create pressure on the Modi government,” Dhar said.

(With inputs from IANS)