By Kanika Rangray
New Delhi: To shed some light on the controversy surrounding the death (or, as some believe, sudden disappearance) of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Friday that her government will publicize 64 files on Netaji. Banerjee said that the mystery surrounding the freedom fighter’s disappearance needed to be solved and put at rest.
“Still the mystery surrounding Netaji’s disappearance continues to be unsolved. So whatever files we have, we will declassify them which may help in unraveling the mystery,” Banerjee was quoted as saying to a newspaper.
The move by the West Bengal government was welcomed by descendants of Netaji and researchers who have been campaigning for the declassification of these files; they hope that this will encourage the central government, which claims possession of 100 such files, to do the same.
Apart from the government and descendants of Netaji, Mission Netaji, an organisation of journalists, activists, lawyers, IT associates and others, have also come forward to pursue the case of disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Abhishek Bose, part of Mission Netaji, conversed with NewsGram via email: “We are currently conducting a US tour of our principal activist Sri Anuj Dhar. We have confirmed public events in Washington DC, Philadelphia/Delware and New York area(s).”
Talking about Mr. Dhar, Abhishek Bose said: “He had been instrumental in gathering evidence and helping the Mukherjee commission prove that the air crash theory was false. Thanks to his and other activists’ efforts, the West Bengal government has finally decided to declassify 64 files.”
“We intend to continue our efforts in creating awareness, building support and convincing the government to help solve this case. Towards that end, Mr. Dhar along with members of the Bose family and other public figures have been travelling across India and abroad addressing people, media and government functionaries,” he added.
Campaign to unveil mystery circling Netaji
Official documents maintained by the Indian government say that Netaji died when his plane crashed off Taihoku (Taiwan) in August, 1945. But Bose’s body or any picture of it was not produced to validate the controversial Japanese account, forcing some half-hearted investigations by the government. And so, in 2006 some admirers of Netaji and others decided to unravel this mystery and force the government to reveal classified documentation about Netaji’s life and death, the INA (Indian National Army led by Bose), which is spread across ministries.
The government accepted that the Prime Minister’s Office alone has 60 files regarding the same, the Intelligence Bureau has 77 and 29 are with the Ministry of External Affairs. The West Bengal government has a stockpile of 70 such files, out of which 64 are to be made public.
Anuj Dhar was quoted in a newspaper saying: “The demand for declassification of the Netaji files has gone international and vast Indian community living abroad and at home want to know the facts of their beloved leader. I hope the present government would do what previous Indian governments could not.”
Dhar, who has been leading an RTI campaign regarding the same, said: “Seventy years is a long time for someone to disappear. Indians have a right to know the truth. The excuse given by successive governments is that the information contained in the classified files will ‘spoil India’s relations with foreign countries’. This movement for transparency is about getting to the bottom of what really happened to Netaji.”
Gumnami Baba was Netaji himself?
It was once believed (and still some do) that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in a plane crash in Taipei (Taiwan) in 1945, but an inquiry by the Indian government in 2006 revealed that there was no such plane crash.
Indian author and former journalist Anuj Dhar claims that his research unveiled that Netaji lived in disguise as a nameless hermit monk in northern India and died in 1985. The nameless ascetic is none other than Gumnami Baba who lived in UP’s Faizabad.
Many people from the state have recounted incidents from their lives claiming that Gumnami Baba or Bhagwanji, as he was called, was none other than Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose himself.
One among those who believed Bhagwanji was Netaji is Surajit Dasgupta. The 64 year old went back 33 years down his memory lane and recounting his encounters with Gumnami Baba said: “There was no mistake in identification that he was Netaji. His hair had thinned, much more than what we were used to seeing in his photographs. He had a flowing beard. But the features were exactly the same. Only, he had aged. The eyes were so powerful I had to turn away immediately. I realized then that the patriot our parents and we had worshipped since we were kids had reached a higher plane of existence. He had become a mahatma.”
UP CMs Sampurnanand and Benarasi Dasgupta remained in contact with Netaji from December 1954 to April 1957. Their letters, including those from former railway minister Ghani Khan Chowdhury and other important leaders, were found among Bhagwanji’s belonging which are now in possession of the Faizabad Treasury.