An "American" solution for Netaji mystery


67 years ago Subhas Chandra Bose reportedly met his end following an air crash at Matsuyama aerodrome--today's Taipei SongShan airport. The controversy which rose soon after, hovers over till date. This is quite remarkable considering that the Indians are known to leave behind tragedies of gargantuan proportions in a matter of weeks.  Controversies surround the death and assassinations of our three prime ministers and yet the cumulative interest in them is not a patch on the Bose mystery.

But all along the controversy has been dominated by two contrasting outlooks. The first is the views of conspiracy theorists, Bose's blind followers and Jawaharlal Nehru's fiercest critics. They scenario projected by them hasn't escaped the notice of any of us. The other side is that of the intellectuals, especially the "I know it all" lot which cannot stand any talk of the possibility that Bose might have lived on after the date of his reported death. That's why we find that in last 6 decades there's not been any proper research by any reputed researcher into the matter. Those who did touch upon the issue ended up giving sketchy details.  

So, like it or not, the controversy remains in circulation, unresolved. Therefore, this 18 August might be a good time to reflect on it and think of a way to cap it for once and all.  The accepted wisdom that "there's no use of raising this issue now" must be re-judged in the context of transparency, vital for any great democracy. As you read this, heaps of classified records and files relating to Bose are lying in different ministries and agencies. I do not think apart from Bose any other pre-independence national icon of ours has had the dubious distinction of having so much of classified material about him. Often there are claims, some of which are right, that secret files on Bose exist in other countries. But then, how are we going to ask foreign governments to release them when our own is sitting on a pile of its own making?

In 2006, this writer asked the Prime Minister's Office to furnish a list of classified files it was holding on Bose. The highest office in the land first refused to provide even this basic data and responded only after the Central Information Commission directed it to. A truncated list of 31 out of 35 such files was provided. The titles of 4 files were not disclosed, with the CIC's consent, as doing so would have impacted India's relations with some friendly foreign states. Out of 31 files 7 were "Top Secret"; 3 "Confidential" and the rest "Secret". Bulk of the files related to Bose's fate.

The situation is more or less the same across the government. The Ministry of Home Affairs, I came to know during my RTI-related efforts, is holding thousands of pages on Bose's fate it still deems classified. In fact, during a hearing before the full Bench of the CIC, the Ministry stated on record that these "documents are sensitive in nature, the public disclosure of which may lead to a serious law and order problem in the country". This has got to be joke because most "enlightened" people of the country--including senior journalists, I have the gumption to say--have made up their minds that the Bose mystery is just gas.

The Ministry of External Affairs has secret files about Bose and so has the Intelligence Bureau, some 76 of them. In fact, only a former DIB can actually tell how many files are there exactly and where they have been kept. That is such a shame, you would say. Yes, that is, and this is precisely the issue at hand. This country needs openness in the realm of history as well. And if there's one case which stands out--it's the one my favourite columnist thinks is a mere conspiracy theory. Irrespective of the views one holds about Netaji or his fate, to ask for comprehensive declassification of all records about him would be a sensible thing to do.

Two decades back the United States of America faced a similar situation over the controversy surrounding the assassination of John F Kennedy. In 1992, the US Congress passed a law providing for a "unique solution to the problem of secrecy" which was at the root of the problem. Hence, under the law all records were made public and the controversy was rested. Time has come for India to take similar steps and move on. We cannot let issue of past bother us; but if the Government of ours continue to sit on dozens of secret of files on Netaji, the controversy would keep re-registering itself on the consciousness of the nation.

The author is writer of India's biggest cover-up, available both digitally and in print. If you support the demand of declassification, cut and paste this entire piece and post it on your Facebook page.

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For more details, please check the interview of the writer from here.