US record contests Italian envoy's views on Netaji's death

Anuj Dhar (Author of Back from Dead: Inside the Subhas Bose Mystery)

Speaking at Kolkata's Netaji Research Bureau on the occasion of Netaji's 112th birth anniversary, Italy's ambassador to India Alessandro Quaroni struck what seemed like right notes on the great leader's life. On death, however, he struck a wrong one: "News of his (Bose's) accidental death reached my father in Moscow...I don't see any point in continuing with the research on whether he died in a crash or not."

The researchers were quite naturally not too pleased, with one of them -- V P Saini of Ropar -- actually dispatching a letter to the Prime Minister of Italy (

Well, unless the Times of India misquoted him, Quaroni, son of diplomat Pietro Quaroni who helped Bose escape to Moscow in 1941, would have done better to think a little more about his statement whose import conveyed the impression that it backed the biggest cover-up in Indian history.

Because preserved in the Seeley G Mudd Manuscript Library in the Princeton University is a note that tells us what His Excellency's father actually made of the news of Bose's accidental death. One would hate to pit a father against his son, but Quaroni Sr did not think the news was true. And therefore, the inference drawn by the Quaroni jr is misplaced. 

Mission Netaji's Chandrachur Ghose accessed the note penned by Mahatma Gandhi's biographer and Pulitzer winning American journalist Louis Fischer after meeting Quaroni in Rome in November 1946 --- more than a year after Bose's reported death. The latter was then serving as Italy's Ambassador to the USSR. And from that responsible position he thought that it was "possible that Bose is still alive".

Quorni told Fischer that Bose "did not want the British to look for him so the false rumor of his death was circulated."  He said "Bose may be biding his time for a return to India."


Louis Fischer's notes on his meeting with Pietro Quaroni. Courtesy: Seeley G Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University


After seeing this note would Quorani, who conceded to Kolkata reporters that his "parents did not have any evidence to confirm that Netaji had died", still say that there is no point in researching in Bose's fate?

Or do we need to point up a few more nuggets? Fisher's papers in the Mudd library also have a letter written on behalf of Mahatma Gandhi in July 1946. "If Bose comes with the help of Russia neither Gandhiji nor the Congress will be able to reason with the country...," was the stern message. Now, how in the world could the USSR bring a dead man to life? Declassified Intelligence Bureau reports state Bose could have escaped to the USSR under the cover of news of a fake air crash. And, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru knew him to be there.

Now, if such a scenario could be replicated in Italy, what would the researchers there had done? I am sure they would have at least not behaved in so wimpish a manner like the lot in India did from 1950s onward as they added to the mess of mystery. The only instances of research into Bose's fate were attempts by a handful of individuals in their personal capacities. For the establishment, and those who gained from it, the matter was closed in the 1950s itself even as secret official reports keep coming in doubting the air crash theory. The government was forced by handful of Bose admirers to enact facades of inquiries that arrived at pre-determined conclusions.

It was only recently that the truth finally triumphed as a commission of inquiry appointed on court orders shot down the air crash theory and gave solid reasons to believe in the Russian angle. But then, the establishment went against it and rejected the commission's inquiry citing reasons that would not stand in any court of law, provided there are good lawyers are around and cynicism isn't. 

Maybe one can hazard a guess as to why the ambassador's tenor reeked of prejudices that can so clearly be attributed to some motivated individuals. For all we know, he was inspired by the world view of the organizers of his lecture -- the government-backed Netaji Research Bureau of former Congress party MP Krishna Bose and her Harvard Don son Sugata Bose. Mrs Bose is the wife of late Sisir Kumar Bose, Netaji's nephew who used to be a Congress party MLA. Some uncharitable things have been said about this section of the family. Suffice it would be to say that despite their influence, they represent only a small section of the Bose family that continues to hold the view that the truth about Subhas Chandra Bose's death must be settled in the national interest.