On Tuesday morning, files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in a small corner room in the east wing of Kolkata’s Writers’ Buildings for digitisation, before being made public Friday. But with some of these documents purportedly raising questions over his death in a plane crash in 1945 in Taipei, a familiar controversy has been reignited.
The documents purportedly suggest that in 1948-49, British and American intelligence agencies believed that Bose was alive and instrumental in a number of communist uprisings in Southeast Asia.
Another letter, written by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to Netaji’s nephew Amiya Nath Bose in 1948, also suggests the same thing, said sources.
A letter written by Ohou Hrian Kuan, from the Publication Division of the I&B Ministry at the Old Secretariat in New Delhi, was intercepted by the Intelligence Bureau at the Elgin Road post office before it reached Amiya. It reads: “I regret I could not find out that news about Netaji which have been published in Chinese newspaper in Nanking some time ago. I am still believing that he is alive.”
These files are among the 64 that date back to the period between 1937 and 1947, and are being declassified by the West Bengal government. They are scheduled to be put up in public domain Friday. Many of these files have as many as 300 pages, with handwritten notes on the margins. Among these files are personal correspondences between Netaji and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose, the British intelligence’s analysis of Netaji’s speeches at various public meetings and invitations given to him to attend various functions.
“The documents suggest that British and American intelligence agencies believed Bose was undergoing training in Russia to emerge as another Tito or Mao. The British government was also very concerned that Netaji was alive and waiting for the right opportunity, while security services had failed to find any evidence confirming his death. The UK government believed that Netaji had escaped to Communist China or Russia,” claimed a senior government official.
Sugata Bose, TMC MP from Jadavpur and the great-nephew of Netaji, however differed from the conclusions being drawn from these documents. “It is unfortunate that such distortion is taking place. There is enough evidence, documented in the existing historical body of work, which says Netaji had died in the plane crash. At the time, there were obviously those who hoped Netaji was alive and detractors who feared that he could be alive. But we shouldn’t lose sight of Netaji and his life,” he said.
He also criticised the Union government’s stand that disclosing some files could hamper relations with other countries. “I don’t buy the central government’s argument that disclosing these files might adversely affect foreign relations. Nobody is going to blame today’s government for what a predecessor government may have done 50 or 60 years ago,” he said.
While making the announcement to declassify these files last week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that the files will be transferred to the Kolkata Police Archives and put on display at the Kolkata Police Museum. She had stressed on the need for disclosure and transparency regarding “the truth about Netaji”, and added that “it is for the Centre to decide” whether they want to declassify the files they have in their possession.
Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose said he had received communication from the Union government regarding a meeting and hoped they would soon declassify files in their possession. “I have received communication from the Prime Minister’s Office and we are hoping that there will be a meeting in October. We want the declassification of another 135 files lying with the central government, the erstwhile KGB and those with the British intelligence. We have filed an RTI with the British government and they have responded saying that they are scrutinising the files. Already some of the files have revealed that my family was being spied on by the Indian government; other revelations will only make things clearer,” he claimed.
Krishna Bose, a former Trinamool Congress MP and Netaji’s family member, said there was no reason to hold back the files for 70 years after his disappearance. “I think it’s a very good decision and I hope that the NDA government will follow the example set by the West Bengal government and declassify these files. Not doing so is only leading to distortion of facts and wild conjectures.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, as a team from the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing — appointed by the state government to provide technical support — conducted the digitisation process, the room in which the files were being scanned remained under heavy security.