One of the two houses that were under surveillance for over two decades according to some files of Intelligence Bureau that had been declassified and kept at the national archive now lies in the heart of Kolkata. This is also the house from where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had made his great escape in 1941.
“In life immortal, this is the technique of the soul. The individual must die, so that India may live and may win freedom and glory….” reads an epithet from the writings of Subhas Chandra Bose at the entrance of 38-2 Elgin Road – “Netaji Bhawan”.
Next to it is another marble plaque on which is etched another writing of Netaji that reads: “In this mortal world, everything perishes and will perish – but ideas and ideals and dreams do not. One individual may die for an idea but that idea will, after his death incarnate itself in a thousand lives….”
Talking to the Sunday Express, Dr Sugata Bose – a historian and a Netaji kin responded to the latest controversy recounting how his father Dr Sisir Bose was able to dodge past at least 14 intelligence officials posted at the house at that time under the British rule and drove Netaji dressed and disguised in a pathan suit out of that house. Dr Sisir Bose reached Netaji Subhas Bose to Gomoh railway station from where he disappeared.
Dr Bose goes to add: “But that was during the British rule. What is most shocking about the current revelation is that the snooping continued even after 15th August, 1947. Probably the Indian Intelligence officials had forgotten the relevance of that date and the fact that India had won its freedom by then.”
‘It is equally shocking that in Bengal was a Congress government then under Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy and the snooping could not have continued without the knowledge of the Bengal government,” said Bose. It was the Intelligence Bureau located at Lord Sinha Road that was responsible for the snooping and Elgin Road post office was the place where the letters of the family used to be monitored and intercepted, said Bose.
The Harvard professor of history and now a Trinamool Congress MP, Dr. Bose wondered if the spying has stopped now. “if it could have continued until 1968, then what stopped it?” he asks. “Did it stop at all? Who knows that even now our e-mails are not monitored, telephones not bugged? These should not have happened. This was an encroachment on privacy and most of all there was no security threat involved in mounting such a surveillance on our family,” he said.
Asked about the “political challenge” that Netaji’s return might have posed to the then leaders which might have been a reason to snoop, Dr Bose said: “The motive is not clear regarding this snooping affair. There is also no evidence to suggest that it was ordered by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. There is no direct link to suggest that,” said Bose.
The Bose family had an intimate relation with the Nehru family, said Bose and narrated how Nehru used to invite Subhas Chandra Bose for breakfast when he used to visit Delhi and often invited him to attend the parliament sessions.
“As a historian, I had come to acknowledge the martyrdom of Subhas Chandra Bose in the Japan air crash and I had also written about the “mortal end of a deathless hero,” said Bose but he also pointed out the other mass psychological phenomenon of the late ‘40s and mid ‘50s in which a large number of people believed that Netaji will return and could lead the country. Sarat Bose my grand father and Netaji’s elder brother and my father Sisir Bose both were in jail then, he added.
However, Sugata Bose said that he had already taken a look at the files at the national archive and found the documents and letters as “totally harmless, nice letters, private and very intimate letters.” He has already served notice to the Speaker raising a starred question on the issue and which may come up for discussion in parliament if it is chosen. Or, there may be a written reply to his questions.
Bose said that he would also demand to the present government that all classified documents relating to any matter and including that of Netaji should be opened to public. Thirty years after such classified documents should be released and if the matters are too sensitive the period may be extended to 50 years. “The argument that releasing such documents may sour relations with friendly countries does not hold ground,” said Bose and added : “In 1941 Churchill government had initiated a move to assassinate Netaji which later came to light. Does it mean it would impact India’s relation with the David Cameroon government now?” Bose asked.
However, while the 38/2 Elgin Road house of Netaji has been transformed into a Netaji museum and a Netaji research centre – the other house – 1, Woodburn Park – which used to be spied too – is now a centre for Asian Studies. “It was not in a good shape but the present government has taken care to give support and Sugata Bose plans to rejuvenate the Asian Studies centre to greater heights.