THE CENTRE on Friday tried to wash its hands of a declaration that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was dead by putting the onus on the UPA government, but added it was willing to examine any “new fact” if and when it came up. The clarification came after a sharp reaction from parties, including Trinamool Congress and state BJP, on the issue.
The controversy was triggered by a reply from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to an RTI application filed by a Kolkata resident. “The government has come to the conclusion that Netaji died in the plane crash on August 18, 1945,” the ministry said on May 31, referring to the findings of Shah Nawaz Committee, Justice G D Khosla Commission and the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Enquiry on the subject.
An MHA spokesperson on Friday clarified that the issue was not closed. “There was a conclusion in 2006 that Netaji was dead. The RTI reply was based on that conclusion. However, the issue is not closed. Any new fact, if it comes up, will be examined by the government on merit and an appropriate decision will be taken,” he said. The RTI reply on the death of the founder of Indian National Army was based on a May 2006 Cabinet decision, the spokesperson said.
The Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre then. He said a supplementary reply to the RTI applicant was being sent, clarifying the government’s position. The spokesperson said the government in 2006 had taken this position after the Mukherjee Commission (1999) concluded that Netaji was no longer alive, considering that he was born in 1897. In the RTI reply, the NDA government also sought to dispel reports that Bose lived in disguise as a “Gumnami Baba”.
Immediately after the RTI reply was made public, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I am shocked to see this unilateral decision of the central government without evidence,” she said on Facebook. “Any matter involving a person of his stature does not deserve to be handled in such a casual manner. I have drawn the attention of Hon’ble Prime Minister to this matter…” The state BJP unit had said on Facebook that they did not support the RTI response.
“We don’t think Netaji was killed in the so-called air crash. This RTI reply was based on paperwork done during the former UPA government. The current Union government or BJP don’t subscribe to this view,” it said. Chandra Bose, BJP leader and Bose’s grandnephew, demanded a special investigation team to probe his disappearance. The All India Forward Bloc accused the Centre of “misleading” the country by claiming he had died in an air crash in 1945.
Bose had set up the Forward Bloc of the Indian National Congress in 1939. The Congress also accused the NDA government of making “concerted efforts” to rewrite history. Saying it had stoked fresh controversy over Bose’s death, the party demanded an apology.