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Netaji files declassified: Indira govt wanted Japan to keep ashes during Emergency

Taking IB’s inputs, the MHA on August 20, 1976, further wrote to MEA, “Bringing back the ashes will give a fillip to the Forward Bloc which is at present an insignificant force.”

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | New Delhi |
Updated: January 24, 2016 4:58:06 pm
Bharat ratna, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Anita Pfaff, netaji Anita Pfaff, netaji files, bose classified files, india news, latest news, netaji flight crash, Family of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at Parliament on Saturday, the 119th birth anniversary of the freedom fighter. (Source: PTI)

During the Emergency, the Indira Gandhi government was apprehensive that bringing back Netaji’s ashes may give a ‘fillip’ to the Forward Bloc — which was then “an insignificant force” — and was willing to increase payment to maintain the ashes at the Rankoji Temple in Japan.

According to the files declassified by the PMO, the Home Ministry (MHA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in August 1976 advised the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to “persuade the Japanese authorities to continue to retain the ashes with them” to “best avoid” controversy.

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The communication between MHA and MEA was triggered by a request from the Indian Embassy in Tokyo in July 1976 to take back Netaji’s ashes from Rankoji Temple and suitably “enshrine” them in India.

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T V Rajeswar, a joint director in IB wrote to the MHA in August 1976, “If the ashes are to be brought back… Government of India would be accused of foisting a false story upon the people of West Bengal and India, taking advantage of the Emergency, and this may well figure as an important plank of propaganda if and when the elections are announced.”

Taking IB’s inputs, the MHA on August 20, 1976, further wrote to MEA, “Bringing back the ashes will give a fillip to the Forward Bloc which is at present an insignificant force.” It also predicted that “the place of keeping the ashes will witness agitation” from Forward Bloc, and in turn asked the MEA to “persuade the Japanese authorities to continue to retain the ashes with them”.

Further, the MHA said that long as the files were in Japan, there was a room for maintaining ambiguity over the government’s acceptance of the reports of two commissions on Netaji’s death in the air crash in Taiwan.

The matter was closed only in November 1977, when a joint secretary in the MEA said, “Although it may be a bit embarrassing” for the MEA to continue to press the Japanese authorities that it would be premature to transfer the ashes to India”, it should be done as “there seems to be no other alternative in the situation”.

“If the son of the priest demands a heavier price for maintaining the ashes in the (Rankoji) temple, as suggested in our Ambassador’s letter… the price would be worth paying in order to keep a lid on the controversy in the country. Presently, the payment is only Rs 5,000 a year, which even if enhanced would not be a heavy financial liability,” he said.

In months following the Emergency, one T C A Srinivasavaradan (designation not mentioned) of the MHA observed, “So long as the ashes are kept in Japan, there is a room for a misgiving (sic) that the government of India has not fully accepted findings of the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee and the Khosla Commission regarding the air crash and Shri Subhas Chandra Bose’s death in the course of the crash,” while placing the question of further inquiry into Netaji’s death before Cabinet.

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