“The individual must die, so that India may live and may win freedom and glory….” reads an excerpt from the writings of Subhas Chandra Bose at the entrance of 38/2 Elgin Road, or ‘Netaji Bhawan’, in the heart of Kolkata.
This is one of the two houses of Netaji that were under surveillance for over two decades according to some files of the Intelligence Bureau declassified at the National Archives now. This is also the house from where Netaji made his great escape in 1941.
The other house on which surveillance was kept is 1, Woodburn Park. It now houses the Centre for Asian Studies.
Historian and a Netaji relative, Dr Sugato Bose, talks about how his father Dr Sisir Bose evaded at least 14 intelligence officials posted at the Elgin Road house once and drove Netaji out disguised in a Pathan suit.
“But that was during British rule,” Bose, who is now a Trinamool Congress MP, adds. “What is most shocking is that the snooping continued even after Independence.”
Equally shocking is that it was the Congress that ruled Bengal then “and the snooping could not have continued without the knowledge of the Bengal government”, says Bose.
He adds that he had looked at the files at the National Archives and found the documents and letters to be “totally harmless, nice letters, private and very intimate letters”, says Bose.
The MP wonders if the spying had stopped now. “If it continued till 1968, what stopped it?” Bose asked. “Did it stop at all? Who knows that even now our e-mails are not monitored, telephones not bugged? This was an encroachment on privacy and most of all there was no security threat involved.”
Bose doesn’t believe that the “political challenge” that Netaji’s return might have posed to then leaders could have been the reason to snoop. “The motive is not clear. There is also no evidence to suggest that it was ordered by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.”
He talks about the “intimate relationship” the Bose family had with the Nehrus. Nehru would invite Netaji for breakfast whenever he was in Delhi, Bose says.
Demanding that all classified documents relating to any matter including Netaji be opened to public, Bose adds, “Such classified documents should be released and, if the matters are too sensitive, the period may be extended to 50 years.”
About Bose, he notes, “The argument that releasing such documents may sour relations with friendly countries does not hold water. In 1941 the Churchill government had initiated a move to assassinate Netaji. Does it mean it would impact India’s relations with the David Cameron government?”