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Netaji files show family was under observation, intercepted communication hinted at sightings

In a letter written by Dr Lilly Abegg to Netaji's brother, Sarat Chandra Bose on December 9, 1949, intercepted at the Elgin Road Post Office, she writes, "I heard in 1946 from Japanese sources that your brother is still living."

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Kolkata |
Updated: October 7, 2016 5:03:31 pm
netaji files, netaji subhash chandra bose, netaji documents, netaji death, subhash chandra bose death, mamata banerjee The files declassified on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Kolkata (Photo by Shubham Dutta)

The 64 files on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, officially released Friday and dubbed as ‘historic’ by the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, reveal not only the minute scrutiny that Netaji and his family were subjected to by Indian intelligence agencies, but also the doubts that continued regarding Netaji’s death in various quarters.

Consider this, a letter written by Dr Lilly Abegg to Netaji’s brother, Sarat Chandra Bose on December 9, 1949. In the letter, intercepted at the Elgin Road Post Office, she writes, “I heard in 1946 from Japanese sources that your brother is still living.”


Abegg, a Swiss journalist, was a correspondent in Japan and China and at the time of writing the letter worked for the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. In the letter, she wrote, “On account of the good relation between Indian and my country, it is not possible to tell everything in  a too open and undiplomatic manner. Further, as I have not been in India, it is impossible for me to take sides with one side only and against the government.” In a previous correspondence, dated November 1, 1949, Abegg had once against written to Sarat Chandra Bose and asked, “Any news from Mr Subhash Chandra Bose? United Press reported that he was in Peking.”

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On August 20, 1965, a weekly secret survey of the Netaji Research Bureau by state intelligence officers intercepted communication between Sisir Kumar Bose (Netaji’s nephew) and Tatsuo Hayashida, the Japanese author of the book, ‘Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: His great struggle and martyrdom’. In it, Sisir Kumar Bose writes that Dr Satya Narayan Sinha, a member of the parliament and former Indian Foreign Service officer had said that the erstwhile Formosa government, had documents that created doubts regarding Netaji’s death.


“Dr Sinha visted Formosa in November-December last year and made enquiries regarding the air crash. A number of Chinese nationals were produced before him by the present government there and who made statements to him which are at complete variance with statements made by Japanese friends before the Netaji Enquiry Committee. Dr Sinha has written further that the present government in Formosa have documents in their possession showing that an air crash of the same description occurred in October 1944 but no such air crash took place in August 1945. It is reported that the Formosa Government will publish these documents if requested to do so by the Government of India,” reads the letter.

The files reveal sustained surveillance of Netaji’s family and the activities of the Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata. In particular, letters written to and from two addresses – 1, Woodburn Park, Calcutta – the residence of Netaji and his family and 38/2 Elgin Road – Netaji Bhawan – were intercepted at the Elgin Road Post Office and forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Branch, CID Calcutta.

On Friday, the files were handed over to the descendants of Netaji by Kolkata Police Commissioner SK Purkayastha at the Kolkata Police Museum. Banerjee tweeted, “Today is a historic day. Our government has made all Netaji files public. People have the right to know about the brave son of India.” But state government officials maintained that the files released on Friday constituted only a small fraction of the existing surveillance records on Netaji and his family and the key to his disappearance lay in the files with the union government.


Afterwards, Netaji’s family members urged the union government to follow the West Bengal governments example and declassify these files. “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has done a great thing and now the Centre has no other option but to declassify the files it has…The more important files that can unravel the mystery behind his disappearance are with the central government departments and the mystery can be solved only if those files are declassified,” Netaji’s grandnephew and family spokesperson Chandra Kumar Bose told the media here after the release.


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