Updated: June 29, 2021 7:31:17 am
After a furore was raised over the alleged disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose’s cap, which was on display at the Red Fort, the government clarified that the cap was not missing, but was on loan to the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. Hopefully, the matter will rest there. But those who fish for red herring after red herring when it comes to Netaji are a tenacious lot. A trickle of doubt has already made its way into social media about whether there is a precedent for “invaluable” objects being loaned to other museums (there is). Will this new question once more set in motion the gears and sprockets of the old Netaji Conspiracy Theory Generator?
Ever since Bose’s death in an airplane crash in 1945, speculation about him has been unceasing. Did he really die in the crash? What if he survived and lived as one Gumnami Baba for decades? Did “politics” (a vague term loved by conspiracy theorists) lead independent India’s government to hide this? Multiple sightings have been reported over the years — at Gandhi’s funeral, a military parade in Beijing, a Soviet jail cell. Big names, from Nehru to Krushchev, were dragged in. Never mind that multiple investigative commissions and most of Bose’s family, have accepted his 1945 death. His daughter Anita Bose Pfaff even clubbed Netaji conspiracy theorists with Moon landing hoaxers and JFK assassination theorists.
After the storming of the US Capitol by QAnon conspiracy theorists, among others, in January this year, psychologists pointed out that in times of great disorder (such as a raging pandemic and economic distress), people who crave “cognitive closure” latch on to any theory that will help them make sense of the world. The question then, for India, is this: What plagues the national psyche so terribly that Bose’s legacy has been reduced to a clutch of whodunits? Now that is a mystery worth solving.
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