Today is the day of Indian independence. From our school books, library books, and cinemas we know about a half naked man who took the path of non-violence against the most ruthless country of the past. He started a lot of movements, pulled crowds into it, coordinated several protests, hunger strikes and talks with the British Raj. Unfortunately, those movements were to be left behind half way into it, and something new were to be taken up.
Think. If fasting unto death was a great option, couldn’t have the man himself taken it up against the British as early as the 1930’s and fetched us freedom? It didn’t happen for some reason. So what kind of fear did he cause to the British? They were continuing with their individual and mass killings despite the non-violent talks. Was it non-violence that liberated India? “Yes” according to most Indians, but “No” according to Clement Attlee!
Gandhi never fasted unto death. But one did. His name was Jatin Das, a proud Bengali. He was arrested and taken to the British jails. He started his non-violent non-cooperation movement inside the jail by hesitating to take food. He went without eating for more than 50 days and finally collapsed and succumbed to death. The only known person to have fasted unto death during our freedom struggle. Gandhi didn’t condemn his death and maintained a stand that he was taken into custody for his involvement in violent protests against the British. So, was Jatin doing it for getting his passport? Was it for earning himself some land? Was it for getting himself an employment? No! It was to free India!
But one sensible leader of that time went to the railway station to receive his body and carry the bier on his shoulders – Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose! Now, he, was a man of character. He believed that no real change in history has ever been achieved by discussions. He took the path of violence against the British Raj – an eye for an eye. A passionate youngster who was dismissed from college for slapping a British professor for his racist remarks. A strong administrator who passed ICS with fourth rank and refused to work under the British.
He rose to power in Congress by defeating Gandhi’s candidate Pattabhi Seetharamaiah but left the role of Congress president to take up his own ways to liberate India. He sided with the Japanese and the Germans to fight the British in India. He formed an Indian government ‘unofficially’ and gained support from more than 10 countries. His government was well organised with a cabinet of ministers with clearly defined responsibilities. He collected wealth from the public for running the government in exile (from Singapore). Indian National Army grew in men and money. Indian fighters from India, Japan, Germany and other countries joined the INA. It rose to a strength of 80,000+. Arms were supplied by friendly nations. None of the Indian National Army fighters were left unattended. He gave them enough salaries to look after their families. A man who wished to walk with them for miles on foot when he had the luxury to use a vehicle. He recognised the capability and passion of women and formed a lady regiment also in INA. Under Subhas INA defeated Britain and got back a few North Eastern cities. INA soldiers were rolling on mud and kissing the soil of Mother India in ecstasy after winning the battle. But due to diseases and natural calamities, INA had to withdraw and surrender the place. He ensured that all the ladies in the INA were safely escorted to their houses. Bose handed over the cities officially and posted soldiers in the streets to make sure that no incidents of looting of wealth or assault on women occurred. Even the British were overwhelmed by the arrangements and they remarked it was admirable.
Well, you don’t know Indian history if you don’t know the heroics of this man. When in India, he was kept under house arrest with police guarding the house. Still the wise man escaped cheating their eyes! He fooled the British by his unidentifiable sub-marine travels during the Second World War. He made arrangements with Japan to fight the British in India. Finally, when Japan decided to surrender post the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, an understanding was formed between Bose and Japan. They would help him reach Russian border and the rest was up to Bose’s own planning. They created a fake plane crash story to move the attention of the British away from him. Everything worked out. So, he boarded that flight in August 1945…
What happened then? Nobody had real proof of what happened next. News broke on Aug 23, 1945 that Bose was killed in a plane crash in Taihoku airport in Taiwan. The fools believed, the wise didn’t. Indian government under Nehru accepted the death without any enquiry. US and Britain didn’t believe it and they kept on probing it further. Protests grew larger and after 9 years of continuous fight in Parliament, some MPs decided to form an unofficial enquiry commission. Just then Nehru changed his stand and appointed a commission. The commission gave a report without even visiting the crash site in Taiwan! Government accepted the report; public did not. The fight went on. In the 1970’s Indira Gandhi was forced to appoint another enquiry commission, this time the commission was someone who had shown interest in writing Indira’s biography! The result was obvious – Netaji died in plane crash! The report was later torn and thrown in the floor of the Parliament by some MPs. Finally, Morarji Desai went on to state that the government rejects the findings of both commissions. A requirement of a third commission came in.
Just then some interesting things were happening in and around UP. An unknown man – a sanyasi – was changing rented houses in short times and was desperate to find a comfortable shelter, which he was not getting. The man never came out in the public but was going out in the dark, and was receiving esteemed people in his ashram at night. Who was he? Some, who got a chance to be near him – may be a doctor, may be a landlord – felt the man bore a close resemblance to some well-known person. Others only got to talk to him outside his room, with no option to at least peep inside and catch a glimpse of his face. They could only hear him.
In a night of September 1985, a few of his disciples took a covered dead body out of the ashram and buried it on the banks of Sarayu, all in a hurry, and under the little light the headlight of a motor bike can offer. Just then, the neighbours thought it was enough and they started shouting and reporting to the government authorities and police – that it was Subhas Chandra Bose!!!
Well! If so, it needed to be checked. The cry from the public was so loud and clear that the government ordered to seal his ashram and take the belongings to the Faizabad treasury. There, it left untouched for another 15 years! In the late 1990’s the government was forced to appoint a third enquiry commission, following a court order. The commission inspected everything, went to the treasury, ashram, Taiwan, and Russia. He got official information from Taiwan that no plane crash occurred at the Taihoku airport in August 1945. Oh well! Then how could Subhas die! The commission wanted to explore the Russian angle and wanted to study the KGB archives there. He wanted classified information kept in the archives and sought help from Manmohan Singh. All he requested was a letter from Singh to Vladimir Putin so that he will get access to the classified archives and get information on Bose. Despite several requests from the commission, various organisations, and other people, Manmohan refused to write to Putin! Why!!! The commission went to Russia and studied only the declassified records, and came back without getting anything useful. In other words, the Indian government allowed him only to travel to and fro without offering any help that would enable him explore different possibilities. The commission wanted to talk to a Russian who is known to have information on Bose, but Russia stated he was not traceable!
Then? The commission studied about the saint. He was shocked to find the map of South East Asia on one wall of the Sanyasi’s room in Faizabad! The normal structure of the house, the placement of its doors and windows were altered for the sanyasi to quickly know what was happening near the ashram. The commission opened the chests that were kept at the treasury. It contained all works of Charles Dickens, almost all dailies published in North India, plenty of PG Wodehouse, a lot of Shakespeare, Dastur, Huxley, Hugo, Walter Scott, Jonathan Swift, Homer, Charles Berlitz, George Adamski, Swami Abedanand, Will and Ariral Durant, IG Burnham, Henry Miller, Lewis Carroll, Omar Khayyam, Lobson Rompad and much more! Well! Will a sanyasi read this much? There can be sanyasis who read even more. But will they be interested in maintaining a collection of books and articles on Indian and world politics, Indian freedom, Russian politics etc, written by Nanda Mukhejee, Maulana Azad, Samar Guha, RC Majumdar, Leonard Mosley, Kuldeep Nayyar, Solzhenistsyn, Trailokyanath Chakrovarty, Tagore, Peter Sengar, Rajni Mukherjee, Sita Ram Goyal, Neville Maxwell et all? Well! There can be sanyasis interested in politics who may read this and more, right? But I bet you will not see with them rare photos of Bose’s parents and brother, writings on Bose’s death mystery, a British typewriter, a British Gillette razor, a Swiss magnifier, a Rolex, an Omega, a chronometer, a smoking pipe set, German binoculars, Philips Super FM auto frequency controlled transistor, National Panasonic tape recorder, Hitachi compact cassettes, and last but not the least – a large Indian tricolour!
By now, the commission already knew who the man was. Unfortunately, there was no sure material to do a DNA test to confirm the sanyasi’s identity. All he could was to match the hand writings of the sanyasi with that of Bose with the help of an expert – and they matched! The commission submitted a report to the government – he said Bose died (considering age, and not evidence) and that the plane crash story was fake. Without any direct DNA evidence, he couldn’t have stated the sanyasi was Bose, but he said the Russian angle needs to be enquired further. Manmohan Singh rejected the report without citing any reason. Why? He was asked by many, but the stand was that the government believed that Bose died in the plane crash! Only Manmohan Singhji knows how a person can die in a plane crash that never took place!
The commission also blew a whistle! He gave an interview for a documentary shoot a few months back. Without knowing that the camera was on, he said he was absolutely sure the sanyasi was Bose! This had created interest in media and public. The commission never denied it. He only said it was unethical to publish something which was taken without his knowledge! Isn’t that a first hand evidence?
By the way, our government had tried earlier also to establish Bose’s death. It was in the 1990’s when Bose was given Bharat Ratna ‘posthumously’. Well what is that? How can he be given it posthumously when there is no evidence of the death? This was precisely the question asked by a few who approached the Indian judiciary, and subsequently the court ordered the government to withdraw the award! It was a shocker to the Congress government, especially Pranab Mukherjee and Co.
So what happened then? It was in the mid-2000’s that the commission submitted the report to the government. I was one of the few people who were following the case very closely. We Indians, I mean Indians from all parts of India and the world, united to form Mission Netaji (www.missionnetaji.org and http://www.subhaschandrabose.org), a national non-profit based in New Delhi. We took the case directly with the Indian government and asked a lot of questions, mainly to make all correspondence about Bose public – including information with the government on Bose post 1945 and the communications it had with Russia. To our disbelief and shock, the government replied that it cannot make information public, as it will affect India’s sovereignty and relations with foreign countries! What did you just hear from me? Yes, you heard it right! That means, our government has information on Bose post-1945, but it is afraid to publish them fearing that it will have huge after-effects! What does that mean then? The news about Bose post-1945 is strong enough to stir India and the world even after 65 years of his so-called death in that plan crash. If he really died in the crash then why does the government fear?
Three more days from now – it is August 18 again! 66 years after the man is reported to be missing in open action. Why did Bose not resurface as the Bose the world knew? He was in disguise – as a sanyasi. The sanyasi was believed to have a strong intercontinental spy network so that he could even know what food was prepared in the kitchen of the British prime minister. Did the man die in 1985 September, or did he escape from there? No one is sure.
When you take pride in the fact that today is the day of independence, we must not forget the man who made India look the size it had in the 20th century. If you don’t know the man who altercated with Hitler in Nazi Germany during his first meeting, the man who openly criticised Hitler for his treatment of the Jews, the man whom Britain had ordered a shoot-at-sight warrant against, the man who challenged “Britain doesn’t have a weapon to kill Bose” – then you don’t know who Bose was! If you don’t know what 1946 Royal Indian Navy mutiny was, how Britain conducted the INA trials in Red Fort, why Mountbatten ordered the INA memorial in Singapore be destroyed – then you don’t know whom Britain feared the most! Don’t we need to know about him and his secret activities? Truth will come out once but newer generations will not excuse us for not asking back Netaji. Gandhi once remarked “Subhas aimed high and failed. But who has not failed?” But, has he really failed?
Now the big question – was our freedom given, or taken? The history we were taught in schools is centred on only a few people. What major activity do you see during the fierce part of the Second World War from those leaders? Indian leaders of that time assigned a lower priority to our freedom movement. As Michael Edwardes wrote in his book The Last Years of British India; “only one outstanding personality of India (Subhas Bose) took a different and violent path, and in a sense, India owes more to him than to any other man”. We are already late by 66 years; we shouldn’t wait any longer – ask the jewel back! After all, he is the man who made famous the slogan we exchange today – Jai hind!