Remembering Netaji: His love for India, mystery ‘death’ in plane crash

January 24th, 2009 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose really die in a mysterious plane crash in Taiwan in 1945? And what about the letter written by him found in the KGB archives dated 1946 saying that he had safely reached the then Soviet Union; and also the findings of the Mukherjee Commission saying that there had been no plane crash at the Taipei airport around the time the plane is supposed to have crashed. These were some of the questions raised by speakers at a function held to commemorate the freedom fighter on his 112th birth anniversary Friday evening in Gulmohar Park Club here.

Captain Shobharam Tokas, who was one of Netaji’s bodyguards from the Indian National Army (INA) that he set up to fight against the occupying British, is certain that Netaji did not die in the Aug 18, 1945, plane crash.

“No, he certainly did not die in the plane crash,” said the 89-year-old Tokas. “How is it then that Captain Habibur Rehman (a close associate of Netaji who was also on the Japanese military aircraft on that fateful day) came away unscathed? His uniform did not have a scratch, but Netaji’s body was said to have burnt to ashes. Is it possible, No,” said Tokas.

There is also no photograph of the crashed aircraft or the body of Netaji, he said, adding that the government is deliberately trying to suppress the truth relating to the freedom fighter.

A copy of a letter written by Netaji was discovered in the KGB archives in Russia after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. “The letter was dated 1946, more than a year after he was supposed to have been killed in the mystery crash,” said Forward Bloc general secretary G. Devarajan.

“What happened to Netaji after that is not known,” said Devarajan, adding that probably Russia, under a post-World War II agreement with Britain to exchange war criminals, had sent him to that country.

The government has also rejected the Justice Mukherjee Commission report, tabled in parliament in 2006, which said that there had been no plane crash at Taipei airport either on Aug 18, 1945, or a week before and after that day, said Devarajan.

He also said that there are more than 7,000 files in the government’s archives containing the correspondence of Netaji with the Indian leaders then, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and also with leaders of foreign countries, but they are not being made public.

“We have asked the government to make these letters public. We have a right to know the contents,” added Devarajan. The Forward Bloc was formed by Netaji in 1939.

He also said that the reference to Netaji in school text books is perfunctory. “The government has bypassed his great contribution to the freedom struggle, without which independence from the British would not have been possible.”

Devarajan said during his travels through many villages in north India, he found that the history text books had copious references to Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, her two sons, daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi and also her daughter Priyanka Vadra and her children, with photographs, “but except for two lines on Netaji, there is nothing”.

“Netaji was a great thinker and very farsighted. He had already thought of a Planning Committee for an independent India, which would address issues like the country’s burgeoning population, problems of farmers, of unemployment, of illiteracy and women’s issues. Though he formed the Planning Committee while he was president of the Indian National Congress in the 1930s, he made Jawaharlal Nehru its chairman. That was his humility,” said Devarajan.

When Netaji formed his Azad Hind government in exile in 1943 from Singapore, it had all the trappings of a proper government - with portfolios distributed, including a women’s affairs ministry and a propaganda ministry, what would be known today as an information and broadcasting ministry. The government also had a currency.

“Nine countries gave recognition to the Azad Hind government, including Russia, China, Italy, France and Japan. He opened embassies abroad - such was the force of his movement for a free India, but our children are taught nothing of his great political thought,” Devarajan rued.

The Forward Bloc has been asking the government to name Jan 23 as “Desh Prem Divas” (Patriotism day) to instil among the younger generation a fiery love for the motherland as Netaji had and spread awareness about him, his thoughts and his deeds, he said.

The sense of adventure, or “romanch”, associated with Netaji makes him the most attractive and enduring of all freedom fighters, said Subhash Vasishta, convenor of the Gulmohar Park Study Circle, which kicked off with the symposium in memory of Netaji Friday evening.

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