The unsung hero
The mystery around Netajiís disappearance needs to be cleared,
says Gurkirpal Singh Sidhu

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose with Mahatma Gandhi
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose with Mahatma Gandhi

Young and brilliant, Subhas Chandra Bose was greatly influenced by the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda. Despite clearing the ICS examination in 1921, he left his dream career to join the Indian freedom struggle. Through eventful years, he travelled extensively in India and abroad while undergoing several jail terms in between. A leader of the masses, Netaji was elected president of the Indian National Congress in February 1938.

Netaji represented the revolutionaries, who wanted to throw out the British Empire by force. This irked many national leaders, who were willing to bargain for power through compromise. Netaji, then, decided to contest the same post for the second term in 1939. Pattabhai Sitaramayya, who was backed by Mahatma Gandhi, was pitted against him. Netaji won with a margin of 200 votes. Gandhi took Pattabhaiís defeat as a personal loss. Due to ill health, Netaji sought postponement of the working committee meeting scheduled in March 1939 at Tripuri. All but one member, his brother Sarat, resigned from the working committee. Jawaharlal Nehru too followed suit. Ignoring the advice of the doctors, ailing Netaji was brought in an ambulance to the dais and he had to attend the session lying on the dais attended by doctors and his family. A resolution was cobbled empowering the president to nominate the working committee in accordance with the wishes of Gandhi, who favoured it to be a homogeneous unit with no diverse opinion. On the contrary, Netaji wanted the representation of diverse groups. Up against the wall, Netaji had to quit, ending his glorious association with mainstream politics.

Parting ways with the Congress, Netaji formed the Forward Bloc. Netaji carried on his pursuits relentlessly through 1939 and 1940 though he faced stiff opposition from close quarters. Netaji was barred by the new Congress president from holding any post in the party for three years as he had refused to halt his tirade against the British. When war broke out between Germany and Britain in September 1939, Netaji went all out to mobilise masses against the British whereas the Congress pledged support to the British. With Britain breathing down his neck, Netaji planned his escape to Germany. After an arduous journey of 75 days through Afghanistan and Russia, he reached Germany on April 2, 1941. He carried on his struggle through radio, newspapers and other means. After two years, he left for Japan through a submarine. Netaji was warmly received in Japan. Netaji impressed one and all with his crisp knowledge about national and international affairs. Netaji formed the INA, which fought against the British from the eastern side and marched up to Imphal. Reverent appeals and numerous messages over the radio to the Indian masses and even to Gandhi evoked no response from India. Two years later, the Japanese were humbled by US bombings, skies were dominated by British aircraft and INA faced severe setbacks through air raids. The weather too played truant and heavy rains snapped any chances of reinforcements, which in any case were not there. It was reported on August 23, 1945, that Netaji died on August 18, 1945, in a plane crash on its way to Tokyo. This information is, however, doubted till today.

To ascertain the facts, report of Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry was made public on May 17, 2006, which concluded that the report of Netajiís death in a plane crash was make believe. An official document dated December 2, 1954, from the Prime Ministerís secretariat confirmed that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had received ashes and other remains of Netaji whereas another document from the MEA dated March 2, 2007, stated that the chief priest of Renkoji Temple in Japan wrote to Nehru on November 23, 1953, that he had been keeping the ashes of Netaji since August 18, 1945. The two letters contradict each other.

Anuj Dhar, author and founder trustee of Mission Netaji, sought information pertaining to Netaji in government records. In one of the letters from the PMO dated December 15, 2006, it was mentioned that the contents of certain classified files (relating to Netaji) might not be disclosed as this would prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries. The latest decision of the CIC was pronounced on October 20, 2009, directing the authorities concerned to make public the relevant documents. It is just logical that the air shrouding the controversy of Netajiís disappearance has to be cleared. How is the disclosure going to affect our relations with a foreign state? Are our foreign relations more important than truth about the life and death of our national hero? It is time for truth to prevail. That will be a tribute to our unsung national hero Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.