When Mamata Banerjee declared on September 11 her intention of making public classified Netaji files in possession with the West Bengal government, it gave a renewed push to the controversy around Subhas Chandra Bose’s death besides dropping a bomb on the Centre.
On Friday, the state government handed over the digitalized version of the 64 files to Bose’s family members, which included grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose and former MP Krishna Bose.
The files are being kept at the Calcutta Police Museum, which is housed in the Office of Deputy Commissioner of Kolkata Police, North Division on 113 APC Road.
“Making the files public was quite a big task. There are 64 files which contained 12,744 pages and it had to be digitised before being made public,” Surajit Kar Purakayastha, Commissioner of Kolkata Police said.
The files will be made accessible to the public from Monday on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The declassified files, however, do not contain anything earth-shattering, claims Anuj Dhar, a prominent researcher on Netaji’s life.
“None of these are going to shed any light on the disappearance mystery. These files are just chicken-feed compared to those in the central government’s possession.”
This lands the ball in the Centre’s court.
The prime minister’s office (PMO) has earlier refused to provide the list of secret Bose files for fear of harming relations with foreign states.
The enigma surrounding the death of one of India’s most revered patriots is potent enough to generate a nationwide debate impacting the political structure of the country.
This declassification has stoked the belief that Netaji was alive till 1964.
A TOI report says that in the early 1960s the American intelligence was of the opinion that Netaji could have returned to India sometime in February 1964 – 19 years after the official declaration of his death in an air crash in Taihoku, Taiwan. A copy of this US report is among the 64 files.
If Netaji had indeed returned to India in 1964, it would have been two years after the Indo-China war and just a few months before the death of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
It must also be noted that Nehru had ordered the then Intelligence Bureau to spy on Netaji’s family for two decades from 1948.
Among the declassified files is a photocopy of the front page of File No. 12(226)/56-PM regarding ‘Investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Subhas Chandra Bose’.
It is believed that this file contained definitive evidence on Bose but the rest of the file was destroyed in 1972 when Congress was in power in Bengal and Siddharth Shankar Ray was chief minister.
A detailed report by Kingshuk Nag in the Times of India informs us that Netaji may have escaped to Soviet Union which was then under Stalin’s rule, where he fell victim to misinformation that he was acting as a British agent.
A suspicious Stalin may have forced Netaji to spend time in the Gulag – a Soviet-era prison camp for political prisoners – in Siberia.
There is no precise information on how Netaji returned to India but researchers believe that American intelligence units had learned about his return from Russia via China.
But it was only after the death of a certain Gumnami Baba on September 16, 1985 in Faizabad that the controversy around Netaji’s mysterious death resurfaced. Many believe that Gumnami Baba was in fact Netaji.
Even after several instances of destruction, the classified paper trail reaches 41 PMO files, 27 MEA files, 77 (possibly more) IB files and something like 60,000 pages with the home ministry, claims Dhar.
Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy has threatened to move court against the Central Government if the Bose files are not made public.
He says the claim that such a disclosure will harm India’s foreign relations is baseless because there is no Soviet Union and the Labour Party in England is not in power. What it would do, he alleges, is defame Nehru and the Congress party.