Subject: Appeal to raise a vital issue on Friday, 17th August
Honourble Member of Parliament:
This is an appeal on behalf of a group of Indians, including some members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's family.
We earnestly request that on the eve of the "official" anniversary of Netaji's death on Friday 17th August you raise the demand for declassification of all secret records about him. You will be shocked to know that our Government has been maintaining several secret files on Netaji, which apart from being an insult to him is contrary to the spirit of right to information age we live in.
The absence of public records in archives and libraries has created a knowledge vacuum which has been over the years filled by various conspiracy theories, detrimental to the memories of our other national icons. Many of these theories, now household stories across the nation, cast aspersions even on the Father of the Nation and our first Prime Minister as they build up dark accounts of Netaji dying in a Soviet concentration camp or leading the life of an ascetic in India. All this must end and the only way to do so is for our Government, especially the Intelligence Bureau and R&AW, to make a clean breast of all that is known about Netaji's fate and the possibility that he was alive after his assumed date of death. We owe it to the memory of the man who fought for us and then disappeared.
This appeal has become essential as our Government refuses to make the records public under the RTI act. In 2007, the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is keeping several records about Netaji, made an atrocious statement before the Central Information Commission that many of these "documents are sensitive in nature, the public disclosure of which may lead to a serious law and order problem in the country". This is a totally unacceptable position and it makes no sense as the Government in the same breath insists that Netaji died 67 years ago.
Two decades back the United States of America faced a similar situation over the controversy surrounding the assassination of John F Kennedy. In 1992, the US Congress passed a law providing for a "unique solution to the problem of secrecy". Under the law all records were made public and the controversy was rested. Time has come for India to take similar steps and move on. We cannot let issue of past bother us; but if the Government of ours continue to sit on dozens of secret of files on Netaji, the controversy would keep re-registering itself on the consciousness of the nation.
A short note on the Netaji mystery and need for declassification is attached for your kind perusal.
(Former journalist and author of a book on Netaji mystery)
Bringing closure to India's biggest mystery
* The Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry in 2006 confirmed what the entire country has believed for nearly seven decades: that the story of Netaji's death in a plane crash on 18 August 1945 was a hoax.
* Yet, the Government has continued to support the death-by-plane crash story without any credible evidence.
* The Government continues to hold back crucial documents as Top Secret or Secret, which could bring an end to the mystery decisively. A special legislation, therefore, needs
to be devised and passed in Parliament to enable ministries and intelligence and security agencies make relevant information public as a special case.
* This legislation should set up a parliamentary committee or an independent task force comprising experts from the relevant ministries, security agencies, former services chiefs, academia and civil society to consider the information released and reach a final conclusion
* To aid the committee/task force the Government should also ask all countries which have had any kind of link with Netaji till1945, to share any information they might be holding on him. It is critical that this information is sought at the level of the Prime Minister or the External Affairs Minister.
Findings of Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry
1. There must be a good reason for the people of India, not known to have a sense of history, to keep the issue of Netaji's death alive year after year. There have been many scandals and disputed deaths of other leaders in this country, but only Netaji's has resulted in 3 public probes, not to speak of numerous discreet inquiries.
2. The last public probe was conducted by former Supreme Court judge M K Mukherjee from 1999 to 2005. The appointment of his commission was result of PIL leading to an order by then Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra. Justice Mishra had sought Government of India's view on the "official" stand that Netaji had died in an air crash in Taipei at the close of WW II at age 48. The government counsel in 1997 made it clear before the court that GOI had serious doubts about the veracity of the air crash theory due to several contradictions in evidence etc. The court, therefore, ordered GOI to launch a new inquiry to ascertain facts.
3. Throughout the inquiry of Justice Mukherjee, whose name was suggested by then Chief Justice of India as per the convention, GOI counsel maintained the above position. When the arguments by deponents/lawyers were heard by Justice Mukherjee, UPA government had been in place for a few months. But still the government lawyer repeated the same stance and in fact pressed that in view of new evidence gathered by commission, Netaji could not have died in any air crash in 1945.
4. But strangely, after the commission gave its report rejecting the air crash theory, it was summarily rejected by UPA Government. The memorandum for Action Taken Report placed before MPs was just one page long. There were protests from MPs from many parties. During the heated exchanges, MPs accused GOI of perpetuating a fraud on the nation.
5. Justice Mukherjee concluded that a fake news of Netaji's death following an air crash was planted by the Japanese who wanted him to continue fighting for India's freedom. According to commission report the so-called "Netaji's ashes" kept in a Japanese temple are in fact of a Japanese solider whose death was passed off as that of Netaji's.
6. Commission report indicted Government for not cooperating with it, citing numerous specific instances where the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs behaved in a manner which would have cause massive outrage in a mature democracy.
7. While Mukherjee commission report stated that at the time of Bose's disappearance his destination was Soviet Russia, it added that it could not be proven whether or not he landed there. It was because the commission was not given access to security and intelligence related archives when it visited Russia in 2005.
Other theories regarding Netaji's fate
8. A large number of people, including members of Netaji's family, continue to believe that Bose was liquidated in USSR at the behest of Nehru as a precursor to Indo-Soviet friendship. People holding this view have also come to hold that to confuse people of India and to trivialize the issue, Intelligence Bureau under Pandit Nehru planted several fake sadhu babas across India in 1960s.
9. Mukherjee commission examined theories linking Subhas to sadhus. Only the curious case of Bhagwanji of Faizabad stood out for many reasons. Several journalistic enquiries pointed up that the possibility that Bhagwanji was Netaji was quite high. While, the commission report of 2005 was inconclusive on this angle, in 2010 Justice Mukherjee expressed his personal views that he was "100 percent sure" that Bhagwanji was Bose.
10. Popularly known as Anam Sant or Gumnami Baba, Bhagwanji secretly lived in Neemsar, Ayodhya, Basti and Faizabad in UP from 1950s to his death in September 1985. Subhas would have been 88 in 1985 and Bhagwanji was of same age. Those who saw said he looked like an "older Netaji". Bhagwanji was asked about the reason for his not coming out and he would say that it "would not be in national interest" and that doing so would bring sufferings to the people of India.
11. The above details just about scratch the surface of this case and should not be read as an assertion that Netaji was in Faizabad. The issue at hand in 2012 is of transparency.
Why declassification is imperative
12. Irrespective of the views one holds about Netaji or his fate, to ask for declassification is a most valid demand. In principle, no one, except those whose interest lies in keeping things secret, would be against it. Therefore, it would serve national interest if the honourble Members of Parliament were to raise the demand for declassification beginning this August 17.