Wo Chahte Hain Jaage Na Koiiiii, Ye Raat Ye Andhakar Chale Har Koi Bhatakta Rahe Yunhi, Aur Desh Yunhi Lachar Chale
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Secret Netaji Records Have Been Congressified
There are two basic questions that need to be answered, and the answers lie in the classified papers. One, was Netaji alive after August 1945? Two, was the Government aware of it? If the answer to both is in the affirmative, the Congress’s goose is cooked.
(Anuj Dhar’s earlier pieces on this issue can be read here and here)
Today as we discuss the need for declassifying Indian government records about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s fate, we must bear in mind that most of these were created post 1947 by an establishment hostile to him: that of the Indian National Congress.
On the other hand, the last time a BJP-led government considered settling the controversy surrounding the fate of Bose was in 1999. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, having been compelled by a Calcutta High Court ruling, had set up the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry. At that juncture, relevant classified files were taken out and reviewed. And in the words of a top official, “Whatever is relevant will be shown to the commission. But beyond a point, the files cannot be made public. It is too explosive.”
The Narendra Modi government is perhaps confronting the same predicament today as we discuss the need for declassifying the records about Netaji’s fate. But why this predicament? Wouldn’t the BJP stand to gain from telling the truth about Netaji?
Well, many of the classified records about Netaji contain the worldview of those who either thought nothing of him, or plain disliked him. Hence, some files are reported to be containing British Raj-era personal comments against Bose. The BJP may therefore, it could appear, be concerned about a dent in Netaji’s image rather than a damage to the Nehruvian narrative, but I will deal with it later in this piece. The other factor was explained in the last article of this columnist.
As for the country’s oldest political party, Netaji wrote to his elder brother Sarat in 1940: “The more I think of Congress politics, the more convinced I feel that in future we should devote more energy and time to fighting the High Command. If power goes into the hands of such mean, vindictive and unscrupulous persons when Swaraj (independence) is won, what will happen to the country?”
If he was indeed alive seven years later as Swaraj dawned, Bose must have felt devastated to see his words ring true. Only a year before independence, Congress leaders were rallying around the Indian National Army (INA) soldiers, raising cries of “Lal Quile se aayee awaz, Sehgal, Dhillon, Shah Nawaz. Inqlab zindabad.” (The war cry comes from the Red Fort. Sehgal, Dhillon, Shah Nawaz. Long live revolution). So they must have been supportive of Bose, right? Wrong.
The Congress tried to come across as sympathisers of Netaji and his army, reveals an intelligence report, as a matter of “political expediency”, wanting to ride the wave of Bose’s popularity that had overtaken Mahatma Gandhi’s. The British government made a massive mistake by holding a show trial at the Red Fort of three INA commanders—Colonel Prem Sehgal, Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillion and Major General Shah Nawaz Khan—for “waging war against the King-Emperor”. By this time, the Indian public had come to know about the valiant war that INA had waged in north-east India. To make matters worse for the British, of the defendents, one was Hindu, one Sikh and the third was Muslim. The Congress had no choice but to celebrate the INA. Even Jawaharlal Nehru put on his barristerial robes—never used before—to defend the three INA commanders.
But after having attained independence largely due to the sacrifices of INA men and women, the Congress leaders had no time or use for them—and their “dead” leader. Jawaharlal Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” speech had not a word about either Bose or INA soldiers, who were not to be absorbed in the Indian Army. Instead, slogans were raised on 15 August 1947 in favour of Louis Mountbatten, former Supreme Allied Commander for the Southeast Asia Command that had fought the INA. President Rajendra Prasad refused to respond to H.V. Kamath’s demand of placing a portrait of Bose in what is now our Parliament House.
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For the next 30 years of the Congress’s rule, Bose was relegated to the periphery of the national discourse.
But even those 30 years are more than 30 years behind us. What do they have to do with our times and why should the current government worry? The answer is, many Bose files are of fairly recent vintage and involve people who are still around.
Take a careful look at the relevant portion from an affidavit shown below. It was filed by Home Secretary (later Cabinet Secretary) Kamal Pande in 2001 before the Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry into Bose’s disappearance. Explaining why certain classified documents regarding Bose could not be given to the commission, Pandey claimed that the disclosure would “hurt the sentiments of the people at large and may evoke widespread reactions as these documents if disclosed may lower the image of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose”.
This apprehension is misplaced. Netaji’s image isn’t going to be damaged by any revelation. Least of all by Congressified records. But the fear that the disclosure of secret records would somehow be detrimental to Netaji’s image did come in the way of the Vajpayee government when it set up Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry in 1999 following a court order. Initially, the L.K. Advani-led Home Ministry toyed with the idea of releasing a white paper and then developed cold feet.
The Modi government is perhaps confronting the same predicament. I hope it doesn’t go numb because Narendra Modi, unlike many of his predecessors, genuinely admires Netaji. Those in power, ministers in particular, must understand that whatever has been opined in the official records is not gospel. Then they must look for the answers to the two basic questions as you rummage through the heaps of classified data: One, was Netaji alive after August 1945? Two, was the Government aware of it?
If the answer to both is in affirmative, the Congress’s goose is cooked. Why the version of Netaji story it wishes to push down our throat is dubious will be explained in my subsequent articles.