Country Remembers NETA JI, Whose Heart Throbbed for India
By Parmanand Pandey
This is 125th birth anniversary year of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and even after more than 75 years of his death on 18th August 1945 in a plane crash in Taipei (Taiwan), his death continues to be an enigma, a conundrum shrouded in mystery. Till the early seventies, it was believed by a large section of people that he was still alive although there was no plausible reason for the belief, which was absolutely baseless. Netaji had caught the imagination of young Indians particularly of those who were against the non-violence Satyagrah of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a legend then and continues to be now as well. Many books have been written on his life, activities, and feats of Netaji. A biographical book of Subhash Chandra Bose and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose ‘BROTHERS AGAINST RAJ’ by LEONARD A. GORDON throws dispassionate and detached light on them. This book does not suffer from the vice of hagiography, which is commonly found among most of the Indian biographers, which is natural also, because Indians cannot remain uninvolved with the life and times of the person, who is being written about. It is an incontrovertible fact that Netaji could never have allowed bearing the ignominy of not participating in the celebration of the freedom by not appearing in the public and hiding somewhere by the fear of being arrested by the Britishers. This itself is the solid proof that he was not alive at the time of the independence of the country.
Those who express doubts over the death of Netaji in a plane crash have obviously been blinded with a passionate attachment to him rather than by reality and logic. A person whose efforts for the freedom of the country from the clutches of the Britishers was next to none of any freedom fighters. His heart was throbbing every moment for the mother India, how could he remain, a silent spectator, when the country attained independence on 15th August 1947? A patriot like him could never have remained hidden if he were alive on that date. So, there could not be even a shred of doubt about his death because all the available evidence conclusively prove that he died in the plane crash.
There were two reasons for the confusion about his death in the plane crash, but they were so feeble that they could be dismissed at the threshold itself. The first reason that was being attributed to why no post-mortem was done to the body of Netaji? The second was that why no death certificate was issued by the hospital? But at a time when the whole world was in the throes of war, such discrepancies were not unusual. On the other hand, there was definite evidence of his death including the statements of Habibur Rehman and Lakshmi Swaminathan two of the colleagues of Netaji in the INA (Azad Hind Fauj).
The life of Netaji and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose could fascinate any person. Both were modern in outlook, a patriot to the core, the epitome of sacrifices, highly educated, supporters of women’s empowerment and arch enemies of the British Raj. The elder brother was certainly more religious than his younger and more eminent brother. While Netaji was more carefree, his elder brother was a person with family-responsibilities. He had earned name, fame, and wealth as a legal practitioner of the Calcutta High Court, but Netaji had a single-minded aim to free mother India from the yokes of the bondage of the British Raj.
Government of India had set up many committees and commissions to enquire about the death mystery of Netaji but none of them could give an unambiguous report. The first Committee was set up way back in 1956 under the chairmanship of INA veteran Shah Nawaz Khan, which consisted of Suresh Bose, the elder brother of Netaji and SN Maitra, ICS, a nominee of the Government of West Bengal. Shah Nawaz Khan was also the Member of Parliament at that time. This committee collected information from April to July 1956 in India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam but never visited Taiwan, which was the site of the plane crash, sating doubts to the truth the report.
There were three survivors in the plane crash, they were severely injured, but did not succumb to their injuries as they had not sustained the third-degree burns. Even Suresh Bose, the brother of Netaji had signed on the report of Shah Nawaz Khan Committee but later he retracted and wrote his Dissentient Report, which he published in 1956 itself claiming that the Shahnawaz Committee did shoddy and dishonest work. He said that Committee was directed from the start to find that Subhas Bose had died in a plane crash. The role of the Committee, as he wrote, was to gather evidence supporting this hypothesis and to ignore other evidence. He indicated that the direction was from the top, that is, from Prime Minister Nehru. After the findings of the Shah Nawaz Committee was published, the rumours about the survival of Subhas Bose did not diminish but, in fact, it got increased. The tale of Shaulmari sadhu was widely propagated saying that the sadhu was no one else but the Subhas Bose himself.
Other stories were spread that Netaji was in Russia or China. From 1963 to 1965 many rallies were announced at which Netaji was supposed to appear and identify himself, but Netaji could never have appeared because he was not alive. It was also rumoured that Netaji was seen in the funeral of Pandit Nehru. So much so, even a photograph of a monk with a shaved head, resembling plump and elderly Netaji was published in Bengali newspapers thickening the rumour of his being alive. In 1970 the Government of India set up a second enquiry Committee to investigate the disappearance of Subhash Bose and it consisted of only one man namely, G.D. Khosla, the retired Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, He started his work in 1970 itself but submitted his report in 1974.
Justice Khosla’s report was mainly based on the hue and cry made by Professor Samar Guha, who was the Member of Parliament at the time and who always insisted that Netaji was still alive. As a matter of fact, Shri Guha also wrote a book- Netaji Dead or Alive in March 1978 but the book did not contain any credible evidence to suggest that he was alive. It was all figment of his imaginations.
There was also a story that is sadhu at Ayodhya, who was looking like Netaji was living in an Ashram. A news magazine carried a series of articles trying to establish that the sadhu was Netaji but there was no truth in it. This was really an example of irresponsible journalism. Netaji was a genius. He declined to join the coveted ICS because his heat was throbbing for Mother India. He lived for the motherland and died for it. Even during his lifetime, the communalism of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Suhrawardy was at peak but both brothers were always opposed to the vivisection of the country on communal lines. His greatest contribution to the unity of the country was that he had made Hindi be compulsorily used in all walks of life.
Although he had serious differences with Mahatma Gandhi, who was the supreme leader of the Congress Party and yet he could become the President of the Party defeating Pattabhi Sitaramayya, who obviously had the support of Gandhiji, showed his immense popularity even among diehard Congresspersons. However, Netaji realised that without the support of Gandhiji nobody could have run the organisation, so he resigned and decided to pursue the path of armed struggle. In this process, he met the fascists and Nazis.
His slogan was ‘give me your blood and I will give you freedom’. He used to say that ‘seeds of freedom are sown from the blood of martyrs. That is how Netaji lives in the historical imagination of the countrymen. Netaji and brother Sarat Chandra Bose were bound by love and common cause, they struggled against imperialism with great perseverance and courage. They had their successes and failures, but their central concern was complete independence from the British Raj. We must, therefore, remember to both of them for the zeal and devotion they gave to their country as they tried to fulfil India’s destiny.