Netaji and mystery of the secret files – Mohan K. Tikku

Netaji files at Writers Building Kolkata

Mohan K. Tikku“I used to know a New Delhi-based Russian correspondent quite well. He would sometimes drop in at my office for a chat. One day I asked him if he could check some details with his embassy on my behalf. I briefed him about who Netaji was and the story of his having spent his last days in a jail in Russia. He promised to help. He turned up a few days later wearing a glum face. He said that he had been advised by his embassy that it was in nobody’s interest to ask these questions. He had been told that seeking answers to these questions would do no good to anybody.” – Mohan K. Tikku

Mamata Banerjee with the Netaji files in KolkataNow that Mamata Banerjee has served the appetiser, everybody is hungering after the big meal. The 64 Netaji files running into 12,744 pages that the West Bengal CM declassified on September 18 seem to indicate that Netaji had survived the air crash. The rest is mostly marginal, just a few missing sentences in the papers that deepen the mystery without revealing much.

The real story though, one assumes, rests in the files with the Centre. All one can do at the moment is hope that the West Bengal disclosures will act as the thin edge of the wedge and help raise questions that would make it imperative for the Centre to reveal more. Apparently, it is not an easy decision to make for whoever is in power at the Centre. The BJP, which used to be so vociferous on the demand to release the Netaji files while in the Opposition, was not very forthcoming when it came to power under Vajpayee. Whether Prime Minister Modi will act remains to be seen.

The version that has been officially peddled so far is that Netaji died in an air crash at the Taipei airport, and his ashes are lying at the Renkoji temple in Japan. But there are at least two other versions. One, that he was alive and returned to India incognito and spent the rest of his days as a sadhu in UP. The other theory is that he ended up in Stalinist Russia, was subjected to torture and died in custody.

Anita Bose PfaffThough there have been some differences of opinion among sections of the Bose clan, there is near unanimity on one point: Everybody wants closure. Netaji’s daughter Anita Pfaff told me during an interview way back in the Nineties, while she was here in connection with Netaji’s birth centenary celebrations, that she was realist enough to realise that her father would no longer be alive. But she wanted to know the circumstances in which he spent his last days. She shudders to think, she said, if her father was really tortured in a jail in Siberia.

During the 1990s, I was following the progress of the Mukherjee Commission, appointed to take a fresh look at the subject. I also used to be in touch with Professor Purabi Roy of Jadavpur University who was helping the commission in getting at the truth. The Mukherjee Commission report—like the West Bengal disclosures now—only hinted at possibilities, letting the mysteries persist.

At one point during those years, I happened to meet the then minister of state of external affairs at a party. During the conversation I broached the subject of the Netaji files. He sounded very cooperative, and promised to let me see the papers. It was agreed that I shall call upon the minister in his office on Monday morning. I turned up at the appointed hour. The minister asked for the officer dealing with the subject. He was told the officer was on tour and would be back in two or three days. Accordingly, the minister asked me to come back in a few days time.

When I went again a few days later, the minister called for the concerned person, a joint secretary-level officer. The officer spent about 20 minutes with the minister while I waited in the PA’s room. I was ushered in as soon as the officer had finished. The minister this time sang a different tune. He said there were no Netaji files, and there was not much in the ones there.

Obviously, he had been advised against letting me access Netaji’s files. I tried a different route some time later. I used to know a New Delhi-based Russian correspondent quite well. He would sometimes drop in at my office for a chat. One day I asked him if he could check some details with his embassy on my behalf. I briefed him about who Netaji was and the story of his having spent his last days in a jail in Russia. He promised to help. He turned up a few days later wearing a glum face. He said that he had been advised by his embassy that it was in nobody’s interest to ask these questions. He had been told that seeking answers to these questions would do no good to anybody.

Jawaharlal Nehru & Nikita Khrushchev Considering that the Russians had been quite open about the KGB papers after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was a bit surprising. The Russians, in fact, had sold many KGB papers to the Hoover Foundation at Stanford University as they were hard up for foreign exchange after the collapse of the USSR. I, personally, had seen some of the papers at the Hoover Foundation. The ones that I had accessed—for example—had indicated that the Soviets were funding the CPI, and that both Stalin and Mao knew about it.

If even the Russians were being so secretive about the subject, it suggests that the facts may be far more critical than we imagine them to be. And the story, that the files had been kept under wraps just to protect Nehru’s role in the episode, may be far from the truth. If that be the case, it is doubtful that the Centre would be any forthcoming than before. – Deccan Chronicle, 24 September 2015

» Mohan K. Tikku is a journalist and futurist based in New Delhi. He has reported from areas of conflict such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the first Gulf war, and has authored a book on Sri Lanka. 

Netaji Files Kolkata

Netaji files in Kolkata

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