Two friends meet in 2006. They start a conversation, a conversation on Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. After 16 long years on the present day their quest still continues. On Netaji’s 125th Birth Anniversary, Somashis Gupta narrates the instances as it occurred over the years, in conversation with his friend Sid Ghosh
Featured illustration by Sid Ghosh
…THE NEXT STATION IS NETAJI BHAVAN…
He heard this announcement at the metro. Just after two or three desperate attempts to decide on the insoluble dilemma, he realized persevering is futile. A day’s salary cut looked trivial compared to his passion, especially after he saw the picture of a monk on a website. He joined the other passengers to alight from the train. Trudging the 78 steep steps, he emerged at Justice Dwarkanath Road. Walking down Elgin road he stops at house number 38/2.
5 years later, the year 2006, Connaught Place New Delhi. He meets his childhood friend after 10 long years. Completely unaware he was that his friend is the one who created the picture of the monk, which was and is the biggest controversy in the country. This randevu was probably the genesis of this article.
What exactly happened?
On the 30th of April 1998 shops and business, establishments had rolled down their shutters. Only a few minutes have passed, and already thousands of Calcuttans were spilling onto the streets, to be a witness to a historic judgment. The Calcutta High Court did not disappoint. The Union government was ordered to launch a vigorous inquiry on the alleged disappearance/death of a hero.
The Press and Prejudice
Sometime in 2001, at the Hindustan Times office in New Delhi, Shali Ittaman the special feature editor was in a team meeting at the conference room. They were brainstorming on the next project. Finally, they decided to do a special on Netaji. Besides others in the team, there was a young illustrator and a journalist Anuj Dhar. The following day hindustantimes.com carried an illustrated description of the plane crash which killed Subash Bose on 18th August 1945. Or did it?
On the 23rdday of March 2000, Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee arrives at the office where 63 documents and statements awaited his perusal. They contained information and opinions on Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. The probe begins..…
Back from Heaven
The year 2001 Hindustan Times building, New Delhi, 10 PM. Our young illustrator was about to leave the office. He was approached by Anuj “Can you stay back for a while?” He wanted to refuse politely, but Anuj said “It is about Netaji, he was alive till 1985”….
7 Lok Kalyan Marg
On 23rd March 2000, a car rushes towards the Prime Minister’s residence. By its speed, one can realize the urgency involved. A man hands over a letter to the Prime Minister. It read “Kindly send file number 12(226)56-PM (investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Subash Chandra Bose)”.
The Awaited Reply
It was the 2nd day of May 2000, Justice Mukherjee was drafting a reminder letter, just then, the bearer comes with the long-awaited reply. It read…
“…The requested file has been destroyed…”
The Joint Vindication
After a series of reminders seeking clarification on the file, Mr A.K. Pandey the director of internal security files an affidavit on June 22nd 2000.
“…I accordingly further affirm and state that there are reportedly no files papers concerning Netaji/INA in their (under mentioned departments’) possession (emphasis supplied):-
- Cabinet Secretariat
- Intelligence Bureau
- Research and Analysis Wing
The Birth of a Monk
A discussion at Hindustan Times building, the year 2001
“What should be the basis of this picture?” asked the young illustrator “I mean should I just create it basis your statement?”
“Would you like to speak to someone who has seen him?”
….and then Gumnami Baba was created for the first time.
Sometime in 2002, Mukherjee Commission Office, Kolkata :
“Sir please check this” …
Lay in front was a document from the parliament record. It was a statement by Murarji Desai, the then Prime Minister on 28th August 1978. It stated …
“…reasonable doubts have been cast on the correctness of the conclusions reached in the two reports and various important contradictions in the testimony of witnesses have been noticed, some further contemporary official documentary records have also been available. In the light of those doubts and contradictions and those records, Government finds it difficult to accept that the earlier conclusions are decisive.”
Sometime in the Year 2003, India woke up to find all the special sections on Netaji from hindustantimes.com were erased.
A group reaches Renkoji Temple in Japan on 16th September 2002. They see a glass chamber, inside was an urn. The world knew this urn holds the ashes of Subash Chandra Bose or did it?
“We would like to take photographs, so can you kindly open it?” The priest was requested
“Today is a holiday, so I cannot find a mechanic, but you can come back after intimating me, I shall make necessary arrangements” replied the priest
When Rajasekhar and Chansang first and the second secretary of the Indian Embassy in Japan, reached the Renkoji temple on the 24th of October 2002, the priest had made the necessary arrangements. Soon the photographs were on the way to Kolkata.
After carefully checking the photographs of the bones, finally, the director of the Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, sends a letter to the commission on December 7th 2002
“The bones are from burnt ashes, it cannot be analyzed”
The year 2005. Countless evidence, statements and documents were reviewed. Many witnesses were spoken to. The media was no more interested until….
Attention was drawn to a minute of meeting of India and Burma Committee of British Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Attlee October 25, 1945 (page 402-406) the relevant part of which reads as:-
- It was generally agreed that the civilian renegade of importance was Subash Chandra Bose.
After reviewing this document a common question was ….
Was Bose alive?
The 5 versions
Everyone was sure, but none knew. The country narrates 5 different versions of Netaji to the commission.
- Netaji was murdered in Red Fort on August 15th 1945
- Netaji died in a plane crash on August 18th 1945
- Netaji died in Deradhoon in 1977
- Netaji died in Sheopurkalan on May 21, 1977
- Netaji died in Ram Bhavan in Faizabad, on September 16th 1985
The Last Words
7th of November 2005. The word was all around that the Mukherjee commission will announce its final conclusion. Which was:-
In view of and in conformity with the preceding discussion the response of the Commission to the terms of reference, seriatim, is as follows:-
- Netaji Subash Chandra Bose is dead.
- He did not die in the plane crash as alleged.
- The ashes in the Japanese Temple are not of Netaji.
- In absence of any clinging evidence, a positive answer cannot be given.
18th September 2015, West Bengal Government declassifies 64 files on Netaji.
4th December 2015, the Government of India declassifies 33 files on Netaji.
The same is available in http://www.netajipapers.gov.in/
2nd June 2017 New Delhi
“The government has come to the conclusion that Netaji died in the plane crash on August 18, 1945,” the ministry said on May 31, referring to the findings of the Shah Nawaz Committee, the Justice GD Khosla Commission and the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Enquiry on the subject.
The Quest Continues
29th of April 2019. Two independent researchers Anuj Dhar and Chandracchur Ghosh released a book Conundrum – Subhas Bose’s Life After Death. This was a result of extensive research done on Bose. It contains completely a different angle on Netaji.
Based on this book a film-maker, Srijit Mukherjee directed a film called Gumnaami released on 2nd October 2019.
The Present Day, India
Remember the randevu of Connaught Place in 2006? Well, those two friends are grown-up men now with grey hairs. One is Sid Ghosh, and the other well let’s just say he is the one writing this now.
I called up Sid and said,
“Sid, your Gumnami Baba illustration is everywhere over the internet without your name. But today I found the version which still holds your name.”
Sid laughed and said, “you could have asked from me, after all, I created it.”
“How exactly did you make it as it looks exactly like Subash Bose?
He laughs and says “Well it looks like Netaji as it is Netaji.”
“What are you talking about? Is Gumnami Baba Netaji?” I was confused
“Let’s just say, it is an artistic impression made in a computer from a picture of Netaji?” Sid replied
“So who is Gumnami Baba?” I asked
“As far as I remember, Anuj had come up with a story on a person called Bhagawanji who is allegedly Netaji himself. We did a story on him, and that is how this digitally created image was made by me.” Was Sid’s reply
“Hmm, I also read that one Shakti Singh is using this picture after modifying it from some Elora Art Gallery. I read about it on scroll. in some years back.”
“Bhagawanji is Netaji or not is unknown but Netaji will live in our heart always, but what more important is understanding his ideologies and implementing them in our life”
“I agree, he never encouraged feudalism, which in a way is still practised in our country.”
“Yes, he also was against religious discrimination.”
“Why don’t we have an open discussion on this for all?”
Anyone interested in an open discussion can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What's Your Reaction?
A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.