Time to declassify all Netaji files – Anuj Dhar

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Anuj Dhar“In 2014, then BJP president Rajnath Singh was to make a solemn promise in Cuttack, Netaji’s birthplace, that when his party was in power, the issue of Bose’s controversial death would be resolved. However, after coming to power, the BJP did not walk the talk—though at personal levels, hints continue to be dropped that the files would be opened at the ‘right time.'” – Anuj Dhar

Mamata Banerjee with the Netaji files in KolkataWhen Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family members, researchers and others on Wednesday, he would be weighed down on the one hand by the promise the BJP had made before the last general elections, and national interest considerations preventing the release of the secret Netaji files thus far. Let us be frank about it. This particular meeting comes as a result of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s momentous decision to make public several of the classified files concerning Netaji available with the State. In one swoop, not only did Banerjee infuse a never-before thrust to the demand for declassification of files, she also put the Prime Minister in an unenviable position. That’s because, the pre-poll promise and occasional positive gestures notwithstanding, the BJP government, as of this writing, hasn’t given any sign to show that its policy on the Bose case is much different from that of the previous Congress government.

In response to the long-standing concerted campaign initiated by the pressure group, Mission Netaji, of which this writer is a part, Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was gracious enough to personally meet the Bose family members in April 2013. In 2014, then BJP president Rajnath Singh was to make a solemn promise in Cuttack, Netaji’s birthplace, that when his party was in power, the issue of Bose’s controversial death would be resolved. However, after coming to power, the BJP did not walk the talk—though at personal levels, hints continue to be dropped that the files would be opened at the “right time.”

In his first meeting with the Bose family after taking over as Prime Minister in May this year, Modi made many encouraging remarks in private, but issued no public statement. One hopes that the time for the Prime Minister to signal that he means business is now. Like innumerable Indians, the Bose family and Mission Netaji members who will get to meet him at 7, RCR, are riding on a wave of great expectations. For Mission Netaji, nothing short of an official announcement from the Prime Minister to the effect that he is going to declassify files will fit the bill. In fact, we have a wish-list.

Manoj Kumar MukherjeeThese five demands, if fulfilled in their entirety, shall rid us of the never-ending controversies about Bose. One, the government must announce the acceptance of the main findings of the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry. The commission had concluded that the news of Bose’s death in 1945 following an air crash was faked to give a cover to his escape towards Soviet Russia. The commission’s report was arbitrarily dismissed by the UPA-led government in 2006.

We expect the nationalist BJP to undo that politics-inspired, undemocratic decision of the Manmohan government. Two, the Prime Minister must direct that all classified Netaji-related records of all vintage held by the government—especially those seen only by the Prime Minister, and those in the possession of the intelligence agencies—should be released without any delay. The very fact that the government of free India should be hiding away from the people of India such records or files about the man Gandhiji said was the “Prince among Patriots” constitutes a gross insult to his memory. Three, since most of the files to be declassified were seen by Justice Mukherjee in the course of his inquiry, his report already contains the crux of the matter.

Now what the government needs to do is to follow up declassification by setting up a multi-disciplinary special investigation team (SIT) under court supervision to complete the task left unfinished by the Mukherjee Commission. Justice Mukherjee should be the first witness to be examined by this SIT.

We would expect the government to issue clear, highest-level instructions to all departments of the Union government, especially intelligence chiefs, to cooperate with the SIT. The SIT should be given full authority to summon anyone it feels relevant and requisition all documents required for a complete investigation. It should also be empowered to penalise any agency, department, or individual for non-compliance.

Netaji Files KolkataThe Prime Minister should also move to issue a directive exempting former as well as current officials from their oath of secrecy with regard to Netaji. Without full cooperation from the Intelligence Bureau and R&AW, this vexed matter is unlikely to get resolved. Four, having made a clean breast of all the information about Netaji that it is sitting on, the government of ours would do well to formally request other countries, especially the Russian Federation at the head of the government level, to share all information they have concerning Netaji to aid the investigation by the SIT. Lastly, we expect the Prime Minister to make an announcement in favour of all of the above submissions after the 7, RCR meeting.

Of course, the outcome will hinge on the approach of the Bose family, which is leading the talk, and how much space is given to Mission Netaji members to negotiate. Most of the family members have little clue about the warp and woof of the complexities of the declassification matter. What is at stake is not just the truth about Bose’s fate, but also the credentials of the BJP as a “nationalist party”. – The New Indian Express, 14 October 2015

» The writer is the author of India’s Biggest Cover-up and forthcoming book, What Happened to Netaji? E-mail: anuj.dhar@gmail.com

Narendra Modi with Bose family members in Kolkata (May 2015)

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2 Responses

  1. Netaji’s family meets PM Modi, wants mystery on death resolved – IndiaToday.in – Posted by Ruchi Dua – New Delhi – October 14, 2015

    The family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose met PM Modi at his residence in New Delhi on Wednesday.

    They have even asked for declassification of all the files related to Netaji whose mysterious disappearance 70 years ago continues to be a talking point.

    According to reports, Netaji’s family gifted PM Modi a jacket with Netaji’s image printed on it. It has been specially specially by a Kolkata-based fashion designer.

    The Prime Minister, in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme on September 20, had said he would be receiving over 50 members of Netaji’s family members at his residence in October.

    “Over 50 members of Subhas babu’s family, from various countries, will be coming, I am happy to welcome them,” PM Modi had said.

    Describing it as a momentous occasion for him, he had said that it would perhaps be the first time that the family members of Netaji would be together visiting the Prime Minister’s residence.

    “But the bigger happiness is for me as nobody in the Prime Minister’s residence would have got such a chance earlier as I will be getting in October,” he said.

    Recalling his meeting with some members of the family in Kolkata in May, PM Modi had said, “I got an opportunity to spend some time with them. That day it was decided that the family of Subhas babu will visit the Prime Minister’s residence. Last week, I got confirmation that over 50 members of Subhas babu are coming to visit the Prime Minister’s residence.”

    The family members are expected to seek declassification of Netaji files in possession of the Centre as the West Bengal government has already released 64 such files.

    Bose’s grandnephew Chandra Bose has said that his family will appeal to PM Modi to write to countries including Russia, Japan, China, America, UK, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia to declassify all Netaji files lying with them.

    “Netaji was in touch with people in all these countries. They all have classified files relating to him. We want to take this movement of declassification to the global level to get all the clues,” he had said.

    “Our main focus, however, would be on declassification of all Netaji files held by the government of India. If we do not have our own files declassified, then how can we ask other nations to do it?” Abhijit Ray, Netaji’s another grandnephew, had said.

    Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Bose said, “SC Bose was probably one of the first nationalists of India and PM Modi claims to be a nationalist. Keeping that in mind, I feel PM Modi will ensure the truth about Netaji’s disappearance would be settled once and for all.”

  2. Hope to Open Buried Files, Say Netaji’s Relatives Ahead of Meeting PM Modi – NDTV – All India – Edited by Anindita Sanyal (With PTI inputs) – October 14, 2015

    NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet more than 35 members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family from across the world at his Race Course Road residence today.

    The family members are expected to seek declassification of all the files related to Netaji, whose disappearance 70 years ago continues to be a mystery.

    “The Prime Minister had told my cousins that he would ‘do it together with the Bose family’ and now he has called the entire Bose family,” Netaji’s grand-niece Jayanti Rakshit told NDTV. “We are expecting to open the files that have been kept hidden with the Central government for a long time. Unless the Prime Minister takes an initiative, it won’t happen.”

    The Prime Minister had announced the visit in his monthly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on September 20. In a tweet last night, he described it as a special day and an “honour”.

    But he had not made any mention of declassifying the files.

    “Successive governments have suppressed all documents related to the great leader and it is the call of the nation that the documents be revealed. I’m sure the Prime Minister will respond positively,” said Netaji’s grand-nephew Chandra Kumar Bose.

    On September 18, the West Bengal government had declassified 64 files related to Netaji. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said the Centre should follow the lead of the state government.

    Netaji’s daughter, 72-year-old Anita Bose Pfaff, who had also urged the PM to declassify the files, however, is not expected to be at today’s gathering. “I certainly would like the ‘mystery’ settled,” Ms Pfaff had been quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.

    But the noted economist had reportedly added, “I wish the Indian public would concern themselves more with his life and his achievements from which there is much to be learnt, than with his death.”

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