Netaji- The Mortal End of an Immortal Hero
The life of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has passed into the realms of legend. His brilliant mind and magnetic personality, boundless courage and self-sacrifice in the cause of India’s freedom have made him forever a hero in the hearts of the people of his beloved motherland. At the dawn of independence, his return was awaited by millions across India. That was not to be which perhaps explains why reports of his death in an air crash on 18 August 1945 left many bereft and in doubt.
The circumstances of Netaji’s death from an air crash while leaving Taiwan in a Japanese military aircraft in the aftermath of Japan’s surrender in August 1945, perhaps with a plan to make his way to the Soviet Union to continue the struggle, were seen by many as just another ruse to escape his enemies. Close family members including beloved brother Sarat Chandra Bose under British detention in south India and widow Emilie in Vienna, continued to yearn for Subhas’s return; but neither at any time had any definite knowledge of Subhas being alive after 18 August 1945.
Just over a decade after the reported air crash, the Government of Prime Minister Nehru in 1956 set up a three-member Inquiry Committee with INA veteran Shah Nawaz Khan in the chair. For the first time, detailed first-hand accounts were recorded from at least eleven direct witnesses, including Netaji’s fellow passengers among whom was INA officer Colonel Habib ur Rehman, Japanese military personnel on the ground, as well as medical staff at the hospital. They all testified to the air crash soon after take-off at Taihoku airport in Taiwan and Netaji’s death some hours later in a military hospital. The Shah Nawaz Inquiry Report confirmed Netaji’s death in the said air crash and its majority conclusion was accepted by the Government of India. In view of the continuing controversy, the GOI appointed the Khosla Commission which in 1974 re-affirmed the 1956 Shah Nawaz conclusions. The third and last government-appointed Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry concluded in 2005 that Netaji “did not die in the plane crash, as alleged”. The Report was found to be based on fundamental errors and misrepresentations, and was thus rejected by the GOI.
Sadly, over the years began the phenomenon of the re-appearance of Netaji, often in the garb of a ‘sadhu’, which has now culminated in the claim that one Gumnamibaba of Faizabad was Netaji.
The purpose of this event is to re-visit the findings of the official Government of India inquiries and a number of investigations undertaken by concerned foreign authorities soon after the reported air crash which all confirm that Netaji died due to severe injuries sustained in the air crash in Taiwan on 18 August 1945. The details of all these investigations are contained in the recent publication by Sumeru Roy Chaudhury “Netaji as Gumnami – India’s Biggest Hoax”.
Sumeru Roy Chaudhury
Sumeru Roy Chaudhury is a graduate of IIT, Kharagpur. He did his post-graduation at the University of Nottingham, UK. He worked as the Chief Architect of the Central Public Works Department of the Government of India. His thirty-three years of exposure to government functioning equipped him to conduct an analytical and in-depth study of the declassified government files, especially on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
He has had a life-long admiration of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which has led him to study the life and death of Netaji. When he was in high school, the story of ‘Shaulmari sadhu as Netaji’ emerged in the first half of the 1960s. He followed avidly all the development reported in newspapers. And witnessed how the entire story that the sadhu was Netaji was ultimately squashed. In his book, ‘Netaji as Gumnami: India’s Biggest Hoax’, Sumeru Roy Chaudhury draws on investigative reports prepared by the Allied forces, Japan and Taiwan, which are not easily available to the general public. The purpose is to reach a larger number of people, especially the younger generation.
Akhil Bakshi is the founding Director General of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, in the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, he developed the institution into a youth movement and one of the largest grassroot organisation in India. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of India’s independence by the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, he organized and led the Azad Hind Expedition from Singapore to the Red Fort to refresh the national memory of the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Indian National Army. A Fellow of Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Explorers Club USA, Editor of Indian Mountaineer, Akhil Bakshi has travelled extensively through 124 countries, authored twenty-one books and produced 70 television documentaries.