Bengal lifts the smokescreen off Netaji mystery

Wednesday 23rd September 2015 05:57 EDT

Putting an end to the wait on classified information on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his family, the West Bengal state government has declassified 64 files which lied in possession of the Kolkata and West Bengal police. Fulfilling a long-withstanding demand of the leader's family and researchers, the original files put on display consist of 12,744 pages and contain many intriguing facts.

Unveiled at the Calcutta Police Museum, in a ceremony attended by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, digitised copies of the file were handed over to Netaji's descendants and the media. Banerjee has remarked that the files contain letters that reveal he was alive after 1945 and that his family was spied upon by government sources. “There are certain letters where many have said that Netaji was alive after 1945. Historians and researchers must study these files minutely. We must know the truth about the great brave son of the soil,” Banerjee said. Urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to follow her and publicise official documents. “The truth should come out. If there is nothing to hide why is the centre not declassifying?” she asked.

Banerjee had announced her decision to make public the files that were maintained by the special branch, on September 11, asserting that she has made sure it won't affect bilateral ties. She had also stated that law and order problems were unlikely to arise due to declassification and in case they did, she assured the state government would deal with it. Describing the day as historic, Netaji's family said it will put pressure on the central government which is claimed to possess over 100 such files. “The Centre has no other option but to declassify the files it has,” Netaji's grandnephew and family spokesperson Chandra Kumar Bose said. “The more important files that can unravel the mystery behind his disappearance are with the central government departments and its time for Modi to act.” A group of family members and researchers will meet with Modi in October to discuss the issue. They will also press on the prime minister to approach the Russian and British governments to declassify files on Netaji by their respective spy agencies.

The All India Forward Bloc, founded by Bose, welcomed the decision. “We hope these papers will throw more light on the plan and procedure of Netaji by utilising the situation of World War II in favour of liberation of our motherland, India. It will also reveal conspiracy of the then Congress party to keep Netaji away from Independent India,” party general secretary Debabrata Biswas said in a statement.

Meanwhile, NRIs based in Britain have launched a global awareness campaign to collect public opinion favouring the declassification of files as they believe Indians have the right to truth. The Netaji Subhas Foundation UK will mark August 18 as Declassification Day as a symbolic reference to the day he was believed to have died. Issuing a statement, the foundation said, “The mystery about Netaji's disappearance refuses to die down. A mass awareness campaign is being run in India. Naturally, we Indians living abroad cannot be left out of this movement.” Led by Indian-origin parliamentarian Lord Navnit Dholakia, the foundation was set up with a goal to “create awareness amongst NRIs about the declassification movement as well as impress upon the British government that Netaji was a true nationalist.”

Author of India's Biggest Cover Up, Anuj Dhar has dedicated his life to the issue and has been leading a RTI campaign for years. He said, “Seventy years is a long time for someone to disappear. Indians have a right to know the truth. The excuse given by successive governments is that the information contained in the classified files will 'spoil India's relations with foreign countries'. This movement for transparency is about getting to the bottom of what really happened to Netaji.” Dhar had given the keynote speech in an annual lecture of the Netaji Subhas Foundation in UK in June this year.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has long haunted not only India, but also the world. On August 22, 1945, Tokyo Radio had announced the death of Netaji in an air crash in Formosa on August 18, en route to Japan. The theory has since then been rejected and rubbished by scores of the leader's followers and several historians.

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