West Bengal declassifies 64 files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Netaji Bose with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Photo: AFP
Netaji Bose with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Photo: AFP

KOLKATA: Ending a 70-year-long wait, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government on Friday made public 64 files on freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to help unravel the mystery behind his disappearance.

The digitised version of the declassified 64 files were made available in a set of seven DVDs.

The original files have been housed at the Calcutta Police Museum.

The files comprise 12,744 pages and are available to researchers and scholars.

They were handed over to descendants of Netaji and mediapersons by Kolkata Police Commissioner S.K. Purkayastha after a small ceremony at the museum.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on September 11 announced her government's decision to declassify 64 files on Bose, saying the mystery surrounding his disappearance needs to be put to rest.

"Still the mystery surrounding Netaji's disappearance continues to be unsolved. So whatever files we have, we will declassify them which may help in unravelling the mystery.

"...all the 64 files that we have will be open for public. They will be kept at the city police archive," said Banerjee.

What is the Netaji mystery about?

The questions have been haunting, agitating and engaging Indians, in particular Bengalis, for 70 years, but the mystery endures, said an India Today report.

A section of Netaji's descendants, including his daughter Anita Pfaff, as also some Indian National Army (INA) veterans, hold that the revolutionary leader perished in the accident and his ashes have been interred at Tokyo's Renkoji temple, said India Today.

During her visit to Kolkata in 2013, Pfaff said she was convinced that he died when the Mitsubishi Ki-21 Japanese heavy bomber Netaji boarded at Saigon with his close aide Col. Habibur Rahman on August 17, 1945, purportedly to shift base to the erstwhile Soviet Union and continue his fight for India's independence, crashed in Japanese-occupied Formosa, said India Today

"It would be the perfect homecoming for him if the ashes are brought to India. His ashes should be immersed in the river Ganges," Pfaff had said.

Netaji's grand nephew and Harvard University professor Sugata Bose is another big votary of the crash theory and has detailed his viewpoint in his book 'His Majesty's Opponent'. Bose bases his arguments on "overwhelming evidence", citing the testimony of six of the seven survivors of the crash as also that of doctors and paramedics who treated Netaji at the Taipei Military Hospital.

But a large number of Netaji's admirers, researchers and family members don't buy the theory.

The Indian government's three attempts to unravel the mystery by constituting probe panels - Shah Nawaz Khan Committee (1956), GD Khosla Committee (1970) and the Justice MK Mukehrjee Commission which submitted its report in 2006 - have only fuelled the debate. While the first two panels concluded Bose perished in the Taipei crash, the Mukherjee Commission debunked the theory, reported India Today.

Will move court, if Centre doesn't declassify Netaji's files, says Swamy

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy on Friday said that he would move court against the Central Government, if it doesn't declassify the files related to Netaji Subhash Bose by the end of this year.

"I have already told the government to declassify the files or else I will move court by the year end. They don't have an authority to keep the files of Subhash Bose in secret," Swamy told ANI here.

"The courage that Mamata Banerjee has shown is commendable and the Central Government should also declassify files related to Bose. This should have been done earlier," he added.

Swamy also said the reason given by the bureaucrats, that the declassification of these files would hamper the foreign relations, is totally baseless.

"There is no Soviet Union now and in England the Labour Party is no more in power so it won't hamper the foreign relations but it would defame Nehru and the Congress party," he added.

Acknowledging that there was a long-standing demand for the declassification of the files on Bose, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that her government would be declassifying 64 files related to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on September 18.

Mamata should have consulted Centre, MEA before deciding to declassify Netaji's files: RK Singh

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former home secretary RK Singh on Thursday said that it would have been better if West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would have consulted the Centre or Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before taking decision to declassify freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose's files.

"It would have been better if Mamata Banerjee would have consulted with the Central Government and Ministry of External Affairs," RK Singh told ANI.

Another BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, however, welcomed the decision and said that Netaji's life must be demystified.

Meanwhile, Abhijit Roy, relative of Subhash Chandra Bose said that this step by the West Bengal Government would provide vigour and vitality to their struggle.

"We are happy that the West Bengal Government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have taken a decision release the 64 classified files... We have been demanding this particular declassification issue from 2012," said Abhijit Roy.

Congress dubs controversy on Netaji files as 'needless'

The Congress Party on Friday welcomed the declassification of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose files, but said that the controversies surrounding the issue are entirely 'needless'.

"All the controversies regarding Netaji's files are needless and they have been created in a political environment. The files are there with the government and they can declassify them whenever they want," Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit told ANI.

"This is a welcome step. The declassification may throw light on the new facts that maybe unknown to us," he added.

Responding to a question on whether the Central Government should also declassify the files of Netaji files, Dikshit told that it should be left to the government to decide. They know the reason behind not declassifying the files better.

"The governments of different parties in the Centre have said in the past that declassifying these files won't be in the interest of the country and its foreign relations," he added.

Acknowledging that there was a long-standing demand for the declassification of the files on Bose, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier announced that her government would be declassifying 64 files related to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on September 18. (With inputs from IANS, ANI and Agencies)