Death Of Netaji And The Mystery……

Netaji’s mysterious death in an air crash in Taiwan in August 1945 and the clutch of conspiracy theories around it have also fuelled the myths around Bose. Everybody loves a good conspiracy, especially those surrounding a sudden or violent death. In the case of Netaji, his antagonism to mainstream nationalist politics and his links with fascists made him a particularly apposite candidate for conspiracy theories. Sugata Bose, who is also a grandnephew of Netaji, notes that an overwhelming majority of Netaji’s closest associates believed that he had died in the crash. However, since 1946, there began ‘’sightings’’ of Netaji in different locations. Perhaps the first such ‘’sighting’’ was recorded in 1946 when a certain KSM Swamy claimed to have met Netaji in a third-class compartment of the Bombay Express. Since then Netaji spotting became a cottage industry. One of the better known of these theories was the discovery that Netaji had resurfaced as a Hindu ascetic — Gumnami Baba — in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. Indeed, there were several Hindu sadhus who had been linked to Netaji at various times. An organisation called the Subhasbadi Janata kept these stories in circulation through pamphlets, newspapers and weekly meetings. At the same time, there were rumours of Netaji having shown up in Russia or China. The Netaji sightings peaked in the 1960s when there was a general disillusionment with politics of the day. These rumours might have died down had not the Indian State stepped in and set up a commission to investigate the death of Bose. This had the effect of legitimising, in a sense, the conspiracy theories. The first was the Netaji Inquiry Committee, set up in 1956, consisting of a former comrade of Netaji, Shah Nawaz Khan, an elder brother of Netaji, Suresh Bose, and a government officer. The committee went through the evidence, including interviewing the Japanese doctor who treated Netaji after the crash, and found that Netaji had died in 1945. Its findings were, however, undermined by the dissent of Suresh Bose who stated that Netaji was still alive. In 1970, another inquiry commission headed by Justice G.D. Khosla was instituted. There was some remarkable testimony before the panel: A bank official from Sholapur claimed that he received direct messages from Netaji by tuning his body like a radio. The Khosla report, like the earlier commission, concluded that Netaji had indeed died in the crash.A one-man commission, headed by a retired high court judge, Manoj Mukherjee, was the third such body to look into the Netaji mystery. After six years of hearings, Mukherjee concluded in 2006 that the air crash that killed Bose had not happened. It did so on the flimsy basis that the government of Taiwan did not have records of the crash. Sugata Bose has a simple explanation for this, pointing out that Taiwan had then been under Japanese occupation. He adds that the Mukherjee Commission “made no distinction between the highly probable and the utterly impossible.” However, the Mukherjee Commission, as well another one headed by Justice Vishnu Sahay, found no credible evidence that Gumnami Baba was Bose. But this too has not stopped the conspiracy theories. In 2019, a Bengali feature film titled, Gumnaami, directed by Srijit Mukherjee lent credence to the theory that Gumnami Baba might indeed have been Netaji in disguise. The same year, a book titled Conundrum peddled the same theory. While several descendants of Bose publicly voiced their disapproval of the film, Mukherjee stated he was merely putting before the pubic different theories about Netaji’s “disappearance” in 1945.

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