Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Did Nehru misled the nation about Netaji

Did Nehru mislead nation on Bose?

Udayan Namboodiri

The report of the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (JMCI) on the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose mystery is with the Government since November 14. What new thing does it say apart from the already publicised fact that there was no air crash at Taiwan on August 18, 1945 as claimed by the GD Khosla Commission and Shah Nawaz Khan Committee?



Well, plenty, as The Pioneer found out during a week-long investigation recently. The biggest revelation, complete with documentation, is about the guilt of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in suppressing the basic facts about the Taiwan non-crash and subsequent bogus cremation of Netaji. Nehru, who doubled as India's External Affairs Minister, had been personally informed by the Government of Formosa (as Taiwan was then called), albeit through British channels, in August 1956 about the full facts behind Japan's staging of a spectacular "death" for the Indian hero.

Yet, Nehru had allowed the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee to go on with its command performance of an inquiry. He had accepted a report that completely contradicted the Formosan version. The myth about the air crash was allowed to grow under the assumption that a lie told many times becomes the truth. The Khosla Commission, instituted by his daughter Indira Gandhi, also reiterated it. Finally, in January 2005, the JMCI got the truth straight from Taiwan.

Had Nehru not concealed the Formosan report back in 1956, two great misfortunes might have avoided this nation. First, three generations of Indians would have been spared of the tragicomic dimensions that the Netaji mystery often took. Second, the subcontinent's most charismatic politician could yet have been recovered for the people of India had its Government made use of the reliable input that he had not died as presumed 11 years earlier. Who knows, he may very well have been held prisoner at the time in some gulag in China or Soviet Russia. The possibilities are endless because, after all, Subhas Chandra Bose would have been only 59-years-old in 1956.

THE ANGLO-FORMOSAN INQUIRY

The facts about Nehru's deception came to JMCI from an unexpected source: Great Britain. In 1996, the British Government had declassified some papers (The National Archives Ref: Fo 371/12012) relating to an inquiry it had conducted on behalf of India through its Embassy in Formosa. This was necessitated by the lack of formal diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Taipei.

The full series constitutes Exhibit 229 of JMCI. It includes correspondence, once deemed confidential, exchanged between the UK High Commission in India and Tamsui ( in Formosa), the British Foreign Office and its departments for Southeast Asia and the "Far East" and notes exchanged between the Consul (the highest official posted in Tamsui) and the Formosan Government.

It all starts from a note sent from the UK High Commission in India to the Commonwealth Relations Office in London dated May 3, 1956 referring to a request made to it by New Delhi to arrange for the British Consul in Formosa to use its good offices with the Nationalist Chinese Government to interview "certain Formosan witnesses and obtain a copy of cremation certificate".

There is a certain background to this. In 1955, Nehru, under public pressure, had instituted the Shah Nawaz Committee. Apart from the former INA officer who had joined the Congress, there was an ICS officer, SN Moitra, and Suresh Chandra Bose, a brother of Netaji. In May 1956, this group went to Tokyo to collect evidence and interview the remnants of the INA, Japanese generals and a large number of others who were connected with the great leader.

Once there, the Committee felt that their inability to go to Formosa because of India's pro-Communist China position would considerably undermine the credibility of their findings.

The Indian Ambassador, BR Sen, had tried to get around this lacuna by proposing to the MEA that the Japanese Government be used as a medium (Secret Telegram dated May 19, 1956 forming JMCI Exhibit 236). South Block replied to the Ambassador a week later that while he could try his luck with the Japanese, they had meanwhile, approached the British but were awaiting a reply (Secret Telegram dated May 22).

From another cable (May 24), it is apparent that a feeler had been sent to the Formosans requesting they allow a certain number of witnesses to travel to Hong Kong, at Indian expense, to depose before the Committee. But from a cable sent by the British Consul in Formosa to his superiors in London dated May 20, it was clear that the Tamsui-based diplomat was already active on the project and that the Formosan Government was against the Hong Kong idea.

The British had been only too glad to avail the opportunity to launch another inquiry into the Bose mystery (they had carried out several by then already) and the High Commission's cable clearly states as much: "Indian official concerned was obviously embarrassed at making this request. Nevertheless, I think there is some advantage in trying to establish facts in this case..."

They moved with astonishing efficiency in uncovering what New Delhi wanted. Strangely enough, the Indian Government did not ask them to ascertain whether a Japanese "Sally Bomber" had indeed crashed in Taihoku on August 18, 1945, killing Netaji, Japanese General Shedei and two others.

It only wanted the interviews of a couple of nurses who allegedly "treated" Bose in his "final moments", two clerks who India believed saw the "body" and a small number of people believed to have been associated with its cremation plus the police super of the time and select officials. The British were also requested to get the "doctor's report on Bose's death", the "police report on death" and "cremation permit" (Cypher no.847 dated June 6).

This reveals that Nehru's mind was made up. He only wanted to prove that Netaji had died and in pursuit of this line, he did not care to first check out whether a "crash" had taken place. Instead, he ordered a wild goose chase about the cremation. Meanwhile, even as the British moved with lightening speed in activating the Formosan establishment, his toady, Shah Nawaz Khan, spent several weeks in Japan actively promoting the fiction about the air crash and composing yarns in support of it.

Finally, on August 10, 1956, JV Rob, a diplomat with the High Commission in New Delhi, handed over to the Indian MEA "five copies of the translation of the letter from the Governor of Formosa together with the police report and the cremation certificate". Two copies of the original in Chinese. They all pointed to a make-belief cremation against a backdrop full of contradictions that the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee either overlooked deliberately, or was completely innocent of.

They all point to the central fact that there was no proof of Netaji's actual death in Formosa. The country had to wait 49 years to know what the British and Formosans knew all along. And now, thanks to JMCI, it is abundantly clear that Nehru knew too.

(To be continued)

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