Born on January 23, 1897, in Cuttack, Orissa, Subhas Chandra Bose was the ninth of fourteen children born to Janaki Nath Bose, a famous lawyer and Prabhavati Devi. A brilliant student right from childhood, he topped matriculation in Calcutta province and graduated with a first class in Philosophy from the Scottish Churches College, Calcutta. To fulfil his parents wishes, he went to England in 1919 to compete for Indian Civil Service (ICS). In 1920, he appeared for the ICS examination there and stood fourth in order of merit. Strongly influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings and known for his patriotic zeal as a student, he was so disturbed by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, that he withdrew from his ICS apprenticeship midway and returned to India in 1921.
Back in India, Bose, under Gandhi’s influence, joined the Indian National Congress and over a period, his acumen elevated him to the top of the Congress’ hierarchy. His belief in independence by force contradicted Gandhi’s pacifist approach. In January 1941, he left India to wage a war aimed at liberating India from British occupation and then, after almost five years of struggle and some battles, disappeared, causing an unending myth and mystery and becoming a source of paranoia for the British and some top Indian Congressmen. Both the British and Nehru ensured that Bose and his family were kept under surveillance for decades after Independence and that too with utter secrecy, suppressing any facts that could surface and obscuring the trail. Three commissions/ committees of inquiry and the recent declassification of files have so far not revealed anything about Bose’s death/disappearance.
In the past over seven decades a number of books emerged on Subhash Bose or ‘Netaji’ as he came to be known. Foreign writers mostly covered the events following his dramatic escape to Europe from house arrest in Calcutta in January 1941 via Afghanistan and Russia and accepted or confirmed his death in an air-crash in Formosa on 18 August 1945, but they tended to understate the great Indian revolutionary’s military skills on the grounds that he was not a trained military man. Indian writers with more of an emotional connect with the great Indian revolutionary tended to eulogise his patriotism, exploits of the Indian National Army (INA), establishing a Government of independent India, slogans including ‘Delhi chalo’, etc, but many did not accept that he died in the 18 August 1945 air crash in the then Formosa.
Probably the most damning part of Bose’s mystery relates to former Prime Minister Lal Bahdur Shahstri’s surprising and mysterious death in Tashkent where he went for the peace talks following the 1965 Indo-Pak war. One of a number of versions/references to the Shastri-Bose meeting in Tashkent, is in an article by Anoop Bose Advocate, Supreme Court of India, titled ‘The Tragic Death Of Lal Bahadur Shastri And The Mystifying Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Angle’, published in Law Gup Shup, which reads: “On 16 August 2015, Sunil (Shastri’s son) disclosed on Zee 24 Ghanta that his father told him shortly before his death about a ‘special person’ he was going to meet. Was this ‘special person’ Netaji? Was Shastri planning to present Netaji before his countrymen on 23 January 1966? Did he intend to invite Netaji as the Chief Guest to the Republic Day parade on 26 January 1966? Was he going to abdicate in favour of Netaji? These questions will perhaps remain inscrutable forever!’
While the Congress government would never release the Netaji files for obvious reasons, why did the BJP government, initially keen to publicise the files, later decide not to disclose most of them? Two recently declassified Intelligence Bureau (IB) files have revealed that the Nehru government spied on Bose’s kin. Analysts opine that a major reason to keep the files secret is that they will expose how the Nehru/Congress governments continued to be subservient and stool pigeon to the British. The book may well enhance curiosity about Bose, but will the files ever get disclosed? If so, what will happen