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Issue No.: 575 | May 2015

Netaji Betrayed?

Ashok Karnik
The reported surveillance mounted on the relatives of Netaji Subhaschandra Bose from 1948 to 1968 raises many questions. There are no answers as documents that could provide the answers are locked up by the Government. The controversy started because of some files of the Intelligence Bureau were declassified by the Government. While the Government stonewalls declassification of IB files in general, despite their clearing the time bar (25 years), these particular files got declassified, causing great embarrassment to the Congress as its Government led by the iconic Pandit Nehru was placed in the dock for snooping over a hero’s family. It is true that Netaji’s death in a plane crash in 1945 was shrouded in mystery and was not accepted by many in India. There were rumours of his being in the Himalayas, in Russia, Germany and several other places. Later, a sadhu, Gumnami Baba, staying in Ayodhya till his death in 1985, was rumoured to be the real Netaji. Why would Netaji live in such anonymity and secrecy? Such developments added to speculations about Netaji’s whereabouts. 

Did the IB files reveal the purpose behind the surveillance? Was it to find out if Netaji was still alive? It appears that India (IB) and UK (MI 5) were working together on this operation. The cooperation between the two countries was not as shocking as made out by the media as such cooperation is not unusual even if it is sub rosa*. Did they believe that Netaji was still alive and some countries (USSR and who else?) were helping him to secure political space? The way to detect any mischief was to keep track of his relatives’ activities. The surveillance continued from 1948 to 1968 which is illogical as the chances of Netaji coming back and stirring up Indian politics had long disappeared. It is well known that the Congress did not get along with Netaji when he was in India but it did recognize the fight of the Indian National Army (INA) under Netaji to liberate India. Even if the fight was lost, the patriotism of the INA stirred people’s imagination and Netaji was a hero for the entire country. Netaji and Nehru might have differed on the ways to gain freedom but their aim was the same. Was there a need to treat Netaji as an adversary? Netaji’s relatives allege all kinds of plots to eliminate Netaji – from Stalin killing him to sending him to Siberia, his becoming a fakir and promise of his reappearance at a suitable time as if he was an avatar! This created complications in an already confusing situation. We are left with half-baked conjectures as we have very few facts to work with. It is only the IB files that hold the facts. It is possible that the claims of the Congress and the NDA that the information in the files could be adverse to our foreign policy interests are true and the files may never be made public. The truth may never emerge. 

It was argued that the air-crash in which Netaji supposedly died was deliberately planned to hide his departure for Russia. Three Commissions of Enquiry could not clear the mystery as Netaji’s family continued to demand fresh enquiries into his death. The unexplained part was why Netaji did not appear in India after Independence if he was still alive? He would have got a hero’s welcome and might have changed the course of the country’s polity. He was not the one to go into hiding for fear of being eliminated by his political enemies. By default, therefore, the theory of his death in the air-crash sounded more logical. This takes us to the surveillance scenario. It is known that doctrinaire communism did not accept that India had obtained true freedom and that revolutionary struggle had to continue. As stated earlier, India (IB) and UK (MI 5) were partners in the fight against communist subversion. Did Nehru believe that Stalinist Russia would use Netaji to undermine the Congress regime? Hence Nehru’s anxiety to know what the Boses were doing! It is true that in the hay days of Stalin, Russia was aggressively spreading communism; India and the USSR were yet to move closer as they did later. Netaji’s ideological leaning were never discussed seriously as he was only concerned with India’s freedom. Could the Nehru Government not have announced that as a national hero he was welcome in the country any time? Why treat his nephews as hostile elements? Could the uncertainty about Netaji’s death not be handled with greater finesse? A national hero should have been accorded the honour and dignity he deserved despite political differences with him. Will the truth emerge ever? Till then speculations cannot be avoided.

ASHOK V. KARNIK is formerly Deputy Director, Intelligence Bureau, Government of India, a freelance writer and member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First.





Other Articles in this Issue


In this Issue

R. Srinivasan

The Bose Engima

Netaji Betrayed?

Ashok Karnik

Was Jawaharlal Nehru Responsible for “snooping” on Bose?

V. Balachandran

The National Scene

State of the Economy – Issues and Challenges

Sunil S. Bhandare

Abusive words can’t be used for Mahatma


BJP’s strategy in J&K remains an enigma

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana

Poor Farmer


The Modi Government

Saffronisation is Creeping Up On Us

Firoze Hirjikaka

The Rural Perspective - 6

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - VII

R. M. Mohan Rao

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Protocol Vs. Policy

Ashok Karnik

What is wrong with AAP?

Ashok Karnik

The Missing VIP

Ashok Karnik

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

Modi Goes Abroad Again: Target Development Agenda at Home

B. Ramesh Babu

The Iran N Deal: Whose Fate Will it Seal?

Nitin G. Raut

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat - A Historical Perspective

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat : A Shooting Star

Usha Thakkar
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