Kolkata: Documents in the external affairs ministry that were declassified on Saturday reveal that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's name did not figure in the "list of war criminals" drawn by Britain after the Second World War.
Following queries by the external affairs ministry through the Indian High Commission in London, Britain's ministry of defence in its reply in December 1998 had specified that it could find no evidence indicating that the British government treated Netaji as a war criminal.
"With reference to the specific question as to whether Subhas Chandra Bose's name was included by the UK in its list of war criminals drawn up after the Second World War, I have been unable to find any evidence that any such action was taken by the United Kingdom," read a letter from J.J. Harding of Britain's ministry of defence.
Following a petition by Kolkata-based advocate Rudra Jyoti Bhattacharjee before the Calcutta High Court enquiring if Netaji's name featured in such a list, as well as the matter being also raised in the Lok Sabha, the Indian authorities had made several enquiries with their British counterparts in 1998 and then again in 2000.
In its reply, the Imperial War Museum had quoted Nigel Jarvis, a historian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to claim that the list of war criminals was drawn up only for German and Japanese nationals and not Indians.
"Jarvis informed me that Netaji Bose's name was never on the list of war criminals because he was regarded as a traitor and a political figure, not as a war criminal. Even if he had been on any such list, his name would have been removed following his death shortly after the Second World War," Peter Simkins of the Imperial War Museum said in his reply to the Indian High Commission in 1998.
"Jarvis also told me that this same question has been raised several times before and that in the past official answers have normally been supplied either by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or by the Army Historical Branch of the ministry of defence. Jarvis also confirms that there was no list of war criminals for Indian nationals, such a list existed only for Japanese and German nationals," says the letter by Simkins.
In 2015, Bengaluru-based journalist Choodamani Nagendra had sought information under the RTI about the status of Netaji as a war criminal. But the ministry of external affairs refused to give such information.