- Today marks the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
- It is widely believed that Bose died in an air crash on August 18, 1945 in Taiwan
- Gumnami Baba - whom many believe was actually Netaji (Bose) lived in the guise of a sadhu
Today marks the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The Modi government in 2021 announced to observe January 23 as 'Parakram Diwas' to commemorate the birth anniversary of Bose. About 75 years ago, Netaji passed away. However, his death still remains shrouded in mystery.
It is widely believed that Bose died in an air crash on August 18, 1945 in Taiwan. But a section of people believe that he survived the crash and went into hiding to escape the British. The mystery surrounding his death often made headlines in the past.
The Mystery of Gumnami Baba
Many believe that Netaji lived at many places in Uttar Pradesh after changing his identity. Gumnami Baba -- whom many believe was actually Netaji (Bose) lived in the guise of a sadhu at several places in Uttar Pradesh, including Naimisharanya (Nimsar), Basti, Ayodhya and Faizabad. He kept changing his place of abode, mostly within the city itself. "Gumnami" in Hindi literally means anonymity.
He remained a complete recluse and interacted with only a handful of 'believers' who visited him on a regular basis. He never stepped out of his house, rather room, and majority of the people claim to have never seen him. One of his landlords, Gurbax Singh Sodhi, tried to take him twice to the Faizabad Civil Court on the text of some work but failed. This information is corroborated by his son Manjit Singh in his deposition to Justice Sahai Commission of Inquiry, set up to identify Gumnami Baba. Later a journalist, Virendra Kumar Mishra, lodged a complaint with the police.
Gumnami Baba finally settled in an out-house of Ram Bhavan at Faizabad in 1983 where he reportedly died on September 16, 1985. If it were really Netaji, he would be 88-year-old.
Strangely, there is no proof that any person really died. There is no death certificate, no photograph of the dead body or of the people present during cremation. There is no cremation certificate either. In fact, Gumnami Baba's passing away was not known to people until, 42 days after his supposed death.
Though the Uttar Pradesh government officially rejected the claim that Gumnami Baba was actually Bose in disguise, his followers still refuse to accept the claim. The Gumnami Baba 'believers' had moved court in 2010 and brought out a judgment in favour of their petition with the high court directing the Uttar Pradesh government to establish the identity of Gumnami Baba.
Accordingly, the government set up an inquiry commission on June 28, 2016, headed by Justice Vishnu Sahai. The report stated that "Gumnami Baba" was a "follower of Netaji", but not Netaji. The report of the one-member commission was tabled in the Uttar Pradesh assembly in December 2020 and it said Gumnami Baba was not Subhas Chandra Bose in disguise.
A leading surgeon from Gorakhpur, who does not wish to be named, was one such 'believer'. "We kept asking the Government of India to declare that Netaji was not a war criminal but our pleas fell on deaf ears. Baba did not want to emerge as a criminal. It does matter that the government did not believe in him -- we did and continue to do so. We want to be known as his 'believers' because we believed in him," he told news agency IANS. The doctor was among those who regularly visited Gumnami Baba and still remains his staunch 'believer'.
The Curious Case of Letters
In February 1986, Netaji's niece Lalita Bose was brought to Faizabad to identify the items found in Gumnami Baba's room after his death. At first sight, she was overawed and even identified some items to be of Netaji's family. Baba's room was filled up by over 2,000 articles in 25 steel trunks. No one had ever seen them during his lifetime.
Handwriting expert Carl Bagget was also given the two sets of letters to analyze without being told the identities of the writers. After he said they were written by the same man, it was revealed to him that the persons in question were Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Gumnami Baba.
Baggett stood by his conclusion and gave a signed statement to that effect. Baggett was an authority on document examination with over 40 years of experience and had completed over 5,000 cases.
Faizabad, the epicentre of the Gumnami Baba's myth, still believes in the story of the "sadhu", ignoring the findings of inquiry commissions. It matters little to the 'believers' that two consecutive commissions, headed by Justice Mukherjee and Justice Sahai, had declared that "Gumnami Baba was not Netaji".