Subhas Chandra Bose, who was born on 23 January 1897, was an Indian nationalist whose defiance of British authority in India made him an icon among millions of Indians. Born in Odisha's Cuttack district, he spent his childhood in a privileged large Bengali family, where he garnered his early education from an Anglocentric institution. Later, the "energetic child" took his higher education from Ravenshaw University, formerly known as Ravenshaw college.
After completing higher education in India, his parents Prabhavati Dutt Bose and Janakinath Bose, allowed him to go to England to prepare for the Indian Civil Service examinations. It is important to note that his father was a successful lawyer, and his mother was a social activist and politician.
Bose succeeded in the civil services examination with distinction
Surprisingly, Bose succeeded with distinction in his first attempt. However, he did not proceed with another round of examinations in order to campaign against the British Raj in India and returned to India.
In 1921, he joined Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi to lead the nationalist movement against British rule. During this, he had staunchly followed the principal leader of the Indian nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s, Jawaharlal Nehru. Later, at the age of 40, Bose became Congress president in 1938.
Conflict with Mahatama Gandhi
However, differences arouse within a year between Bose and other Congress leaders. According to historians, the ideas of Mahatama Gandhi and Bose had never intersected with each other. Bose, who had the backing of several Congress leaders to snatch freedom in a violent way, Gandhi, on several occasions, asked him to negotiate with the Britishers using the path of non-violence.
However, a large majority of the Congress Working Committee members resigned in protest. Also, this resulted in the resignation of Bose from the post of party president. Eventually, he was ousted from the party.
Bose charisma in Germany
Later, Bose was placed under house arrest by the British. However, in 1941, the ousted leader fled India and made his way to Germany.
In Germany, Bose sought the sympathy of the Nazi party and their support in fighting the Britishers. He also got enormous support from Japan which was German’s ally.
He headed the Indian National Army (INA), which comprised Indian prisoners of war of the Indian Army who had been captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore.
His ideas and tactics led the INA forces to conquer the Britishers. Eventually, Bose was successful in establishing Free India Radio. In his radio shows, he used to connect to the people in order to motivate them to join the freedom struggle movement. His charm and charisma earned him followers who called him ‘Netaji.
Netaji mysterious death
However, Bose passed away in an aeroplane crash in 1945 in Taiwan. Since then, a lot has been written and said about the unfortunate death of Netaji Bose. There have been myriad theories, debates, discussions, movies, and several documentaries about the cause of his death, yet there has so far been no confirmation to any of these theories.
Netaji had gone missing in 1945 and some of his family members had rejected the report of his death in a plane crash at Taihoku airport in Taiwan on August 18 that year. Several reports claimed that Netaji had on August 18, 1945, boarded a plane from Taihoku Airport in Taiwan, which crashed leading to his death.
Japanese government report
An investigative report by the Japanese government titled "Investigation on the cause of death and other matters of the late Subhas Chandra Bose" was declassified in 2016. It concluded that Bose died in a plane crash in Taiwan on 18 August 1945. The report was completed in January 1956 and was handed over to the Indian embassy in Tokyo, but was not made public for more than 60 years as it was classified. According to the report, just after takeoff, a propeller blade on the aeroplane in which Bose was travelling broke off and the engine fell off the plane, which then crashed and burst into flames. When Bose exited it his clothes caught fire and he was severely burned. He was admitted to the hospital, and although he was conscious and able to carry on a conversation for some time he died several hours later.
In 1946, Colonel John G. Figgess, a senior British intelligence officer on attachment in Tokyo, said in his report in 1946 "that SC Bose died in a Taihoku Military Hospital sometime between 1900 hours and 2000 hours local time on the 18th August 1945.”
Govt of India's on Netaji's death
The Centre from time to time had constituted panels -- Shah Nawaz Committee in 1956, the Khosla Commission in 1970, and the Mukherjee Commission in 2005 -- to shed light on the circumstances leading to Netaji's death or disappearance, but none could render any answer. On September 1, 2016, the Narendra Modi government declassified investigative reports of the Japanese government, which concluded that Bose died in a plane crash in Taiwan. Reports also suggested that his remains are preserved at Renkoji temple in Tokyo.
Many, however, continue to believe that Netaji survived the plane crash and lived in hiding. The Manmohan Singh government in 2006 accepted that the ashes in Renkoji Temple in Japan were those of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
What MHA said in a reply to RTI regarding Netaji's death
In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had said in a reply to an RTI application from a Kolkata resident that the government had come to this conclusion after considering the reports of various committees that probed the death of Bose, who, many believed, had not perished in the crash. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government had said that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air crash in 1945, putting to an end a controversy that refuses to be buried about the freedom fighter having survived the accident.
The RTI query was filed by Sayak Sen, convener of Open Platform for Netaji, under the Right To Information Act to the Home Ministry about the whereabouts of Netaji post-August 18, 1945. The plea also sought to know how many files were declassified by the MHA and how many were yet to be declassified besides the information about one Gumnami Baba living in Uttar Pradesh in the 80s. On the question of Gumnami Baba, the RTI reply said, “Some information regarding Gumnami Baba and Bhagwanji is available in the Mukherjee Commission report on pages 114-122...The Mukherjee Commission had come to the conclusion that Gumnami Baba/Bhagwanji was not Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Ministry of Home Affairs has declassified all available files (37) relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.”
In October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the family members of Netaji and announced that the government would declassify the files relating to the leader. In 2016, on Netaji’s 119th birth anniversary on January 23, as many as 100 secret files were made public by PM Modi.
To date, the controversy surrounding the death of Netaji has not died down. The TMC recently renewed its demand for the declassification of files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s disappearance in 1945 and said that ashes preserved at a temple in Japan, believed to be that of the freedom fighter, should be sent for DNA analysis. Clearly, no freedom fighter has intrigued India as much as Subhash Chandra Bose. Despite being one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian freedom struggle, his cause of death remains shrouded in mystery.
Parakram Diwas: Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service
In 2021, the Government of India decided to celebrate the 125th Birth Anniversary year of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in a befitting manner at the national and international levels. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend a ceremony to name the 21 largest unnamed islands of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after Param Vir Chakra awardees via video conferencing on the birth anniversary of Netaji. According to a statement, Modi will also unveil a model of the National Memorial dedicated to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to be built on the island named after him.
ALSO READ | Parakram Diwas 2023: PM Modi to name 21 Islands in Andaman and Nicobar; inaugurate Netaji model