New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made public digital copies of 100 secret files relating to Subhash Chandra Bose on his 119th birth anniversary, which could throw some light on the controversy over his death.
The files were declassified and put on digital display at the National Archives of India (NAI) here by the Prime Minister, who pressed a button in the presence of Bose family members and Union Ministers Mahesh Sharma and Babul Supriyo.
Later, Modi and his ministerial colleagues went around glancing at the declassified files, spending over half an hour at the National Archives. He also spoke to the members of the Bose family.
The NAI also plans to release digital copies of 25 declassified files on Bose in the public domain every month.
In October last year, the Prime Minister had met the family members of Netaji and announced that the government would declassify the files relating to the leader whose disappearance 70 years ago remains a mystery.
While two commissions of inquiry had concluded that Netaji had died in a plane crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945, a third probe panel, headed by Justice M K Mukherjee, had contested it and suggested that Bose was alive after that. The controversy had also split members of the Bose family too.
The first lot of 33 files were declassified by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and handed over to the NAI on December 4, last year.
Subsequently, the Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs too initiated the process of declassification of files relating to Bose in their respective collection which were then transferred over to the NAI, it added.
In his reaction to the declassification, Chandra Kumar Bose, spokesperson of the Bose family and grand-nephew of Subhash Chandra Bose who was present at the ceremony, said, "We welcome this step by Prime Minister wholeheartedly. This is a day of transparency in India."
Earlier in day, he told PTI, "We feel that certain very important files were destroyed during the Congress regime in order to hide the truth. We have documentary evidence to understand this. So we feel that the Indian government should take steps to ensure the release of files lying in Russia, Germany, UK, USA."
Chandra Bose also said, "We couldn't go through all the files as of now. But as of now, what we could go through, there are only circumstantial evidence of the air-crash but no conclusive evidence of the air crash."
"Even in one of the letters that we saw here which was written by Lal Bahadur Shastri to Suresh Bose that there is no conclusive evidence about the air crash, only few circumstantial evidence," he told PTI after the files were declassified.
Chandra Bose said, "There is a change in the attitude of the government from that of the previous ones. Firstly, the attitude of suppressing the facts about Netaji has been negated. And this is the biggest thing in unraveling the truth about Netaji."
Netaji's nephew Ardhendu Bose, who was also at the ceremony here, said, "The Bose family and the entire country has been waiting for this moment for the last seven decades nearly. We feel that these files would be able to throw some light on it."
He also stressed that the files lying in KGB archives in Russia and those with Germany, UK and USA "will bring out more that what lies in those files. As we apprehend that certain files might have been destroyed."
Just ahead of the declassification ceremony, an aged family member broke down in the presence of the Prime Minister.
An official said the National Archives placed 100 files relating to Bose in public domain "after preliminary conservation treatment and digitization". On the The digital copies of these files coming out in public domain meets a "long-standing public demand" which would facilitate scholars to carry out further research on Bose, the official said.
Besides the controversy over whether Subhash Bose died in the 1945 aircrash or not, those who believe he was alive after that have different theories about what happened to the leader after that. While one of them says Bose fled to the former Soviet Union to continue to fight for India's independence but was later killed there, the other says that Netaji returned to India as an ascetic, named 'Gumnami Baba, and continued to live in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad till 1985.