December 4, 2022

Cashing in on the Netaji Mystery

Anita Bose Pfaff, only child of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Emilie Schenkl, is convinced that Netaji died in the air-crash. Why did Gupta have doubts about Netaji’s air-crash or disappearance is of great concern

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

An article published in media on January 23 questions every prime minister including Narendra Modi for not allowing the “officially commissioned” history of the Indian National Army (INA) to be published; in 1949, Nehru commissioned historian Pratul Chandra Gupta to write a history of the INA and its military operations in northeast India. Gupta was given 950 classified INA files of British times – which along with 40 defence ministry files were declassified in 1997. Gupta produced the 490-page manuscript ‘A History of the Indian National Army 1942-1945’ after three years but it was not cleared for publication. Gupta was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1975 and he died in 1990.

The article further says:

  • In 2011, the Manmohan Singh government gave Major General Prabir Chakravorty and historian Purabi Roy access to Gupta’s manuscript for a comprehensive study but nothing is known beyond.
  • In 2016, a media report citing Purabi Roy said: Bose wanted to liberate India through military intervention but his dealings with the Japanese might have been a “different matter”?; Bose convinced Japan’s Prime Minister Hideki Tojo to join INA operations in northeast India though Japanese were wary of distant logistics; Japanese army led the charge in Manipur and Kohima (Capital of Nagaland), not the INA, and withdrew soon leaving INA to face the British Indian Army; INA suffered heavily without well-defined strategy; despite differences Bose had immense respect for Gandhi and Nehru – even named INA regiments after them; Gupta’s manuscript did not mention Netaji’s death/disappearance but he expressed doubts about the air-crash in his 1985 memoir.

INA suffered heavily without well-defined strategy; despite differences Bose had immense respect for Gandhi and Nehru – even named INA regiments after them; Gupta’s manuscript did not mention Netaji’s death/disappearance but he expressed doubts about the air-crash in his 1985 memoir

According to the January 23 article, a PIL was filed in Delhi High Court in 2018 for immediate publication of Gupta’s book but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) refused to make the document public under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 on the plea it would hurt the “economic interests” of the government. The conclusion, therefore, drawn is that Gupta’s book did not paint Japanese and the role they played in the manner in which India wanted.

The article further speculates that as Japan faced defeat in 1945, Japanese military and intelligence were in favour of sacrificing Netaji to the British in exchange for security of Japan’s royal family. Therefore, Japan refused to give safe passage to Netaji to escape to the Soviet Union and seek assistance. 

On March 9, 2017, the Indian Parliament was informed by the external affairs minister that the Japanese government maintains secret documents are declassified as per their policies after the prescribed time period based on an internal review mechanism and no exceptions can be made for India. This was in response to Indian demands for making available three secret files on Netaji. The article concludes that this indicates a dubious role of Japan in the whole affair. 

The above needs deeper analysis. We may be going wrong to deduce that anything and everything that is scripted in files and documents is the gospel truth. In this context, the 950 INA files of the British period need to be taken with a pinch of salt, given the British hatred for the INA plus animosity with Japan and the Soviet Union. Are we not aware that the creation of Pakistan and more importantly the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) were engineered by the wily British? Gupta’s book possibly was coloured based on what the British documented by design?

After Netaji died in an air-crash in Taiwan (then Japanese Territory) on August 18, 1945, his ashes were brought to Tokyo and are preserved in Renko-ji Temple since September 18, 1945. Renko-ji Temple is a small shrine established in 1594, about an hour and a half drive from central Tokyo. In front of the main entrance is the bust of Netaji. Renkoji Temple was visited by PM Nehru in 1957, President Rajendra Prasad in 1958, PM Indira Gandhi in 1969 and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001. Anita Bose Pfaff, only child of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Emilie Schenkl, is convinced that Netaji died in the air-crash. So, why did Gupta have doubts about Netaji’s air-crash or disappearance? 

After Netaji died in an air-crash in Taiwan (then Japanese Territory) on August 18, 1945, his ashes were brought to Tokyo and are preserved in Renko-ji Temple since September 18, 1945. Renko-ji Temple is a small shrine established in 1594, about an hour and a half drive from central Tokyo. In front of the main entrance is the bust of Netaji

Whether the Manmohan Singh government gave Major General Prabir Chakravorty and historian Purabi Roy access to Gupta’s manuscript in 2011 “to do a study on the book”, as mentioned in the article, is highly doubtful.  But certainly, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) wanted a joint Indo-Japanese study on Japan’s assistance in India’s freedom struggle. The project did not take shape as the Japanese Historical Society did not agree to clear their representative, the reason for which is not difficult to understand.

Put yourself in Japan’s shoes. On one hand, India refuses to take Netaji’s ashes home (disbelieving Japan?) while Japan holds an annual celebration for Netaji’s birthday at Renko-ji Temple, and on the other hand wants joint study in Japan’s role in helping Netaji fight the British?

The article in 2016 citing Purabi Roy acknowledges that Japanese had apprehensions about logistics in far-away India, which was but natural. India was not as close to Japan as China and the logistic nightmare of replacing British-India with a Japanese-India should make those who believe Netaji wanted this think twice.

Also, to say that the Japanese army attacked Imphal and Kohima, “not the INA” is wrong. The Japanese army being a regular army was no doubt battle trained but the INA was very much assisting these attacks by providing armed surveillance and intelligence which meant being in the forefront. Netaji had already rejected the fifth-columnist type of role for the INA and had secured from Japanese Army Chief of Staff, General Sugiyama, an agreement that the INA would rank as an allied army in the offensive. At the same time, INA’s “initial strategy” was to avoid set-piece battles, for which it lacked armament as well as manpower. The INA proved its mettle at many places.

To say that the Japanese military and intelligence were in favour of sacrificing Netaji to the British in exchange for security of Japan’s royal family is ridiculous. Why the US spared Japan’s royal family is because the emperor was God-like for the Japanese public and any harm to him and the royal family would have meant endless insurgencies for American occupation forces thereafter.

The refusal by the MoD to publish Gupta’s book is not because of “economic reasons” alone but possibly more because of the doubts it casts on the Japanese role – based on British era INA files? Incidentally, the Indian Embassy in Tokyo to start with was at a nondescript location. But after India’s Radhabinod Pal, among the three Asian judges appointed to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the ‘Tokyo Trials’ of Japanese war crimes committed during the Second World War, sided with Japan, India was given the pick of its choice of prime locations in Tokyo for its embassy and staff.

Finally, the publication which carried the article on January 23 is left centred. Why this article has come up now, on whose behest (China?) to affect Indo-Japanese ties is not known. But the task remaining for India is to bring Netaji’s ashes back to India, after a DNA test if considered necessary.

Finally, the publication which carried the article on January 23 is left centred. Why this article has come up now, on whose behest (China?) to affect Indo-Japanese ties is not known. But the task remaining for India is to bring Netaji’s ashes back to India, after a DNA test if considered necessary.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us on Social Media