"What happened to Netaji": Was he in Red China?

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Was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in China. The recently de-classified files relating to Netaji suggest that he may have been alive after 1945.

Anuj Dhar, a leading researcher on Netaji is all set to come up with his next book, "What happened to Netaji," in which he has explored the possibility of Netaji being in China in the year 1949.


The discussion regarding Netaji being in China surfaced after his brother, Sarath Chandra Bose had published an article in 1949 under the header, "Netaji in Red China." The article published in The Nation suggested that the Indian Government was aware that Netaji was in China.

Anuj Dhar's books gives a fair idea of the Chinese angle and with his permission we publish a few extracts of the forthcoming book, What Happened to Netaji."

There is a Chinese angle to the Bose mystery:

"I don't know how much truth it holds, but there is definitely a Chinese angle to the Bose mystery. All those who believe that Bose died in Russia also know of it as well, but refrain from alluding to it for an obvious reason.

If Netaji was in China in 1949 and afterwards, he was certainly out of the USSR-alive.

For the background, you must know that our hostility for the Chinese communist leadership-not the Chinese people-started in late 1950s when the dragon devoured Tibet and turned to our lands. Before that, almost all of our top leaders shared warm vibes with China-Nehru and Bose included.

Bose even wrote an article in Modern Review, where he denounced Japan's assault on China.

Records declassified in 1997 show that with the end of the Second World War in sight, Bose weighed his options.

On 21 March 1946, INA's Chief of Staff, General JK Bhonsle, was interrogated at Red Fort on the subject of ‘last plans of SC Bose'. Bhonsle told his interrogator: ‘Bose had also decided that in case the Japanese Govt did not agree to taking up his case with Russia, he himself would try to get to Shanghai and from there, try to contact the Russians through the Chinese Communists'.

Azad Hind Government minister Debnath Das told the Khosla Commission that, one of the escape plans for Bose was to go ‘to Yunan, the headquarters of Mao Tse Tung, who would help him carry on his campaign against the British'. He even had Ho Chi-Minh on his mind.

Anand Mohan Sahay was actually sent to Hanoi and he forged a life-long friendship with the Vietnamese statesman.

In 1949, rumours began doing the rounds in India and elsewhere that Subhas Bose was in China. So much so that when the pro-Soviet Bombay tabloid, The Blitz, carried a sensational news headlined, ‘British report Bose alive in Red continent' on 26 March 1949, the American Consul there transmitted its text to the Secretary of State under the subject ‘Ghost of Subhas Chandra Bose'.

The bombshell by Sarath Chandra Bose:

Forward Bloc general Secretary RS Ruiker told the media in July 1949 that Bose, ‘who is presumed to be in Red China, may come back to India provided the ban on his entry into the country is withdrawn'. According to IB memo No: 12586 TP.

605 dated 30 July 1949, located at the National Archives by Sai Manish of the Daily News and Analysis, Amiya Bose received a letter from Chinese national Chou Hsiang Kuang.

‘Amiya, in previous letters to Kuang, had asked him to help find out if Subhas Bose was somewhere in China', the DNA reported on 19 April 2015. Kuang had no proper clue.

Then a bombshell was dropped by Sarat Chandra Bose. No one can dispute that if Subhas were alive and in a position to communicate after 1945, the one person he would have reached out to would be his mejda.

This very Sarat Bose made a public declaration, which fitted well with the Dead Man's narrative. On 7 October 1949, his paper, The Nation, ran a full page story. You've got to see it to believe it.

‘Netaji in Red China', read the headline in The Nation on 7 October 1949. It goes without saying that a person of Sarat's stature and intelligence would not have published this in such a manner, without being sure about it.

The story quoted him claiming, ‘that the Government of India were in possession of definite information that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was in Red China of Mao Tse-tung'. When asked why Subhas was ‘not coming to India', Sarat Bose replied, ‘I don't think the time is ripe for his coming back home'.

A shocker of such magnitude couldn't have been ignored, but New Delhi tried to downplay it. The Ministry of External Affairs dismissed Sarat Bose's claim with a terse denial. Soon the news travelled to the West.

On 28 November 1949, German news agency Interpress released a story titled ‘Babu Bose: Mann Hinter Den Fronten' (Mr Bose: The man behind the front), which too said that Bose was in China. Even the Americans, who had nothing to do with Bose, couldn't help noticing the story.

The February 1954 issue of National Republic carried an essay, ‘Jawaharlal Nehru and the Red threat to India'. Its author, Elliot Erikson, wrote:

There is a strong possibility that Bose is alive. At the end of the war, when the Japanese front collapsed in Burma, Bose, if he showed himself, ran great risk of being prosecuted as an international war criminal.

If Bose is still held prisoner in Communist China, he could be sprung as the leader of a Red ‘liberation' of India from capitalism.

The most strongly anti-Communist Congress leaders admit that if such an event happened, Indian resistance to China would collapse immediately.

In 1956 came another shocker. Close Subhas Bose associate Muthuramalingam Thevar, whose statue now stands in the Parliament House precincts in New Delhi as a tribute to his eminence, told newspapers such as Hindustan Standard that he had secretly visited China on Sarat Bose's instruction.

Thevar said that towards the end of 1949, when Sarat Chandra Bose was ailing, he went down to Calcutta to meet Bose. He saw Bose on December 7 and stayed with him for ten days. They had consultations on the matter as Bose apprehended that he was going to die.

After these talks, Thevar said, he left India incognito on December 17. He crossed the Burma border and entered China, where he stayed almost the whole of 1950.

He met Netaji in January but where, he would not divulge. He returned to India in October 1950. He said that the Government of India knew that he had visited China but if it doubted that, he could prove that he had been to China.

I cannot believe that the Chinese attention was never drawn to numerous claims about Subhas's presence in their country.

Priyadarsi Mukherji, professor in Chinese & Sinological Studies Centre at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, thinks that the Chinese are holding some records about Bose.

In January 2011, he met Professor Wang Bangwei, director of the Indian Studies Centre, Peking University and asked him about the possibility of Bose's contacts with Mao after 1949.

Professor Wang did not directly answer my query but said that both Bose and Mao had the same objective of achieving liberation of their countries by armed struggle, so it was natural for them to be close.

On being asked about documents on Netaji in the Research Cell of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), Wang categorically said that it is impossible for a foreigner like me to get access to it. Even many Chinese can't get access either.

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