Interview: De-classified Netaji files offer no closure
New Delhi, Sept 19: There were a lot of expectations from the files relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose that were de-classified yesterday by the West Bengal government.
The question is whether there was anything really incriminating in them? There are several references that suggest that Netaji was alive after 1945, but there is no concrete evidence to support that claim as most of the revealations are based on hearsay.
The one who appears to have benefited most from the de-classification is Mamata Banerjee the Chief Minister of West Bengal. She has made a strong political point and even shifts the buck on the centre now to de-classify the 130 off files that are in Delhi.
There is nothing new in the files says V Balachandran, former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat who is currently writing a much awaited biography of A C N Nambiar, Netaji's deputy in Berlin during the Second World War.
A lot of it is in already in the public domain and based on hearsay. In this interview with OneIndia, Balachandran says that just because the notings date back to 1948, it does not mean it is the gospel truth.
What are your reactions on the files being de-classified?
I do not find anything new in it. A lot of it is already known to the public. These letters of correspondence are based on hearsay and none are able to give out any concrete information on whether Netaji was alive after 1945 or not.
People say that these files are of 1948, but I would like to add that the year alone does not account it for becoming the gospel truth.
What are views on the files that speak of extensive snooping on Netaji and his family?
The snooping has always been there. In fact it was started by the British when they decided to go hammer and tongs against anyone supporting the communist movement. Bose was a rebel and they found that the communists were hob knobbing with him.
The British felt that they will lose India if they allow the communists to take centre stage and this would be a major blow to their imperialistic ambitions. Hence they devised a plan to snoop on many such persons and even started out by posting a secret liaison officer to oversee the job.
Could you tell us more about the surveillance on Netaji Bose?
It was from the year 1919 onwards that Britain considered the "Red Menace" as their top security challenge. Our bureaucracy and the fledgling IB that we inherited from imperial Britain also continued.
Bose was kept under watch since April 1924. In 1922, the Indian revolutionary Abani Mukherjee was sent by the Comintern to India. Purabi Roy, Netaji's biographer says that he spent nearly eleven months in Calcutta meeting Chittaranjan Das and Subhas Bose.
Amiya Nath Bose, Netaji Bose's nephew had also mentioned in his blog that it was Communist leader Soli Batliwala who was the link between the Communist Party of India and Subhas Chandra Bose in 1939 to forward the latter's proposal to the Soviet Union.
The trend continued even after the British left India?
Yes there the snooping on communists continued for a long time even after independence. It all changed in the year 1975 after Indira Gandhi presided over a meeting of the Intelligence Bureau.
She gave the officers a dressing down and stated that they were putting in all their resources on the communists. Instead check on the communal forces, she had said. Until this meeting the tradition in the IB was only to watch the communists.
Why does Netaji's death continue to be a mystery?
It is still a big mystery as there is no clear indicator about how exactly he died. The official version of the government is that he died in the air-crash. Many have questioned this version.
During the Second World War, the Japanese had surrendered and Bose realized that there was no point in seeking their help.
At this time he found that the USSR was the only nation which was standing up against the West and hence he had sought their help. The aircrash theory which has become the official version is disputed since he went to USSR by land and not by air.
Bose had even told his deputy Nambiar that they should not surrender to the West at any cost and should go to the USSR and seek their help.
Do you think the centre would have any more information on Netaji?
I do not think the centre would have anything more on these aspects relating to Netaji's death. Most of the information that would be present with the centre would be on intelligence. Most of these intelligence files are like log watches. If you look at the 64 files de-classified by the West Bengal government, they are also nothing but log watches.
Why is the government of India reluctant to de-classify the files?
I cannot say for sure, but I feel that there must be a reference to the Soviet Union and Stalin. I feel that the files in the Prime Minister's office may have a noting relating to the Soviet Union and Stalin and revealing this could disrupt ties, although Putin is not known to be a fan of Stalin.