West Bengal declassifies 64 Subhas Chandra Bose files3 min read . Updated: 18 Sep 2015, 11:40 PM IST
The files shed light on various aspects of the freedom movement in India but very little about Bose's own activities
Kolkata: Subhas Chandra Bose was thought to have been killed in early 1942 in a plane crash off the coast of Japan in circumstances uncannily similar to the dominant theory over his disappearance in October 1945: that he died in a plane crash in Taiwan.
Though ignored by some Indian newspapers, the rumour of his death in 1942 was reported across the world until the revolutionary leader himself addressed his followers from Bangkok on Azad Hind Radio, a station he ran. He called it a British propaganda to demoralize his forces.
Little known perhaps, but this event, too, isn’t entirely unknown.
The 64 secret files declassified by the West Bengal government on Friday shed light on various aspects of the freedom movement in India and by Indians in the far-east from the late 1930s and how British intelligence officers tracked them, but very little about Bose’s own activities.
Though members of his extended family were under surveillance and separate dossiers were created on their activities, there is only about a couple of dedicated files on Bose himself—one of them rather thin in content compared with the average volume of the files.
The 12,700-odd pages made public by the West Bengal state police failed to live up to the anticipation. To be sure, historians and researchers may unearth treasures from these files but they are unlikely to shore up traffic to the Kolkata Police museum.
That’s where these files will be available for public viewing from Monday. Digital copies of these files were distributed among Bose’s extended family and the media on Friday amid much fanfare.
For whatever the files are worth, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make them public is a shot in the arm for Bose’s extended family, which has been campaigning for declassification of the secret files in possession of the centre.
Truth cannot be suppressed, Banerjee said on Friday shortly after the files in possession of her state’s intelligence branch were officially unveiled in the archive. And joining the chorus over declassification of the files by the centre, Banerjee rubbished Delhi’s concern over law and order if the files were to be made public.
For the centre, though, the matter is more complicated.
“Why was my father being tracked by 14 intelligence officials (even after independence)?" asked Chandra Bose, an activist. His father Amiya Bose, a lawyer, was Netaji’s nephew and a political leader who even in the late 1960s was trying to launch a movement with Netaji’s followers from the disbanded Indian National Army.
The files made public on Friday show that Amiya Bose, among others in his extended family, were under close surveillance of the centre and the West Bengal state administration till the 1970s on suspicion that they could spearhead what was described by intelligence officers as “anti-government" and “anti-Congress" movements.
The dossiers are built largely on intercepted letters. Post-independence, the focus shifted to scions of the Bose family such as Sarat Bose, Netaji’s elder brother, and his two sons Amiya Bose and Sisir Bose. According to Chandra Bose, surveillance was stepped up after independence. “There used to be only one officer shadowing my father during the British rule," he said.
The British officers, though, were tracking a wide variety of political activities, and filing weekly reports for circulation across intelligence agencies. Among the documents declassified on Friday, a vast majority have nothing to do with Netaji at all: they deal with diverse subjects such as nationalistic publications from Mumbai to Chinese gangsters in Kolkata.
This isn’t the first time under Banerjee’s rule that such an anticipated event didn’t live up to its billing. In a similar attempt to unveil the “truth", she had asked, back in 2011, to make public the annexure to the agreement between West Bengal and Tata Motors Ltd over the now aborted Singur factory.
It turned out that the annexure only had calculations in support of the financial incentives offered to the car maker, which were of no interest to anyone except the state and the company. A displeased Banerjee ordered the removal of a key officer from the commerce and industries department.