But will declassification reveal all that we want to know?
N V R Swami –
A jarred slice of history may come under close scrutiny for revision if India gets the decisive clue on how, where and when its legendary leader Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose went missing.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it, “There is no need to strangle history.”
“Nations that forget their history lack the power to create it,” he said at a meeting he had with an emotional 36-member contingent of the extended family of the nationalist leader at his official residence in New Delhi.
Mr Modi took care to receive each and every member of the family who flew from Kolkata for the hour-long ‘remarkable and extensive interaction.’
Present at the meeting were Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Mr Modi announced that all the secret files with the Indian government will be declassified from January 23, 2016, the birth anniversary of Bose.
The files may throw light on whether Bose survived an air crash in a Japanese aeroplane in Taipei, Taiwan in August 1945.
If he had survived, where was he?
There was no clarity whether he died in the air crash as is widely believed.
Mr Modi tweeted that that he shared valuable information with the Bose family and it was a privilege to welcome them.
Initially, he said that he was surprised at news reports that his government could not declassify files relating to Netaji and confessed it was caught in a bureaucratic spin.
He asked Mr Singh to look into the matter.
That was the beginning of the process, Mr Modi said and noted that it was an honour to receive for the first time since independence members of the Bose family to the Prime Minister’s residence.
None of his predecessors had done so.
Mr Modi said that he would follow the Bose family suggestions to request foreign governments to declassify files on Netaji.
He would not only write to them, as a statement from the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said, but would also take up the matter during his meetings with respective leaders beginning with Moscow in December when he is scheduled to hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Hardly a week after the Bose conclave in Delhi, Ms Swaraj flew to Moscow on a bilateral visit to prepare the ground work for the Prime Minister’s visit.
She requested the Russian authorities to share any information on the mystery surrounding Netaji. The request came during her meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who assured her that he would look into the matter and let India know if there was any information.
The Bose family feels that a number of countries, including Germany, Britain, Russia and Japan may have information on his disappearance.
The disappearance is a seven-decade old mystery and the demand for declassification of secret files has gained momentum after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declassified 64 files in September that were in possession with the State government.
The files ran to more than 12,500 pages. They smacked of close family members being spied on in independent India and remained under surveillance for several years.
The family says that there is neither clarity nor proof by way of photographs on cremation to suggest that Netaji died in the air crash in Taihoku in Taiwan.
Netaji was born in Cuttack in Odisha in 1897 in a double-storeyed building, now revamped environmentally to attract a regular flow of visitors.
Long after the extended Bose family left for Kolkata it was turned into a maternity and nursing home before it was declared a national monument.
The firebrand leader from Bengal strode the Indian political arena along with the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in Pre-Independent India.
He was one of the main architects of India’s freedom struggle.
Netaji was elected twice to the post of President of the powerful National Congress.
He differed sharply with Gandhi and Nehru and left the Party to become the Founder- President of Forward Bloc.
He was placed under house arrest for his strong radical views but made a dramatic escape in 1940 to emerge a year later in Germany where he sought the help of Nazis to fight the British rule in India. He was wanted by the allied forces.
He moved to Japan-led Sumatra in 1944, sought to revamp an Indian National Army which fought unsuccessfully with the Japanese to invade India.
Three commissions were set up to probe the mysteries surrounding Netaji Bose including the Shah Nawaz Committee in 1956, the Khosla Commission in 1970 and (retired judge) Manoj Mukherjee from 1999 to 2005.
About 40 files that are with the government in Delhi and those as archives in the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan were denied access to the three enquiry groups.
Justice Mukherjee was of the view that the oral account of the witness of Netaji’s death and cremation cannot be relied upon to arrive at a definitive finding.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose