The Netaji Mystery: What Really Happened to India’s Freedom Fighter?

The Netaji Mystery: What Really Happened to India’s Freedom Fighter?

Subhas Chandra Bose, popularly known as Netaji, was one of the most charismatic and influential leaders of the Indian independence movement. He was also a controversial figure who defied the mainstream Congress party and allied with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II. He formed the Indian National Army (INA) to fight against the British colonial rule with the help of these Axis powers. But his fate remains shrouded in mystery and speculation even after 75 years of his death.
According to the official version, Bose died on August 18, 1945, in a plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan. He was on his way to Tokyo to seek further assistance from Japan after the surrender of Germany. The plane he was travelling in, along with some of his aides and Japanese officers, caught fire shortly after takeoff and crashed. Bose suffered severe burns and died in a military hospital a few hours later. His body was cremated and his ashes were taken to Tokyo, where they are still kept at the Renkoji Temple.

However, many of Bose’s followers and admirers refused to accept this account and believed that he had survived the crash and escaped to some other country. They claimed that he had gone to the Soviet Union or China or Southeast Asia or even Germany to continue his struggle for India’s freedom. They also alleged that the British government and later the Indian government had suppressed the truth about his whereabouts and activities. They demanded that the government should conduct a thorough investigation and reveal the facts to the public.

Over the years, several commissions and committees were set up by the government to probe into the mystery of Bose’s death. The first one was the Figgess Report in 1946, which confirmed that Bose had died in the plane crash based on eyewitness accounts and documents. The second one was the Shah Nawaz Committee in 1956, which also endorsed the Figgess Report after interviewing some of Bose’s associates and examining some evidence. The third one was the Khosla Commission in 1970, which again upheld the previous findings and dismissed the alternative theories as baseless.

However, none of these reports satisfied the skeptics and critics, who pointed out various loopholes and inconsistencies in them. They also cited some contradictory testimonies and documents that suggested that Bose had not died in 1945 but had lived on under different identities. They also accused the government of hiding some crucial information and files related to Bose’s case. They demanded that a new commission should be formed with more powers and resources to unravel the mystery.

The fourth and final commission was the Mukherjee Commission, which was set up in 1999 by the then BJP-led government under pressure from some political parties and civil society groups. The commission was headed by Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. The commission conducted a comprehensive inquiry for six years and visited several countries, including Taiwan, Japan, Russia, and Germany, to collect evidence and interview witnesses. The commission submitted its report in 2005, which made some startling revelations.

The Mukherjee Commission concluded that Bose did not die in the plane crash in 1945 as there was no conclusive proof of his presence on board or his death at the hospital. It also stated that Bose did not go to Russia or China after 1945 as there was no reliable evidence of his contact with those countries. It also rejected the possibility that Bose had lived as a monk named Gumnami Baba in Uttar Pradesh as there was no resemblance between them. However, it could not establish what exactly happened to Bose after 1945 or where he went or how he died.

The Mukherjee Commission report created a sensation in India and abroad as it challenged the official version of Bose’s death and raised more questions than answers. However, it also faced criticism from some quarters for its methodology and findings. The Congress-led government at that time rejected the report as "inconclusive" and "unacceptable" and refused to accept its recommendations. It also refused to declassify all the files related to Bose’s case despite repeated demands from various sections of society.

The mystery of Bose’s death remains unresolved till date as there is no consensus among historians, researchers, politicians, and public on what really happened to him. His legacy is also contested by different groups who have different interpretations of his role and contribution to India’s freedom struggle.
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