The secrecy-obsessed Home Ministry has made public a selection of secret documents relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s death and events following it after 18 months of nudging and an order from the Central Information Commission.
The 91 documents released under the Right to Information Act include British and American intelligence reports, diplomatic correspondence and selected letters of former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Home ministry bureaucrats had initially put a lid on the 202 exhibits considered by inquiry commissions into Netaji’s controversial death, claiming that making these public would go against national interest and lead to chaos in the country and law and order problems in West Bengal.
But in July 2007, the Central Information Commission rubbished the ministry’s stand and ordered the government to examine and analyse the documents to find out which could be made public.
The handing over of copies of the documents to Sayantan Dasgupta of Mission Netaji — the organisation that moved the information commission for access to the papers — was authorised by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs in November 2006 after home minister Shivraj Patil intervened.
The cabinet committee, however, decided to hold back a note written by Nehru in 1956 under a clause in the RTI law that allows the government to block information that would prejudicially affect India’s interests and diplomatic relations with another country.
“For a bureaucracy obsessed with secrecy, we hope it is the beginning of the RTI law helping us understand the past better,” said Anuj Dhar, who founded Mission Netaji with Dasgupta.
But he was disappointed with the government’s silence at the remaining 111 documents.