Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday that she does not believe Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in the air crash in Taihoku in August 1945 and that the secret files in Russia could shed some lights on the mystery of the leader’s disappearance. Her comments came just eight days before the Modi government is to start declassification of the files with the Centre on January 23, Netaji’s birth anniversary.
The Bengal chief minister was unveiling a plaque at Netaji Bhavan on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the leader’s Great Escape from house arrest in 1941.
Significantly, Mama a Banerjee articulated her belief with three members of the Bose family – Netaji’s niece-in-law and former MP Krishna Bose, her historian son Sugato Bose who is also a Lok Sabha MP and his brother, Sumantra Bose – seated on the dais beside her. They are the only members in the Bose family who believe and propagate that Netaji, indeed, died in that plane crash.
“Sugato and Krishna di may believe (in the theory of air crash) but I don’t. I am not a historian. I’m speaking from the perspective of a common man. And my hunch is that he did not die in that air crash,” Mamata said addressing an audience of a few hundred people at Netaji Bhavan, Netaji’s ancestral home on Elgin Road.
She added that she thinks the secret files in Russia could shed some lights into the mystery over Netaji’s disappearance. “I have no idea whether the Prime Minister took up the issue with the Russian authorities during his recent visit. But I can say for sure that it should have been done long ago. Rather, the question is: why did the government not take up the issue with Russia?” “We have to keep asking for answers. It’s a shame that the country does not know whether, when or how its leader died,” she added. The government has sanctioned funds for renovation of the car that Netaji used to escape and announced a year-long campaign seeking these answers.
Sugato Bose, a noted historian who teaches at Harvard University and is the son of Netaji’s nephew Sisir Bose (who drove Netaji from his home to Gomoh station during the ‘great escape’), concluded in his book His Majesty’s Opponent that Netaji died in the air crash.
Speaking after Mamata, Krishna Bose said, “I hold a different opinion over Netaji’s death. My husband did not believe in the air crash theory till the 1960s. But later he investigated into it before coming to the conclusion that he was not alive. We should, however, respect all opinions.”
Other members of the Bose family have been criticising the views expressed by the members of Sisir Bose’s family (Krishna, Sugato and Sumantra) and leading a movement with the demand of declassifying all files related to Netaji were delighted with Mamata Banerjee’s statement. “I appreciate the chief minister’s statement on behalf of 50 members of the Bose family who do not believe Netaji died in the air crash. The chief minister has taken significant steps towards unearthing the mystery behind Netaji’s disappearance and we hope she will take the battle further,” Chandra Kumar Bose, a grand nephew of Netaji, told HT.