The government has decided to bring more classified files on freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose into the public domain, sources told HT on Tuesday, in an attempt to unravel the mystery of his disappearance and death as a controversy rages over alleged snooping on his family members.
The move came after Bose’s grandnephew, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin, said he was optimistic the government would declassify official files on the nationalist leader’s life.
“We had a pretty serious discussion. I said it was urgent that the files be declassified. His response was positive,” said Surya Bose, president of the Indo-German Association in Hamburg, who met Modi after an Indian community event on Monday night.
Watch: PM Modi will help unravel truth behind snooping issue, says Netaji's kin
A clamour for declassification of all secret government files grew after intelligence reports recently made public revealed the union government spied on members of Bose’s family from 1948 to 1968, while some confidential files lying with the prime minister’s office (PMO) were destroyed in a “routine exercise to weed out old records”, sources said.
“The government has decided to review all the secret files on Netaji (Subhas Chandra Bose) lying with the external affairs and home affairs ministries as well as the PMO,” said a government official requesting anonymity. “After the review, the government intends to de-classify more files which may bring some kind of closure to the issue.”
The snooping revelation sparked speculation that former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was in power for most of the 20 years, was wary about the return of Bose, his arch political rival.
Nehru and Netaji were both on the same side of the ideological fence but fell out over the direction of the Congress party, with Bose leaving the Congress after differences cropped up with Mahatma Gandhi.
He then escaped from India in 1941, travelling to Germany and Japan, where he built the Indian National Army to free India from the British. His aligning with the Axis powers further widened the rift with Nehru and Gandhi, historians said.
“After a careful vetting of the rest of the files, the government intends to declassify as many secret files on Netaji as possible,” added the official. “Following a bureaucratic review of the classified files, a final call will be taken by the political executive.”
Declassified documents in the National Archives of India, a PMO official told the Justice MK Mukherjee commission (1999-2005) – appointed to look into Netaji’s disappearance—two files from the prime minister’s office were destroyed in 1969 and 1972 while two others had gone missing.
Bose reportedly died in an air crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945 at the age of 48, but this has been disputed by members of his family and others. There are also reports about Netaji being spotted in the erstwhile USSR many years after the crash.
Union minister of state for home Haribhai Partibhai Chaudhary informed the Rajya Sabha late last year that 87 files on Netaji were lying with the government.
The external affairs ministry had 29 files and the PMO had 60, he added.