Curiouser and curiouser: Gumnami Baba’s belongings deepen Netaji mystery

  • Sachidanand Shukla, Hindustan Times, Faizabad
  • Updated: Feb 27, 2016 20:20 IST
The articles, which were retrieved on Friday, will be sent for chemical treatment before being placed at the Ram Katha Sangrahalaya in Ayodhya. (HT Photo)

The belongings of seer Gumnami Baba, thought by many to be freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in disguise, have been taken out of the Faizabad treasury after 31 long years.

The articles, which were retrieved on Friday, will be sent for chemical treatment before being placed at the Ram Katha Sangrahalaya in Ayodhya. As many as 176 items belonging to the Baba – including a pair of spectacles, a Rolex watch, a few letters from Bose’s family members, newspaper clippings and an Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) uniform – were taken out.

The inventory of the belongings was being prepared by a 10-member administrative committee led by Faizabad district magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra, and the proceedings were photographed and videographed in detail. The exercise was conducted in compliance with an Allahabad high court order that the Baba’s belongings be publicly displayed in a museum.

Bose is said to have died from third-degree burns after his plane crashed in Formosa (now Taiwan) on August 18, 1945, but many of his followers refuse to believe the theory. However, if his followers are right in assuming that Bose was the seer in question, he passed away nearly 40 years later – on September 16, 1985 – in the house of a local BJP leader, Shakti Singh.

Mishra said the process of photographing and videographing all the items would take six to seven days, after which they would be sent for chemical processing. The Baba’s belongings will be put on public display only by the end of March, he added.

A debate had broken out over the seer’s true identity after his death more than three decades ago. Netaji’s niece Lalita also claimed in February 1986 that the Baba was Bose in disguise, and brought the matter before the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench. Following this, the court directed the district administration to preserve the Baba’s belongings, making it shift 2,760 articles – found in 25 iron boxes – to the district treasury.

Later, after Shakti Singh filed another case in court, the Uttar Pradesh government was ordered on January 31, 2013, to put the articles on public display. It took the authorities three years to comply with the court’s directive.

However, two members of Bose’s family on Saturday expressed reservations over the theory that the Baba was Netaji himself. Chandra Bose, grand-nephew of the freedom fighter, told HT: “We should first find out who Gumnami Baba was. If people claim that he was Netaji in disguise, then one would certainly ask how the freedom fighter – who left Kolkata in 1941 without a second set of clothes – landed in Faizabad with 25 steel trunks. I think these goods were sent to him by somebody.”

Samiran Bose, another grand-nephew of Bose, echoed a similar sentiment. “My grandfather Suresh Chandra Bose, who was Netaji’s elder brother, did not believe that Gumnami Baba was Netaji. If Netaji used this disguise, why did he not contact us after returning to India?” he asked.

(With inputs by Soumen Datta from Kolkata)

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