Successive governments believed that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was killed in an air crash in August 1945 but never went public with this assessment for fear of a public backlash, documents declassified by the Modi government on Saturday indicated.
At one point, then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had to withdraw his announcement to award a Bharat Ratna to Netaji posthumously after criticism that this amounted to the government confirming that the INA chief had indeed died.
Three years later, the government took the position in its internal papers that Netaji had died in the crash.
“There seems to be no scope for doubt that he died in the air crash of 18th August 1945 at Taihoku. Government of India has already accepted this position. There is no evidence whatsoever to the contrary,” a Cabinet note of February 6, 1995, signed by then home secretary K Padmanabaiah, said.
“If a few individuals/organisations have a different view, they seem to be more guided by sentimentality rather than by any rational consideration,” the note prepared for the government to take a stand on bringing the mortal remains of Netaji from Japan to India said.
In early 1990, then PM Chandra Shekhar had agreed with this assessment when he approved a proposal rejecting demands for setting up a third inquiry to ascertain the facts about Netaji’s death. The third inquiry was ordered by the NDA government a decade later.
But in November 1977, the Janata Party government, in which Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani were ministers, too had found it unnecessary to launch any fresh inquiry.
A home ministry note stated that the Cabinet had approved a proposal that “no fresh inquiry into the disappearance of Netaji is necessary”.
In February 1978, chief priest of the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo wrote to the government of India asking for recognition “in the form of a letter or medal” from the government for the trouble taken by him in retaining the ashes in his safe custody under difficult circumstances.
The government was then paying `5,000 per year to the chief priest. It refused to give any medal but agreed to send a letter acknowledging his contribution. The then Intelligence Bureau joint director, TV Rajeshwar, said in August 1976 that the Bose family and Forward Bloc would never accept that the ashes belonged to Netaji.
Rajeshwar said, “The government of India would be accused of foisting a false story upon the people of West Bengal and India, taking advantage of the emergency and this may well figure as an important plank of propaganda if and when the elections are announced.”