The West Bengal intelligence branch snooped on a sadhu for many years, suspecting he was Subhas Chandra Bose in hiding, recently declassified documents show.
This revelation has come amid a raging controversy over making government reports connected to Netaji’s life public.
Detectives tailed Sadhu Saradananda, also known as Shaulmari Baba, for several years in the 60’s due to his peculiar habits such as an aversion to being photographed or leaving finger prints anywhere, found an HT review of West Bengal Intelligence Branch reports declassified last year.
When a taxi was hired for him in 1962, a screen was fitted inside the car to cover him before he sat, one report said. Another document revealed the sadhu covered his face with a woollen wrapper when a doctor visited him so as to not give his identity away. He also refused to give a blood sample or take an X-ray examination.
A March 1963 report also said it was secretly learnt Shaulmari Baba had only one lung.
Netaji’s mysterious disappearance after a plane crash in 1945 has been disputed by family members and some historians for decades.
He was back into the limelight this month after two intelligence reports said Congress governments snooped on members of his family for 20 years between 1948 and 1968, a move experts said indicated former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was wary of Bose’s return.
“A veil of mystery still surrounds the Shaulmari Ashram and Sadhu Saradananda. The Sadhu stays under cover of smoke to avoid being snap(ped) by camera,” said a document, adding he always used a handkerchief to handle any article.
Another document from February 1963 detailed a meeting of around 500 people, where speaker after speaker claimed the Baba was Netaji.
Evem Uttam Chand Malhotra -- who sheltered Netaji in 1941 for a month in Kabul -- thought Saradananda was Bose in hiding.
Office bearers of the sadhu's ashram, however, went to the police and said such claims were false.
Shaulmari Baba was said to have appeared in north Bengal’s Jalpaiguri in the early 60’s and stayed there for about five years before relocating to the upper reaches of what is now Uttarakhand. He died in 1977 in Dehradun.