India’s top history body has decided to initiate a new research project into the contributions of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army to the freedom struggle amid continuing political wrangling over the iconic leader’s legacy.
The Indian Council for Historical Research’s decision comes barely two months before the much-anticipated declassification of all Netaji-related files by the Centre, a move expected to shed more light on his mysterious disappearance in 1945.
The firebrand leader continues to be a major election issue in West Bengal, which goes to polls next year.
Sources said the move was prompted by a feeling that previous research lacked adequate sources and remained incomplete, due to which the contributions of Netaji and the INA that he headed remained unnoticed all these years.
“Most available work is written based on British sources, which are deceptive. The present work will deal with documents available in various storehouses (classified) of the ministry of defence, government of India, Japan and Myanmar. These sources have not been accessible before,” said a member of ICHR on condition of anonymity.
ICHR members said they were also waiting for records available with the central government.
Confirming the move, ICHR chairperson Y Sudershan Rao told HT in an email, “Yes, we are also sending a team consisting of professor Purabi Roy and Dr Saradindu Mukherji, members of ICHR, to Kolkata to peruse records recently declassified by the government of West Bengal.”
The ICHR — which functions under the human resource development ministry — took the decision to initiate fresh research into Netaji and the INA’s contributions to the freedom movement and World War II after Roy submitted a proposal to retrieve and publish manuscripts related to the INA in the body’s last meeting.
One of the tallest leaders of the freedom movement, Bose was elected president of the Congress for two terms but left the Congress following differences with Mahatma Gandhi.
His sudden disappearance after a purported air crash in 1945 has fanned several conspiracy theories over the years, especially in West Bengal, where he is seen as a hero amid simmering discontent over supposed hostile behaviour by successive central governments after Independence.
Controversy over his legacy was re-ignited earlier this year after intelligence records showed central governments spied on Bose’s family until 1968 — a fact confirmed by 64 files declassified by Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in September. The move to throw the files open to the public was expected to boost Banerjee’s popularity barely months before assembly polls.
In October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Centre will declassify all Netaji files from January 23 onwards, coinciding with the leader’s birth anniversary. The declaration came after he met 35 members of Bose’s family. In a series of tweets, Modi also said he would request foreign governments to declassify files on Netaji available with them.