When a 1990 HT report helped govt probe Netaji files

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2015 01:44 IST
An archival image of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. (HT File Photo)

A report in the Hindustan Times in March 1990 was cited in a classified request made by New Delhi to Moscow to provide material related to claims that Subhash Chandra Bose had made his way to the Soviet Union after an air crash in Taiwan.

Bose reportedly died in the crash on August 18, 1945, but claims have continued over the years that he survived and went to the Soviet Union. That he had plans to visit Moscow at the time lent credence to such claims.

Classified documents released in London on Monday by senior journalist Ashis Ray, a member of the extended Bose family, showed the Indian embassy in Moscow forwarded claims made by Chitta Basu of the Forward Bloc to the foreign ministry of the USSR in 1991 and sought any material that “sheds light on the fate” of Bose.

A letter sent by the Indian embassy in September 1991, which sought materials on Bose from the archives of Soviet organisations, including security agencies, mentioned a report in the Hindustan Times of March 5, 1990 to seek a probe.

The release of the classified documents is significant in the context of the forthcoming meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow later this month. India had again asked Russia for all Bose-related information in October.

Seeking material on the issue, the letter to the foreign ministry of the USSR stated: “As recently as March 5 1990, The Hindustan Times, an Indian daily newspaper, quoted a scholar of the Soviet Institute of Oriental Studies to the effect that there are two Soviet scholars who have applied to the Government of the USSR for permission to examine classified documents.”

Moscow responded in January 1992 that “no information whatsoever is available on the stay of the former President of the Indian National Congress, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in the Soviet Union in 1945 and thereafter”.

India made another request to Moscow in July 1995 for a “final determination” on whether Bose entered or stayed anywhere in the Soviet Union in 1945 or thereafter. The response was the same as in January 1992 – no such information was available in the Soviet archives.

“My investigation into the matter arose from my personal capacity and interest as an Indian citizen and a journalist...The documents released today eliminate the possibility that Bose had gone to the Soviet Union after the crash,” Ashis Ray said.

Ray said the documents were handed to him by Russian and Indian diplomats. He said he would release more documents from January through a new website.

During a meeting with a section of the Bose family in New Delhi on October 14, Modi had promised to release Bose-related files that are with the Prime Minister’s Office from January 23 next year. In October, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had asked her Russian counterpart for all materials related to Bose.

Ray said a large number of Bose-related documents collected by him over 25 years of research – including intelligence reports of several countries –would be released through the website to be launched soon.

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