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Fresh Light on the Death of Subhas Bose as Indian Government Releases Classified Files

Updated on March 18, 2020
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MG is a military specialist having spent quality time in the Indian Air Force. He is also an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College.


Subhas Bose was a rival to Gandhi for the mantle of the leadership of the Indian freedom movement. He radically differed from Gandhi and advocated a violent and armed struggle to free India from British rule. Gandhi was a pacifist, while Bose was all aggression and fire. Bose was of the view that to free India, if required India should even shakes hands with the devil. A clash between Bose and Gandhi was on the cards

Bose trumped Gandhi as his radical views carried more weight in the Congress party. In the 1939 election to the post of President of the Congress party Bose defeated the nominee of Gandhi. This was a big blow to Gandhi and he refused to cooperate with Bose. Feeling marginalized, Bose resigned from the Congress and formed his own party. His radical views alarmed the English and Bose was put under house arrest in Calcutta.

Bose escaped from house arrest and travelled to Berlin in secret through Moscow. There he threw his lot with Hitler who had a meeting with him may1943. Towards the end of 1943, Bose was transported by a German Submarine to the Far East and he was taken to Tokyo where he met general Tojo. He joined up with the Imperial army and the Japanese recognized his government in exile as the Azad Hind Government.

Bose formed the Indian National Army which fought alongside the Imperial army. Unfortunately after the dropping of the A bombs on Japan and its subsequent surrender, Bose was at a loss as to what to do. He was in Formosa at that time and the Japanese agreed to transport him in one of their bombers to Manchuria, so that he could take the help of the Russia for the freedom of India. Bose could not come back as he would have been tried as a war criminal and Gandhi, Nehru and Patel had agreed that Bose could be tried as a war criminal.

Bose took off in a Mitsubishi bomber from Taipei in August 1945, but as per reports the plane crashed on takeoff and Bose was badly burnt. He reportedly succumbed to his burns and his ashes were taken to Tokyo and kept in the Renuka temple. This is the story that has been accepted

Theories of the Death of Bose.

The Japanese confirmed the death of Bose. His companion along with him Major Habib ul Rehman also confirmed that he had seen Bose ablaze. Gandhi was the first to doubt the death of Bose and remarked that Bose had faked his death. Many Indians also could not reconcile to the death of Bose and wild theories some planted and some fanciful began to circulate.

Bose when in Germany had fallen in love and married a German girl. She had a daughter from Bose. After going through the evidence she remained convinced that Bose had died in the air crash. However the immediate family of Bose refused to accept that Bose was dead and continued to insist that Bose had faked his death and escaped to Russia.

Many experts opined that Bose was in Russia and died there. Others said that Bose had come back to India and had become a sadhu called Gumnam Baba and was a resident of Faizabad, a small town in Utter Pradesh. Gumnam Baba died in 1985, but the mystery of the death of Bose lingered on.

The Indian government appointed 3 commissions of inquiry to ascertain the death of Bose. Two of the commissions concluded that Bose had died in the air crash while the 3rd commission headed by justice Mukherjee gave a contrary finding and said that Bose did not die in the air crash.

Some people even floated stories that Nehru was aware of Bose being imprisoned in Russia and had also told the British government about it. These theories had their own supporters and the mystery of Bose death deepened.

Release of Secret Files and Effect

On 23January 2016, the Narendra Modi Government of the BJP declassified 100 files pertaining to the death of Bose. These files were released as per the promise of Narendra Modi to the kin of Subhas Bose. Earlier the West Bengal government had also released 64 classified files regarding Bose.

The files brought in no new information except that there is a cabinet note of 1995, confirming that Bose died in the 1945 air crash. In addition there is evidence that the government of India was paying a small sum of money to the Renuka temple for the upkeep of the ashes of Bose, which are kept in an urn there.

A letter from Nehru to the British premier Clement Attlee was also circulated mentioning that Bose had escaped to Russia. But this unsigned letter has many spelling mistakes and is obviously a fake. One cannot accept that Nehru who was a master of the English language would write a letter with spelling mistakes. In addition there is no signature on the letter.The fact is that Nehru wanted to get the ashes back, but because of public reaction he did not do so. The Japanese have also been surprised how the Indians have not brought home the ashes of India's greatest war hero.

The files do not shed any information that Bose was in Russia. His immediate companions on the flight have said that they saw Bose burning and he died a short time later. But die hard supporters of Bose dismissed this as a concocted tale. His immediate family also led the chorus that Bose was alive, though the daughter and wife of Bose accepted he died in the air crash, For long the family of Bose did not recognise Bose's German wife as a wife.

The undersigned has written extensively on the death of Bose and at one time was convinced that Bose may have escaped to Russia. After release of the secret files, there is no information that Bose escaped to Russia. One must conclude that the great Indian war hero, died in the air crash in August 1945. It is about time his ashes were brought home and consecrated in the Red Fort as India's greatest hero, a foot above Gandhi and Nehru. In case required a DNA test can be done on the ashes kept in the Renuka temple. I have no doubt now that Bose died in the air crash.

Last Word

  • India has made several requests to Russia since 2014 seeking information on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
  • However, Moscow has conveyed that it was unable to find any documents in the Russian archives

This information was passed by BJP Minister Muralidharan in the Lok Sabha and reinforces the belief that Bose did not die in Russia but died in the air crash in Taiwan. It's about time the great Hero was given his due.


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