Tuesday, 24 April, 2007

A brief history of governmental flip-flop on Netaji mystery

Mum's the word! Even though he admires Netaji, Dr Manmohan Singh has not spoken out why his Government rejected Mukherjee Commission report.

24 April 2007

By Anuj Dhar

The year 1997 was a watershed for Netaji mystery. The Calcutta High Court was approached by lawyer Rudra Jyoti Bhattacharjee, who wanted the Government to take some actions over the Subhas Bose death case. While the court heard arguments and counterarguments, it came to know what exactly the Central Government thought of the matter: "The Government of India has … maintained and is maintaining even now that a further probe is required and the information that Netaji died in the plane crash on August 18, 1945 is full of loopholes, contradictions and therefore inconclusive."

With that background in mind, Chief Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra ordered the Central Government on 30 April 1998 that it should "launch a vigorous enquiry in accordance with law by appointing, if necessary, a Commission of Inquiry as a special case for the purpose of giving an end to the controversy".

After an year of deliberations, in which the then Home Minister LK Advani, Home Secretary Kamal Pande, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra, Attorney General Soli Sorabjee took a leading part, the Government agreed and notified that "Central Government is of the opinion that it is necessary to appoint a Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of making an in-depth inquiry into a definitive matter of public importance". It also underlined that "there is widespread feeling among the public that the issue of finding the truth about Netaji still remains".

That same notification dated 14 April 1999 assigned the following points of inquiry to the Commission headed by Justice MK Mukherjee, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India: (a) whether Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is dead or alive; (b) if he is dead, whether he died in the plane crash, as alleged; (c) whether the ashes in the Japanese temple are ashes of Netaji; (d) whether he has died in any other manner at any other place and, if so, when and how; (e) if he is alive, in respect of his whereabouts.

Even a casual look at the above would convince any reasonable person that the Government in 1999 had no clue about Netaji's fate. And nor were they in a position to confirm whether or not the ashes in Tokyo were of Netaji's. Or else, there was no need to put all these queries to the Commission.

Quite naturally, the Government did not make a case of its own before Mukherjee Commission as the inquiry proceeded. Soon, evidence contrary to the air crash theory emerged and, as a result, in February 2005 the Government's counsel had to argue against the Taipei crash theory during the argument session. So much so, the counsel gave the Government of India the credit for helping confirm the information, originally obtained by yours truly, from Taiwan Government that no plane carrying Bose had ever crashed in Taipei.

Then twist in the tale came. Justice Mukherjee submitted his report to Home Minister in November 2005, concluding that there was no air crash, Netaji flew towards the USSR and the ashes kept in the Renkoji Temple were of a Japanese solider. Logically speaking, this vindicated the stand taken by three successive Governments, viz, United Front, NDA and the Congress, which was firmly in the saddle when the Government counsel made the above submissions. So, don't you think that there was some sort of partisan politics during the Vajpayee era. The BJP seems to be in unison with the Congress over the Subhas Bose death case. That's why you haven't heard anything on this matter from their senior leaders, with the notable exception of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi.

Coming back to the moot point, the Government took more than 7 months to study the report and did a somersault. They rejected the main finding in a single line and, in a way, asserted that Netaji had died following an air crash in Taipei, and the ashes in Renkoji temple were indeed his. The nation was not told what new information had come their way in those months warranting them to change their-long standing stance supported by the finding of a commission of inquiry appointed by them following a court order.

Lawyers can tell better, but I should think that the Government's action is legally untenable and it would be a travesty of justice to let it prevail.

Anuj Dhar is the author of Back from Dead: Inside the Subhas Bose Mystery


Anonymous said...

govt cant accept Mukherji report. they'd have to raise the matter with the Russians if they do it.

Anonymous said...

there is case going on in Calcutta High Court. Mission Netaji site has something about it. Whatever happened to it?