In June last year, when the Right to Information (RTI) had just begun to catch the fancy of the nation, some guys in Delhi thought to try it out on old mystery surrounding the "death" of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The idea was both novel and bold -- because till now the RTI had mostly been used by disgruntled employees or troubled citizens to redress personal issues. Not many thought that the RTI could be utilised to seek concealed facts concerning events that shaped the destiny of India.
Anuj Dhar, Chandrachur Ghose and Sayantan Dasgupta gave it a shot. And unlike most cases, they engaged not some petty officials, but the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and even the elusive but know-all R&AW, India's premier external intelligence agency. All this, without any assistance from any quarter.
However, the results have so far been shocking, to put it mildly. The Manmohan Singh Government have shown suspicious reluctance in disclosing even the rudimentary records. Of course they admit -- skeptics please note -- that they are maintaining secret records on Netaji. One wonders why they would be doing so. But whatever it is, it's no indicator of any forlorn love for Subhas Bose. The entire nation knows how Netaji's legacy was treated in free India. You don't need the RTI to figure that out.
Team MN with Netaji's daughter Dr Anita Pfaff
Come to think of it, the Government's refusal to disclose records pertaining to Subhas Bose relate to transparency in governance. We need to know truth not because we now have a right to know, but because we want to understand our present better in the light of recent past. If the system can shut it self up over such a long-drawn, high-profile case, it may as well ignore many other vital issues.
The establishment's retrogressive panache for secrecy, exemplified by the Subhas Bose case, must end. Keeping things under wraps forever is not something that the mature democracies indulge in. The Government of India should realize that this is 2007 and the people of India are now mature enough to seek and accept truth. World over an era has long dawned that stipulates that all information is to be made available to people unless there are strong reasons for withholding it. One wonders what could be the reason in the instance of Subhas Bose, who the Government holds to have died more than 60 years ago.