August 18, 2012

The Evanescence of Subhas Bose

On 18th August 1945, three days after Japan's offer to surrender in the Pacific sector of WWII, a light bomber took off from the Matsuyama airport in Taihoku, Formosa, carrying Subhas Bose -- the Head of the Provisional Government of Free India, his young ADC, Habib-Ur-Rahman and a number of senior Japanese military officers. The aircraft was on its way to Tokyo but unfortunately a mechanical failure caused it to crash within minutes of takeoff. Most of the passengers, including Habib-ur-Rahman survived but Subhas Bose and another senior Japanese officer died of burns. Thus ended the illustrious life of one of the most charismatic figures of the Indian independence movement. The accident and the death was announced by the Japanese government on 23rd August 1945.

This is the story that a post Independence generation of Indians have grown up with and it has been corroborated by Government of India on the basis of two different commissions of enquiry led by (a) Shah Nawaz Khan, an associate of Subhas Bose and (b) GD Khosla, a retired judge.

It is now established beyond a shadow of doubt that this story is completely false because (a) no plane ever crashed in Formosa on that date and (b) Subhas Bose was on his way, not to Tokyo, but to Manchuria to carry on with the fight for India's independence with the help of Russia. He had faked the news of his death to throw British intelligence off his trail.

This was a hunch that I have had for years and had blogged about it earlier but the book "Back from Dead : Inside the Subhas Bose Mystery" by Anuj Dhar has removed all shadow of doubt in this regard. Written almost in the style of a racy thriller, but substantiating each claim and statement with precise references to specific documents and personalities, the author puts forth clear, cogent and convincing arguments to prove his point.

Other than clearly establishing the fact Subhas Bose did not die in an aircrash on 18 Aug 1945, the author has also established the steadfastness (if not cussed viciousness ) with which the Government of India, particularly the Congress Party led by Jawaharlal Nehru and later Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, tried to establish the crash-death theory and deliberately blocked every attempt to unravel the real truth.

Why was this so ? Why would the Government of India turn its back on one of its most charismatic sons ? The answer becomes clear if we replace the Government of India with personality of Jawaharlal Nehru and note that Subhas Bose was his direct political rival. Apologists of the (MK)Gandhi-Nehru-Gandhi camp may  argue otherwise but it is a common perception that while Nehru was a wimp-womaniser-litterateur who became the Congress leader by prostrating himself to the whims-and-wishes of MK Gandhi, Subhas Bose was the dynamic, charismatic, intellectual politician who was miles ahead in popularity. Had he not been edged out by MK Gandhi's sordid political machinations, it was he who would have been leading the Congress and should have become the eventual Prime Minister of independent India. While Nehru was writing books and letters to his daughter from the comforts of a British jail during WWII, Bose was out in the field campaigning through Russia, Germany, Japan and finally across South East Asia trying to raise a military force -- the Indian National Army -- with which to secure India's Independence.

It is a different matter that his plans failed when his principal and final backer, Japan was defeated in the Pacific Theater and that is when he put in motion his next ( last ? or final ? ) plan for India's Independence.
Just as he had "disappeared" once before, from his house arrest in Calcutta, fooled the British police, escaped from India and reached Germany through Afghanistan and Russia, he "disappeared" again, this time by faking his death.

Nehru was actually relieved to hear of this death of Subhas since this removed the only rival that he had -- and the only one that he could never match either in ability or in popularity, but the thought that he might have lived and worse might be planning a comeback must have given him sleepless nights. Hence the desperate effort to stymie any honest probe and substitute these with probes done by sycophants and turncoats bribed by the loaves and fishes of office.

While the escapade of Subhas Bose from Saigon / Taihoku is very clearly established, the subsequent story is a little less clear. The author has collected lots of information  -- again meticulously documented and referenced -- about Subhas Bose travelling to Russia, being held in captivity in a Russian Gulag and then coming back to India to live incognito in Faizabad there is one question that lingers and it is one that the author admits to not having a good answer for.

Why would such a person -- who had sacrificed his entire life for the nation -- hide away from public life and life of a hermit ? Some have suggested that he might have been arrested and charged as an International War Criminal but then Subhas Bose was not the person to be frightened of the legal process !

If it was indeed Subhas Bose who was in Faizabad till "his" death on 16 Sep 1985 -- and the author has put together an impressive list of people, facts and correspondence to establish that it could have been him -- then the question will continue to haunt us for ever. Why ? Why ? Why ? did he not reveal himself when he could have had nation at his feat. There is an answer but it is rather weak and I do not wish to reveal it here.

What really rankles is the fact that Subhas Bose did not die in the aircrash on 18 Aug 1945 and yet the Government of India actively colluded to hide this fact about one of India's greatest sons.

That is the tragedy that has been conclusively established by Anuj Dhar in "Back from Dead".

Do buy and read the book. You will be impressed, informed and intellectually stimulated. Jai Hind.

the two images have been taken from

Post Script : 
The BJP led coalition government when it was in power between 1998 - 2004, constituted the Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry into the matter of the disappearance of Subhas Bose in 1999. This Commission of Inquiry concluded that Subhas Bose did not die in the aircrash at Taiwan but is silent on what happened to him subsequently in Russia or India. The Congress party returned in power in 2004 and rejected the findings of the commission when it was presented in 2006 -- in keeping with its tradition of continuing to uphold the theory of the aircrash.


Lee Murray said...

Facinating, I'm going to buy the book. I was aware of the plane crash and death, but had never known anything about it having never really happened. You also mention that Ghandi,"by MK Gandhi's sordid political machinations," this is a picture we in the states have never had as all including me believe in the saintly Mahatma, but being Indian and growing up there you clearly know more. Something else to check out. I never fail to learn from this blog, for that I'm grateful I found it, and also thank you.

Prithwis said...

Thanks for your kind words Lee and for your interest in my blog