Freedom Fighters India Politics

Your Dead Man: The Flawed Enquiry

Reading Time: 16 minutes

It was a no-brainer. There had to be an enquiry into the suspicious air crash of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. But what was thought of as an “enquiry” actually turned out to be a field trip to Japan with some astounding findings which were not even reported. To date, three separate enquiry commissions namely The Netaji Inquiry Commission (NIC) led by Shah Nawaz Khan including Suresh Chandra Bose and Shankar Maitra in 1955, the Khosla commission led by Shri G.D. Khosla, Chief Justice of Punjab High Court (retd.) in 1970 and the Justice Mukherjee Commission led by Manoj Kumar Mukherjee, former judge of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Bombay and Lucknow High Courts in 1999. We will point out the specific details of the enquiry conducted by the first two commissions and conclude as to what incidents or findings led to the two commissions believing that the plane crash theory is correct and why Justice Mukherjee thought otherwise. 

H.V. Kamath, a follower of Netaji was the first person who pursued this and raised the question of why an enquiry is not being conducted. Everybody believed that after coming to power in 1947, Pandit Nehru will bring it upon himself as his patriotic duty, not just for Netaji, but for the people of this country to permit an enquiry and an in-depth analysis into this but surprise surprise, Nehru turned down every public demand for an enquiry. I guess congress and their silence for enquiries into murder mysteries started with Nehru. In response to Mr. Kamath’s request, Nehru’s responded in his address on September 29, 1955, said “In a matter of this kind, the only enquiry that is to a satisfactory manner, that can be made by the Government of Japan. The matter is in Japan, the whole thing is there. We cannot impose ourselves or an enquiry committee on the Japanese Government. Of course, if they chose to enquire, we will gladly cooperate and give such help as we can. But we cannot simply enquire into their territory and more especially also where all the possible witnesses are probably either Japanese Government officials or others connected with their Government. And, as I said, the initiative must come from the Japanese Government in this matter”.

Shah Nawaz Khan Commission

General Shahnawaz Khan with Pandit Nehru
Source: India’s biggest cover up by Anuj Dhar

In response to the people’s rage at this attitude of the government and the formulation of an unofficial enquiry committee led by an Internationally acclaimed jurist, Shri Radha Binode Pal, Pandit Nehru announced on 3rd December 1955 about the Netaji Inquiry Committee (NIC), a decade after the alleged accident. The “purpose” of the committee and the view with which they were sent to Japan was also quite vocal and clear and Nehru in the Parliament made it public by saying “to enquire into the circumstances concerning the departure of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose from Bangkok about August 16, 1945, his alleged death as a result of an air crash accident, and subsequent development there with”. It was clear that they were sent with a preconceived notion that the crash did take place and they have to enquire about the circumstances that led to that. And to make it even more clear, the Director of the Asian Affairs Division at the Gaimusho, Mr. Nakagawa in response to the GOI’s proposal for the enquiry said that it was acceptable to the Government of Japan with “terms” which included that there will be “no departure from the main objective in view”. It was clear that the Shah Nawaz commission was there to just probe into the crash story and no other variants but Suresh Bose had some other plans. 

The committee arrived in Tokyo on March 4, 1956, and Shah Nawaz followed the exact lines dotted by Nehru. He purposely asked the Japanese officials to only investigate those who would provide details only about the plane crash and the alleged death of Netaji. He avoided those witnesses who had anything to talk about other than the plane crash story. Gen. Oshima, Gen. Kowabe, Gen. Yakuru, Mrs. Tojo, Mrs. Shidei, and other top-ranking Japanese officials were not interrogated who were actually really close to Netaji and could provide some information about him. Also, the plan to visit the Taihoku airbase where the crash took place was also abandoned by the orders of Nehru. H.V. Kamath took Shah Nawaz head-on and said “Suppose a murder takes place and the police investigate the case without going to the place where the murder took place, what will be the credibility of their investigation?”. Shah Nawaz only picked up those evidence that pointed towards the occurrence of the plane crash and brushed aside all the documents that reflected otherwise. In his selective interview, he would ask members certain questions related to the crash, and whenever someone said anything that digressed from the matter he would purposely point out whether they remember it correctly as it has been over a decade since the incident took place. In the end, the commission gave a 78-page report that concluded that there was no doubt whatsoever that Netaji did die in the plane crash and rejected the Russia angle by saying in a line that there was no time for him to plan his escape to Manchuria. But Suresh Chandra Bose gave a Dissentient Report and challenged the findings of the other two members. He asked for all the relevant documents, reports and photographs to be provided to him in order to write his report but none of them were made available to him. Suresh was now at the receiving end of the government officer’s tantrums. A document namely “Principal points agreed to for draft report, dated 30.6.56” that circulates to date has details on the committee findings which has the signatures of all the members including Suresh Bose which was falsely taken by him and the same document is circulated in the parliament till date. It stands as proof of how Suresh Bose changed his mind on the entire issue which is not at all true. His stand was always clear that Bose did not die in the Plane crash. The committee handed over the report on August 3, 1956, to Jawaharlal Nehru concluding “Bose met his death in an air crash, and that the ashes now at Renkoji temple, Tokyo, are his ashes”.While the people did not agree with the findings of this report, Shah Nawaz Khan, on the other hand, got his reward for his loyalty towards Nehru and was made a Deputy minister in the Government of India. Suresh Bose came out with his Dissentient report in November 1956. No government or private publisher was ready to publish it and because of that it never was widely available. He was of the thought that Netaji’s plan to enter Russia via Manchuria was a carefully formulated one because he did not want to surrender to the Anglo-Americans. Shah Nawaz was hailed as the embodiment of “truth, integrity, and patriotism” by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983. Nehru even in the coming years still was hell-bent that the findings of the reports were true and “factual” and there seems to be no need for any questioning or further enquiry about it. Several letters were sent to him via the Bose family including Suresh Bose and Amiya Nath Bose but to each reply, he would either direct them to the Shah Nawaz report or give the same reply as “there seems no need” except for one. In one of the letters to Suresh Chandra Bose, he said that there was no “precise and direct proof” of Netaji’s death. This change of stance in his opinion provided fuel to the fire which engulfed the Government once again. 

Samar Guha
Source: Wikimedia

This was the rise of an eminent personality who along with several other members of the Parliament formed a “national committee”. He was Samar Guha, a freedom fighter and a member of the forward bloc. He made it his utmost priority to get recognition for Bose and to unwind his death mystery. He openly criticised the Government of India for not keeping a portrait of Netaji in the Central Hall of Parliament among several others. He said, “it was not an omission but… a deliberate and calculated act on the part of the Congress government to minimise the position of Netaji and relegate him to secondary leadership in the history of national freedom”. He along with several other members including Atal Bihari Bajpayee and Madhu Limaye formed this committee. A memorandum was sent to the then President of India Zakir Hussain regarding a fresh enquiry into the Bose incident which was turned down by him on the grounds that no new evidence has been which may push for a new committee to be formed. This observation of the president was backed by the Prime minister in the Lok Sabha as well. But there was no stopping Samar Guha. He pursued this relentlessly and along with 44 other MPs addressed a letter to the Prime Minister asking for a commission consisting of retired Judges. A fresh probe into the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi (Jivanlal Kapur commission) was being conducted so why not one in the case of Netaji whose death mystery was even more controversial than that of Gandhi? Amiya Nath Bose in his parliamentary address said that there are a number of top-secret files and evidence that were not brought to the Shah Nawaz commission so it was not a matter of fresh evidence but actually an enquiry into the existing ones that could play a vital role in unraveling this mystery. With his resolve and the support of other members of the parliament which included some of the ruling party as well, they forced the government into formulating a “one-man Judicial Commission to enquire into disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” on July 11, 1970, and nine months prior to that Mr. G.D. Khosla retired Chief Justice of the Punjab High Court was appointed as its chairman. 

The Khosla Commission: 

Mr. Khosla published his report in 1974 and these were probably the busiest years of his life as he published three different works in these years. He obviously completed his report on the enquiry he was sent to, he also worked on a biography on the life of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the third was a book based on his experiences as the chairman of the commission which he titled The last days of Netaji. The very title of the book established his stand on where he put Bose in history. The demand for a judicial enquiry was made so as to keep it free from any administrative pressure and so Mr. Khosla was obligated to be impartial in his efforts. But not only he played contrary to everyone’s expectations but even set new standards for pleasing the Prime Minister as he completed and published the biography even before he completed the commission’s report. 

It took nearly six months to convince the Prime Minister to permit a visit to the alleged crash site in Taipei. One cannot understand why the GOI was not ready to send the commissions to visit Taipei where the incident took place. It is the most vital aspect of the enquiry and not allowing a visit only established that the Government was in fact trying to meddle with the investigation. 

The commission was formulated on the ground that many vital documents and information have not been brought to the notice of the commissions and therefore all those literature should be made available. On the contrary, the Khosla commission received only those documents that were made put forward to the Netaji Inquiry Commission of 1956. Some top-secret vital documents were “destroyed or missing” from the Prime Minister’s office. There was o effort made by Khosla to enquire into this matter as to how such important documents (more than 30 personal files of Nehru) went “missing” and that too from the Prime Minister’s office itself. The National Committee made a long list of documents that were to be made available to the commission for assessment including War-time Japanese records connected with the reported incident of the air crash at Taihoku and the story of Netaji’s death, U.S.A. records, Russian records, Nehru’s secret files connected with all the information regarding the report of Netaji’s death, Report of Taiwan Government’s investigation about the alleged air crash at Taipei (Taihoku), Habibur Rahman’s statements and reports of his interrogations by different investigating agencies, etc. but none were made available. 

The commission’s investigation is a story of its own. G.D. Khosla along with three members of the National committee including Samar Guha went to Taiwan a few days earlier to prepare the ground for a smooth investigation. Little did the committee members know that Khosla was secretly instructed by the Government not to indulge in any kind of communication with the government of Taiwan and any other non-official committee in Taipei for conducting the enquiry. Khosla did exactly the opposite of what was expected of him. The findings of Taiwan revealed an altogether different story than what was formulated in the commission’s report in 1974. Let’s dive a little into the investigation and findings of the commission in Taiwan and how Justice Khosla made a mockery out of the whole scenario. 

The photographs of the plane that crashed in 1945 submitted by the Japanese government to the Shah Nawaz and Khosla commission were examined first. Three photographs were presented and to their tally with the original landscape of the airbase region, it was found that they were actually of three different plane crashes. They were not at all similar even if they were taken from different angles. When this issue was reported to Mr. Khosla (was came out of the hotel unwillingly to check the airbase) he shouted at Guha and said “What am I to do with these pictures? I have nothing to do with them.” It was clear that there has been a deliberate attempt to forge the investigation by giving photographs of different images but the chairman of the commission refused to acknowledge this. Kee Lung,  a river that separated the airport from the crash spot was seen. If we take into account the statements given by Habibur Rahman and other survivors of the crash (if that happened) Netaji and Rahman were taken to the hospital minutes after they made their way out of the plane. The question here arises is how were they taken to the hospital so quickly. There was no road or a connecting bridge at that time that could have reduced the travel time so how did the truck reach so quickly? A detour could have cost them at least an hour to reach the spot so it was natural that it would have taken them much time to reach the military hospital but every witness said that it took a very short time to rescue them. Mr. Khosla took the inspection note but paid no attention to even analyse it and did not even take the burden to even mention that in his report. 

Y.R. Tseng, a Taiwanese appeared before the commission on the last day of their visit. He was a student at the time the incident took place in a school near the Japanese Temple which was close to the crash site. He said that a Japanese plane crashed near the Temple while landing and all 15 passengers perished. He along with several other students in his class helped the Japanese military to rescue the bodies from the spot and clear the wreckage. Every witness said that the plane crash took place on 18th August 1945 but this Taiwanese citizen fixed that year 1944. Mr. Khosla was really annoyed by this particular witness and was very rude in his arguments against him. As a response, he asked for just one day’s time to bring 10 more of his classmates who participated along with him but Khosla completely refused on extending the visit even for a day. This extension could have helped to play a very vital role and this particular information would go a long way to prove whether the crash took place or not. Mr. Khosla did extend the trip for two more days during which in traveled around Taiwan to shop for Mrs. Gandhi and his family. There is also a controversy surrounding the controversial cremation of the alleged body of Netaji. We’ll talk about that in detail in another part of this series. The committee had also requested the Chief Meteorological officer for the weather report of that region in the month of August. The report clearly disproved the whole story of the crash as according to the weather report the plane must have crashed (if it actually did) on the north end of the runaway but every testimonial stated that the plane crashed in the south end of the runway. But Mr. Khosla, as expected, refused to accept any such report from the meteorological department. 

Khosla completed his report by June 1974 and was accepted by the government (no surprises there) in September 1974. The National Committee including Guha and others was furious about the turnarounds that took place. A commission was formed after 27 years and that too with so many struggles. It was expected of Khosla that he will be impartial and honest with the task that was assigned to him but what came out of the 4 years of investigation just brought Bose supporters to square one. He not only justified the findings of the Shah Nawaz committee but what he did after that was just shocking. He painted Bose as an impractical hothead whose “entering India with Japanese assistance could only mean one thing, viz. India would become a colony or a suzerainty of Japan”. He not only subsided Bose’s struggle for attaining Independence for our country but also portrayed him as a pawn in the hand of the Japanese military. The respect that the Japanese had for Bose and his struggle can be understood by this document which is a conversation between Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oshima and German dictator Adolf Hitler. 

Source: India’s biggest cover up by Anuj Dhar

Khosla’s book The last days of Netaji was a clear attempt of him defaming the man and wooing the government from which he received big, as they always do. He lived his last days in a locality where the now super-rich of Delhi reside and was a part of Delhi’s high society right up until his death in 1996 and biting off more than what he could chew and then spitting it all out. But karma did hit back at him in the year 1978 when the Bose family filed a suit against him in the Kolkata court for defaming Bose. Khosla did, at last, apologise on April 1, 1978, and accepted that Netaji was indeed “the liberator of our Motherland”. Samar Guha, as resilient as he was, kept on asking questions from the government and did not back down. So much so that in a parliamentary address on August 28, 1978, he lashed out at the government and in a heartfelt moment blurted out something that became the most crucial thing in the whole Bose mystery. “Today for me there is no question of indecisiveness in any way. In the name of God, I announce in this House that I know that Netaji is alive”. Samar Guha did get some recognition for Netaji as on 23 January 1978, President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and Prime Minister Morarji Desai (the first non-congress government at the center post-Independence) unveiled a portrait of Netaji to be displayed in the Central Hall of the Parliament House, nearly thirty years since Kamath made the statement. 

Justice Mukherjee commission:

The third and the latest enquiry commission into the Bose death mystery was led by Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee. The year 1997 marked 50 years of India’s Independence and also the 100th birth anniversary of Netaji. In a heated oration, the then Defence Minister Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav promised that he will bring back the “ashes of Netaji” which was supposed to be kept in the Renkoji Temple in Japan. But with the help of a petition in the Calcutta High court, Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra and Justice Barin Ghosh directed on April 7 1998 that “before accepting the ashes…as that of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Government shall obtain full particulars and evidence and satisfy itself about the genuineness of the claim”.  By April Justice Mishra along with Justice B Bhattacharya issued another order in which they said that “there are doubts as to the death of Netaji in the manner reports indicated and that there was/is a need to have further probe….” “Respondents shall launch a vigorous enquiry in accordance with law by appointing, if necessary, a commission of enquiry as a special case for the purpose of giving an end to the controversy.” 

Two separate enquiries were already conducted with no concrete evidence to claim the death of Netaji and so with a lot of heated discussions and several appeals by a number of people, the Government notified on April 14 1998 that a new enquiry commission will be formulated in order to reveal what happened in 1945 and did the crash actually took place or not. The commission did receive a lot of backlash as many believed that the new enquiry commission is a waste of time and money and some even went to newer heights in saying that there is no need for another investigation into a matter which is “so boring and unimportant”.

The Commission finally started its work amidst all the backstabbing. He examined several witnesses and concluded that their statements were made solely on their own beliefs and/or based on the findings of the Shah Nawaz and Khosla commission report (As for the legitimacy of the claims in those reports, the answer is briefly explained above). The commission did check for a number of documentary evidence as well. They had to really on a number of documents that were already presented before the former commissions and a bunch of other paperwork. They were also not permitted to fly to Japan for conducting a separate enquiry. It was a judicial enquiry and not an appellate one which means it was made to check for new evidence and to settle the dispute for good but not permitting an enquiry into the site of the accident shows the hypocrisy of the government at that time. Furthermore, the commission approached the MEA in order to seek cremation permits from 18.08.1945 to 21.08.1945 from the Japanese governments to which the ministry reverted in June 2003 that no “relevant” documents are available in Taiwan. In response to an email, ROC Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-San replied that there is no evidence to claim that a plane ever crashed over the alleged site on that day carrying Subhash Chandra Bose. 

Source: India’s biggest cover up by Anuj Dhar

Not just that, Justice Mukherjee also requested the Japanese government for the cremation records of the period in which Bose allegedly died. The record was made available to the commission. It was a rather hefty record containing names of 273 people who were buried between 17 to 27 August 1945, none mentioned either Subhash Chandra Bose or even General Shidei of the Japanese military. It is really hard to believe that the meticulous Japanese would not maintain the cremation of record of such an important individual who was the head of the Provisional Government of India recognised by the Japanese. The record did mention the name of one individual Ichiro Okura. The Japanese in 1955 mentioned that Ichiro Okura was a fake name used by them in order to keep the Bose death a secret. The death certificate and the cremation permits were named after Ichiro Okura. 

Source: India’s biggest cover up by Anuj Dhar

But Ichiro Okura was not just a fake name but actually a Japanese Soldier who was born on April 9 1900 and died on 19th August 1945 due to a heart attack. Dr. T Tsuruta had testified before the Shah Nawaz commission that he himself attended to the injured Subhash Bose and said that generally the death certificates were issued by the Officer in charge, in this case, Dr. Yoshimi. In his confession to the Mukherjee commission, he claimed that he issued a death certificate in the name of “Chandra Bose” on August 18, 1945. It was obvious that if the cremation permit was available then there must have been an entry into the register of records for cremation by the name Chandra Bose with a specific serial number. But there was no such entry in the records except that of an Ichiro Okura as mentioned earlier with serial number 2641.

Source: India’s biggest cover up by Anuj Dhar

The Mukherjee Commission vehemently rejected the plane crash theory but regarding any other progress in the whole incident i.e, the Russia story and the Gumnami baba side, it has no concrete information. There were some people who claimed that he succeeded in escaping to Russia and there are some photographs that claim his presence there but have no concrete evidence of his death (as per the report). There were many other claims too that propose a completely different side of the story but with very little or in some cases absolutely no foundation to it. 

The most fascinating of all the mysteries is the “Bhagwanji” or the Gumnami baba story. It was also brought to the notice of the commission and an investigation was also done into this. The most groundbreaking evidence in the whole story came from a DNA analysis of five teeth that were found in the house where Gumnami baba used to live. 

It will not be wrong to say that the story from here onwards is no less than a typical Bollywood drama story. In the next blog, we will discuss in detail (as were are doing with these blogs) the whole Gumnami Baba story and what were the reasons to claim that Gumnami Baba was in fact Netaji even after knowing that the DNA results came to be negative. 


Share this blog

2 replies on “Your Dead Man: The Flawed Enquiry”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

हिंदी में पढ़ें / Switch Languages