The Bose Files

There is absolutely no logic in not disclosing the Bose Files under the pretext of affecting foreign relations. Perhaps with an eye to the next assembly polls, the West Bengal Government de-classified 64 files on September 18, 2015. But the Government of India continues to evade the issue, albeit to de-classify Subhas Bose Files was one of the pre-poll promises of Modi. The ruling elites, irrespective of their political colours, still live in British India, not independent India.

Subhas Chandra Bose had become a mythical figure already before the British left India, handing over the reins of power to the Congress and the Muslim League. The difference is that at that time, many believed that he was still alive and would return to India at an opportune moment. This belief persisted throughout the 1950s.In the 1960s, a story circulated about a look-alike sadhu, residing at a place named Shoulamari in north Bengal. It was suspected by many that this sadhu might be Subhas Chandra Bose. A book was published on the subject, and it sold fairly well. A few persons, obviously with a view to money making or receiving publicity, weaved grotesque tales about Subhas Chandra Bose. A pamphlet was printed and propagated suggesting that Subhas Bose was coming from Manchuria to India with his army. That was a period of widespread anti-Chinese chauvinism, which had gained momentum after the India-China border conflict of late 1962. Such pamphlets, although based on fantastic tales, sold like hot cakes in Kolkata and produced an impression, which helped soften the Bengali middle classes' attitude to the Chinese, that the Government of Red China was patronising Bose's political efforts. On Subhas Chandra Bose, a series of articles appeared in 1965 in the daily Ananda Bazar Patrika, in which the writer, pressing into service a great deal of information, mostly of doubtful authenticity, argued that Subhas Chandra Bose was possibly in a Soviet prison and that the Government of India should take advantage of its friendly diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in order to find the truth. The Government of India did not, however, indulge in such an endeavour.

Over time, the speculation on whether Bose was alive or not gradually faded, but whether he died in an aircrash in Taihoku remained an open question. In truth the 70-year-old controversy over whether he died in a plane crash in Formosa (Taiwan) in 1945 or in 1956 in a prison at Omsk in South-western Siberia is still a controversy. When the Khosla Commission was instituted in 1971, in order to deal with the matter, Deben Sen, a veteran trade union leader, deposed that he had seen Bose in 1946 at Marsellis seaport. Deben Sen could not be accused of perjury, but since he had not met and talked with Bose directly, but claimed to have only sighted him, ostensibly from a distance, his evidence could not be taken as conclusive.

Absurd stories were again circulated, even suggesting that after the victory of the Chinese Revolution, there was a meeting between Joseph Stalin, Mao Ze-Dong and Subhas Chandra Bose, following which Bose was appointed advisor to Mao.

Subsequent discussions on Bose have focused almost exclusively on his assumed death in an air-crash, the treatment of him by Hitler, the way he was isolated by Gandhi and his acolytes and so on and so forth. Communists of pre-independence days were later much abused for their attitude to Subhas Bose after the German invasion of Soviet Union, and particularly after Japan's entry into the War, and it was conveniently forgotten that Subhas Bose could at least once defeat Gandhi's candidate largely owing to the support given by the communist leaders, e.g. Bankim Mukherjee, Muzaffar Ahmed, Somnath Lahiri etc.

Bose's relations with the Japanese fascists were queer, a point that is now hardly noted. When China was resisting Japanese aggression in the 1930s, the Indian National Congress sent a medical delegation, along with a large amount of medicine and other equipments, to China in order to help her, and this was done during Bose's presidentship of the Congress. He delivered a moving farewell address on the occasion of the delegation's departure for China, displaying his strong denunciation of the Japanese aggression of China. When, five years later, Bose arrived in Japan from Germany two years after his escape from India, there had scarcely taken place any change in the composition and motivation of the Japanese ruling clique; it remained an aggressive imperialist power, as it had been five yers ago, and its aggressive role in China, continued. Yet Bose considered it necessary to take help of JapanĀ  in India's struggle for freedom. This contradiction has been scarcely mentioned in the discussions on Bose. The decision to enter Russia after the defeat of Japan represented another contradiction, because the two countries were at war then.

What should be a proper orientation of meaningful discussions on Bose? Should it be his treatment by Gandhi or Gandhites or communists? Or should it be on his assumed death in an air-crash? Or should it be a scrutiny of his political and economic thoughts, his vision of the reconstruction of independent India? The first two aspects of his life have been discussed so much that one feels tempted to say, 'enough is enough'. The third one has, however, been grossly neglected. If study of Subhas Chandra Bose has to acquire any real relevance in today's India, it should be based on this.


Vol. 48, No. 13, Oct 4 - 10, 2015