September 6, 2006
MEA Acknowledges Correspondence With Moscow On Netaji
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – India’s External Affairs Ministry has acknowledged having corresponded with the Soviet and the Russian governments on the disappearance six decades ago of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, but declined to disclose the contents.
This was reported last evening by a research group– Mission Netaji– which invoked the year old Right to Information Act to get the Ministry to share the facts in the matter.
”The requisite copies of correspondence cannot be disclosed as it involves the relations with foreign State,” was what the Mission said it was told by the Ministry’s Central Public Information Officer, E Barwa.
The Mission had inquired whether ”serious efforts were ever made from a higher level to uncover the mystery surrounding the fate of one of the greatest Indians ever.”
A legendary figure of India’s independence movement, Bose disappeared after an alleged plane crash over Taipei on August 18, 1945, which the Taiwanese authorities later said had never occurred.
The Mission sought certified copies of the entire correspondence the Ministry had with the Soviet and the Russian governments in the matter.
Declining the request, Barwa wrote to the Mission that the data ”is exempt as per the provisions of Clause 8(1) (a)&(f).”
The clauses cover ”information received in confidence from foreign Government” and ”information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect” India’s ”security, strategic” interests.
The Mission also wrote to the Ministry, ”we understand that our Embassy in Moscow had taken up the matter with the Foreign Ministry of Russian Federation in 1992, 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003 with dissatisfying results.”
”The request to Government of USSR and the Russian Federation were made through diplomatic channels at appropriate levels,” the Ministry replied, without elaborating.
”There was no plane crash that day– August 18, 1945– or the day before that or the day after,” former Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi told a conclave in New Delhi last month.
He and former Defence Minister George Fernandes were speaking on new findings that Bose ”did not die in the plane crash, as alleged” and ”the ashes in the Japanese temple are not of Netaji.”
Those conclusions by retired Supreme Court Judge Manoj Kumar Mukherjee countered the findings by two predecessors– Shah Nawaz Khan in 1956 and G D Khosla in 1970– that Bose was killed in a plane crash over Taipei, Taiwan.
Taiwanese authorities say there were no plane crashes in Taipei between 14 August and 20 September 1945.
Justice Mukherjee headed an Inquiry Commission set up by the National Democratic Alliance government in May 1999 following a Calcutta High Court order.
He gave his 672-page report in May 2006 to the United Progressive Alliance government which tabled it in Parliament declaring it has ”not agreed’ with either key finding.
The Mukherjee Commission was the first inquiry set up by a non-Congress government– the past inquiries having been ordered by Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
Critics have over the years charged both Khan and Khosla with having made half-hearted inquiries, intended essentially to endorse the view taken by the establishment in those years.
Speakers pointed to indications that the news of Bose’s death in August 1945 was a smokescreen for his escape to the Soviet Union to pursue the freedom struggle.
They suggested that Russia be requested formally at the highest level to open its archives to Indian scholars.
Controversy has dogged the issue over the past 61 years– with many Indians refusing to believe that Netaji was killed at the time of the alleged aircrash.
Speculation has been fuelled by the Indian authorities’ refusal to let investigators– even a retired Supreme Court Judge in this case– examine the supposedly secret files.
Published accounts say similar reluctance of Russian, British and Japanese governments to let investigators see relevant files ”strongly point to an international conspiracy.”
UNI MJ RP KN1543