Millennium Post

Declassify files first, honour later

We know not how he died. What his full contribution to the Indian Freedom Movement was. How his valour made even the British Empire shake. And we will not even let our children know for their history text books will have scant mention of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and they would consider him to be just another freedom fighter whose means to achieve freedom for the country were ‘violent’ and not worth emulating.

But we will give him a posthumous Bharat Ratna, long after conferring it on late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, belittling the importance of our retrospective honour for the great soldier of the Indian nation. History speaks for those who write it and therefore Netaji’s real stature, which we must believe came to a tragic end in an unfortunate plane crash, would be relegated to oblivion. Chapter closed.

In a country which has corroded the importance of state honours by making them a subject of political affiliations, the real honour for leaders like Netaji would be to not have them at all. Least when it is posthumous and cannot be declined. The architects of independent India such as Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose should be kept out of the ambit of such partisan politics.

Many, including Netaji’s family, have said that the real way to honour him would be to declassify all documents related to him in order to let people know how he died. That is indeed true for what would the government tell the nation if the award is conferred on him. Netaji has been missing since 1945. When he is awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously, the government will have to tell us when and where he died.

The Justice MK Mukherjee Commission, constituted by the former NDA government in 1999, had said in 2006 that Netaji is dead but he certainly did not die in Taipei in August, 1945. Netaji’s ashes kept in Renkoji temple in Tokyo are not his, the commission had said. The report was dismissed and no reason was assigned to the move.

The Nehru-led government never checked up on reports suggesting Netaji’s presence in the erstwhile USSR. A ratna (jewel) of Bharat certainly deserved better.

Documents declassified in US, however, show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was trying to track Bose at least till 1964. This means even they did not believe that Netaji died in 1945.

Recently, the government categorically said no to demands for declassifying records related to Netaji. The government says this has the potential of jeopardising bilateral relations with other nations. Those serious in the present government about honouring Bose must push for a re-writing of Indian history giving credit where it is due and scaling down unnecessary glorification. But even such rewriting on Bose would need a last line of conclusion. How and where did he die?
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