The committee used the articles to conclude that Netaji had indeed died in the crash in 1945. Photograph: (Getty)
A committee formed under the PV Narasimha Rao government alleged that Netaji was an MI-6 agent and that his close aide was a KGB agent
Declassified Netaji files, 33 of which the government of India had made accessible to public on 4 December 2015, released on Friday by cultural ministry secretary N K Sinha reveal that the ministry of external affairs in 1994 under the P V Narasimha Rao government had formed a committee to investigate Russian claims that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the Indian freedom fighter, was a British spy.
The committee was formed after the then prime minister’s office asked the ministry of home affairs to prepare a Cabinet paper on the allegations.
The committee claims that the articles are based on certain “facts”, including the “fact” that Netaji’s close aide Bhagat Ram, who owned a small shop in Kabul, “was a professional British secret agent” and that he was an agent of “four masters -- USSR, Britain, Germany and Italy”.
The committee mainly looked at a series of articles, based on declassified KGB archives, alleging that Netaji was an MI-6 agent, and that one of his close aides was a KGB agent. The KGB documents were published in Moscow in the bi-monthly magazine “Asia and Africa Today”. The committee also takes into account Netaji’s birth centenary which was to occur three years later in 1997.
The committee used the articles to conclude that Netaji had indeed died in the crash in 1945.
The articles were titled ‘The Secret Behind the Death of Subhas Chandra Bose’ by A Raikov, and ‘Whom Subhas Chandra Bose Fought Against During the Second world War Years’ by V Touradjev. The files also reveal that India believed that Netaji died in a plane crash in August 18, 1945.
And that Ajay Malhotra, also the then Indian Ambassador in Moscow, knew about the contents of the two articles almost a year before they were published.
The files show that Malhotra even met Touradjev, but “did not specifically urge Touradjev to have the articles withdrawn since it was evident that he would not do so in any case”.
Touradjev quotes a few documents from declassified KGB files, including a certificate that mentions that “after the Japanese capitulation in the first half of September, 1944, TASS, quoting British sources, informed from Tokyo that Subhas Chandra Bose who was then staying in Japan had died.” The article also says that the KGB files on Netaji were closed after this.
The article also claimed that Netaji “cooperated with the British Secret Service MI-6”, and that he was “a British plant in the heart of the Axis powers”. The article claims that during his stay in Berlin, Singapore and Tokyo, Netaji “did not conduct struggles against Great Britain; he fought against Germany and Japan”. It also claims that the British introduced him in the heart of fascist Germany “with a very reliable and convincing ‘legend’”. It also claims that Netaji’s activities to develop an underground network for espionage and sabotage were “an illusion adroitly created by the Soviet and British secret services”.
According to the files, Raikov, who was a prominent Indophile, wrote about a Japanese twin engine fighter plane with 11 passengers on board that crashed immediately after taking off from the Matsuyana Air Force Base in Taiwan on August 18, 1945. It was bound for Manchuria, and had on board the chief of staff of the Burmese Air Command, Lt General Sidei, eight Japanese military officials and two Indian officials – suspected to be Netaji and his close aide Habibur Rehman.
The files also recount Netaji’s escape from his (then) home in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta to evade arrest by the British. According to the committee, Netaji’s escape route stretched from Calcutta to Kabul, and thereon to Japan “in a German submarine in March, 1943” and that his transfer “from the German to a Japanese submarine was known to the British in detail while he was still on his journey”. The files also reveal that the British government had a wireless operator in Berlin who connected them to Netaji in Tokyo.
(This article first appeared in the DNA)