Mystery of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's DEATH

  • By Tapan Ganguli
  • March 27, 2024
  • Author provokes thought by referring to various theories about the death of Netaji Bose, Committees formed since 1947 and sharing insights.

According to official narrative, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air accident on 16th August 1945 at Taihoku, Taiwan. In 1988, some Japanese doctors and nurses testified to this fact which had happened more than forty years ago. A further four decades has rolled by, but the general public has rejected this theory as did informed ruling class, including the then viceroy Lord Wavell (1943 - 45). For several months, broadcasts were heard from remote radio stations which were purportedly from Netaji.


In the 1950s, mysterious Sadhu’s were spotted in different parts of Northern India whose identity was suspect. Under a lot of public pressure, the government constituted the Shah Nawaz committee in 1956, comprising Col Shah Nawaz who had been an associate of Netaji from his INA days, SN Maitra an ICS officer and Suresh Chandra Bose, Netaji’s elder brother. 


Public opinion wanted Justice Radha Binode Pal to head the committee, but Nehru wanted otherwise. The committee report was filed within a few months, whereby it supported the Taiwan air-crash theory although the committee did not even visit the country. For the next few years this controversy was aired by opposition members in every parliament session. Nehru passed away in 1964, and his daughter Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister two years later after the equally mysterious death of Lal Bahadur Shastri.


In 1970, the government appointed a one-man commission under Justice GD Khosla, a former ICS officer who was the trying Sessions judge in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case of 1948. Samar Guha, MP from the Socialist Party, although not a committee member, went to every place visited by Justice Khosla including Taiwan. In the Shah Nawaz committee report, Suresh Bose gave a dissenting report which was read out in parliament much to the dissatisfaction of Nehru. According to Bose, he had been offered a gubernatorial post if he did not submit his report. Samar Guha wrote a book where he rebutted the Khosla report in diverse ways, most of them hard hitting. Some significant findings were:


1. The first theory namely air crash is supported by the Congress party and majority Bose family including TMC MP Sugata Bose. According to Guha, there was no aircrash in Taipei (old name Taihoku) airport at any time in August 1945.

2. The second theory, so called ‘Gumnami Baba’ theory, is propagated by Mission Netaji, an assortment of investigative journalists. Notable ones are Chandrachur Ghosh and Anuj Dhar, whose best seller ‘Conundrum’ created a sensation in 2005. 


3. There is another theory, which is intermediate between air crash and Gumnami Baba theory. 


According to this, Netaji escaped from Taipei to Saigon, to Manchuria and then to the USSR. He was in Russia for a number of years. This is accepted by both proponents. According to the second school lead by Major General GD Bakshi, Dr Subramaniam Swamy, eminent public figures, and Purabi Roy, a former Professor of Jadavpur University, who maintain that there is evidence of Netaji being executed by Stalin.


Proponents of the second view also maintain that to soften the Russian hand, the Government of India particularly the Intelligence Bureau planted a ‘double’ in Ayodhya and nearby areas. 


The third group has two elements – those who believe that Gumnami Baba died on 16th September 1985 and those who believe that this was another ruse and he would resurface at another date. The name Gumnami Babu was given by a local Hindi newspapers after his death. To his numerous admirers and followers, he was known as Bhagwanji.


At this stage, the following relevant facts must be remembered:


1. At least five Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh used to visit Bhagwanji secretly from the early 1950s. There were also a number of Anushilan Samity members, which later became part of the Socialist wing of the Congress, who maintained touch with Bhagwanji. This sort of deep connect would not be made with any ‘double’.

2. After his death in September 1985, a member of Bose family came to Ayodhya and could see unmistakable traces of her ‘Ranga Kaka’. She found photographs of Netaji’s parents and other members of her family. She moved the Allahabad High Court to get all of Bhagwanji’s personal effects. Court then ordered the District Administration to make a proper inventory of the articles and store them in the treasury, ultimately making a museum. 

3. It took more than one year for all the exhibits to be catalogued, as there were more than 2700 items. Initially all exhibits were kept in the Treasury but subsequently some of the collection was transferred to the Ram Katha Museum in Ayodhya.


From the above, it is certain that Netaji was the bete noire of the Congress in general and the Nehru Gandhi family in particular. The stranglehold of this family on post-Independence India is well known. It would explain why the Shah Nawaz and GD Khosla Committees findings were readily the Nehru and Indira Governments.


The Mukherjee Commission was appointed in 1999 under Manoj Kumar Mukherjee, who worked freely and came to a conclusion. But by the time final report was submitted in 2005, the Congress led UPA government was formed. They summarily rejected it without assigning any reasons. 


In 2016, the Sahay Commission was appointed to find out who exactly was ‘Gumnami Baba’. Mukherjee Commission had rejected the air crash theory and going by available evidence – verbal of those who had seen Netaji before 1940 and the Gumnami Baba of the 1970s, handwriting of Gumnami Baba was examined by Indian and foreign experts. 


Sahay Commission appointed by Samajwadi Government in UP quickly arrived at conclusions without much detailed evidence. The conclusion was that the ‘Baba’ was an associate of Netaji. The general public, or persons following this story for long, were quick to reject this interpretation. 


So far four committees/ commissions were appointed over more than sixty years. Many files titled ‘top secret’ and ‘secret’ have been declassified both in Delhi and Kolkata. Even now, there are several thousand files held back on the plea that their disclosure may affect India’s foreign relations or result in internal law and order problems. 


During this time, the so called ashes of Netaji in Renkoji temple, Tokyo was visited by at least half a dozen Indian Prime Ministers. Recent researches have shown that the ashes are that of Ichiro Okura, a young Japanese solder. The view points of Anuj Dhar and Chandrachur Ghosh are contained in their masterly work, ‘Conundrum’. Numerous podcasts have been done by both of them on this topic. 


Purabi Roy is still persisting with her ‘killed in Russia’ theory. Sugata Bose, grand nephew of Netaji is also persisting with his ‘aircrash theory’. To get a more balanced view, one would recommend reading Sugata Bose ‘His majesty’s opponent’ along with ‘Conundrum’. Of late, one finds that Purabi Bose is shifting to the ‘Gumnami’ theory. According to her, major revelations will be forthcoming in 2025, which is the centenary year of the RSS. The vexed issue may be finally solved for good, for the welfare of the country and many right thinking citizens.


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Author Shri Tapan Ganguli   (age 83) is an Economics Graduate who joined IAS in 1964. Post a strong government career in various ministries, he took pre-mature retirement and worked in the Corporate Sector, leadership roles till 2000. He is based in Kolkata and interests include Culture, Current Affairs, International History, Personal Finance, Architecture and Photography.


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