Family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, India’s iconic freedom fighter, still have some pending demands from the central government. Though the government has declassified all the files relating to his death, the remains of Netaji, which are lying at Renko-ji temple in Japan, still need to be brought home. His only daughter, Anita Bose Pfaff (79), wants to perform the last rites in India.
Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose has been vocal about the demands. In his chat with Ashok Chatterjee, he says that in today’s society, following Netaji’s ideals of religious integrity (sarva dharma samanvaya) would be paying the best respect to the great leader.
Q. On Neta ji’s 126th birth anniversary, the RSS celebrated at Shaheed Minar in Kolkata with Mohan Bhagwat as chief speaker. How do you see the developments?
A. Netaji was against Hindutva and he opposed RSS ideology. Netaji had written “you cannot expect anything from the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha for the freedom of our country”. It is being said that Netaji had met RSS leader KB Hedgewar and Savarkar. He might have. It was natural of a leader of his stature to meet such leaders. To respect Netaji one has to follow his ideals and RSS with its national presence can make it happen, I believe. But, if you are praising Savarkar and Syama Prasad Mukherjee then you cannot be paying respect to Netaji. Bhagwat has to prove through his actions that he is working towards religious integrity. If he manages to do that then we would appreciate it.
Q. We could see his religious integrity in his Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army)
A. If Netaji had to be properly respected then it has to be through his ideals. He propagated sarva dharma samanvaya. He is the only leader who managed to bring all religions together. Azad Hind Fauj had 60,000 soldiers, who were Indians first. But it was constituted of people from all religions and Netaji integrated all of them. I will cite an example. There were three kitchens running in his army, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh one. But Netaji managed to bring them together and made it one. Today we see religious intolerance, communalism in India gaining currency. Different political parties, instead of stalling divisive politics, are unfortunately supporting it. If that happens then it cannot be paying respect to the tall leader. You cannot be a hypocrite.
Q. The government at the Centre has been working to give Netaji his due respect. Your views.
A. The common man has been celebrating Netaji’s birthday all these years. But from the government side there may not have done enough to give him the recognition he deserves or the ideals he stood for. Yes, the central government has done some credible work like a museum has come up at Lal Quila in New Delhi, which once housed Azad Hind Fauj barracks; two islands in Andamans have been named as Shaheed and Swaraj. These islands were visited by Netaji on 30 December 1943. He had unfurled the Indian flag there, which were still under Japanese domination but were handed over to the Azad Hind government. Another island, where Netaji had held his cabinet meeting, Ross island, was renamed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep. On 8 September 2022, a granite statue of Netaji was established at India Gate. Another important thing this government did was declassify all the files related to his death. Now these files are in national archives and in public domain after our demand from the Open Platform for Netaji.
Q. What did the files reveal about his death and did the perspective of Netaji’s family change post the declassification?
A. There were 11 enquiries, of which we only know of three – Shah Nawaz Committee, Khosla Commission and Mukherjee Commission. The first two said that Netaji died in a plane crash but the Mukherjee Commission differed. Till 2016-2017 (when the classified files were released), I too believed that Netaji did not die in the crash, just like most of our family members. After reading the 11 reports, it is very clear to us that he died on 18 August 1945, though it is not clear if he died on impact of the crash or died after it. We now know that he received severe burn injuries, but survived. He was put on morphine (for pain relief) and he had a heart failure early in the morning. This is clear from the other 10 reports. A few of them went into details of his death.
Q. You had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2016. After so many years, do you feel your purpose of joining the party has been successful?
A. Yes, I joined the BJP in 2016. There was a plan to constitute an Azad Hind Morcha and I was supposed to be in charge of it. The morcha’s job would have been to spread Netaji’s ideals throughout India. But, that never happened. Instead, I was made to fight against Mamata Banerjee in an election, which only harmed me. My idea was to use BJP’S platform to spread Netaji’s ideals throughout India.
Q. Netaji’s daughter Anita Bose Pfaff had sought an appointment with the PM before the statue was placed at India Gate. What is the status on that?
A. Pfaff had expressed her desire, through three letters to the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, there has been no response from the Prime Minister’s office. Being the daughter of Netaji she had expressed desire to perform the last rites as per Hindu rituals. She also wants there to be a memorial in New Delhi on him. Now, the government should bring back the ashes and let Anita Bose Pfaff perform the last rites as she is already 79 years old. This year, apparently there is supposed to be a programme in the Parliament and the ministry of culture had sought a list of family members to be invited. I sent it but there has been no invite yet. You have to give time to the members to travel to Delhi. It appears there is a lack of intent.