Nation must accept Netaji’s death: Biographer

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS,

New Delhi : Contrary to doubts raised about his death, historical evidence indicates that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died in an air crash Aug 18, 1945, and the nation must accept that he was a martyr to the cause of freedom, says his grandnephew who has authored a new biography on Netaji Bose.

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“I have addressed the question of Netaji’s death in the final chapter of my book. Historical evidence that he died of an air crash has been available for a long time. I had seen the testimonies of six of the seven survivors of the crash,” Sugata Bose, the author of “His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle Against Freedom”, told IANS in an interview.

Sugata Bose, the grandnephew of Netaji Bose and a teacher of history at Harvard, said he understood that “people wanted Netaji to return”.

“But that sentiment has also been exploited by a few fringe groups. I don’t think it is really showing any respect to Netaji saying that he was a ‘sadhu-sant’ (seer) somewhere. He was just not that. If a top ranking leader sacrificed his life for the country, why can’t we acknowledge it?” he said.

He said “some of the most compelling eyewitness accounts of the crash came from Netaji’s Japanese interpreter Juchi Nakamura”.

Speaking about Netaji Bose’s contribution to India’s freedom, Sugata Bose said he wanted to bridge the divide between civilians and the armed forces during the struggle.

“Post-Independence, we have paid a lot of lip service to Mahatma Gandhi. And it is very easy to simply say that we won independence through non-violent means and after that, not follow most of the lessons that Gandhi had left for us,” he said.

An armed struggle was needed at the climactic phase of the freedom movement, the writer said.

But Indian soldiers had been kept insulated by the British from the swirling currents of popular sentiments,” he said.

“Netaji had been in the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi for 20 years and he saw that Indian soldiers were serving the British. And the only way he could change that was to have direct access to the armed forces in places where they were held as enemies,” he said.

The writer said he had tried to explore Netaji Bose’s multiple personas in his biography.

“I have tried to offer a multi-dimensional portrait of a very multi-faceted personality, who believed that India had to make great contribution to the world. In this context he was creatively thinking in terms of an ideology ‘Samyavad’, which was different from Communism. It was based on balance and harmony,” he said.

Sugata Bose said Netaji Bose was a Leftist in the context of Indian politics of the late 1930s because he stood for “a more radical stand vis-a-vis the British Raj”.

“Netaji was talking of mobilisation of the women, depressed classes, peasants and workers. He was always speaking up for the underdogs in society. He also offered a powerful critique of Communism and its limitations,” he said.

The writer said he wanted the country’s youth to learn from Netaji’s spirit of inclusiveness.

“They should see him as a forward-looking person who had a vision about Indis’s social reconstruction once freedom was won. We had become rather inward-looking in the last 40 years of independence but Netaji believed that India had to negotiate its space globally,” Bose said.

The making of the book took the writer and his family far and wide. The enduring memory is the writer’s visit to Badgastein near Salzburg (Austria), “the INA hero’s favourite hill resort where he spent much of his time with wife Emilie Schenkl”.

“I went to the Badgastein, a thermal spring resort, with Netaji’s daughter Anita, who is my aunt, and her husband, my uncle Martin, my mother Krishna Bose and my younger brother Sumantra Bose. I drove the car and we went from Hapsburg in Germany to Badgastein,” Bose recalled.

“I was not expecting to find any documents there. But I saw the inn in which Netaji lived most of the time. We could find the coffee house where Emily and he would have coffee,” the writer said.

The biography is being translated into Bengali, keeping in mind Netaji Bose’s popularity in West Bengal.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at [email protected])