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In the consensus of scholarly opinion,[1] the death of Subhas Chandra Bose occurred from third-degree burns on 18 August 1945 after his overloaded Japanese plane crashed in Japanese-occupied Taiwan (then called "Formosa").[2][3] However, many among his supporters, especially in Bengal, refused then, and have refused since, to believe either the fact or the circumstances of his death.[4][5][6] Conspiracy theories appeared within hours of his death and have had a long shelf life,[7] keeping alive various martial myths about Bose.[8]

Introduction[edit | edit source]


A newspaper clip reporting the death of Netaji and General Shidei

Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent leader of the Indian independence movement that sought an end to the British Raj, was reported to be flying to Tokyo with Tsunamasa Shidei, a general of the Imperial Japanese army, when their plane crashed at Matsuyama aerodrome (now Songshan Airport) in Taipei, northern Formosa (now Taiwan). After cremation, Bose's ashes were taken to Japan and interred at the Renkōji Temple in Tokyo.[9] The news was withheld by the Japanese government for five days before being announced by a Japanese news agency, Domei.[10]

After India's independence, the matter was looked into by three official panels formed by the government of India following the public demands. These panels were: Shah Nawaz Committee, Justice GD Khosla Commission & Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry. The Shah Nawaz Committee[citation needed] and the Justice GD Khosla Commission upheld the Taiwan crash version.[citation needed] The Mukherjee Commission's report concluded that Bose was not killed in an airplane accident, but the report was not accepted by the government.[citation needed]

There have been allegations that the Indian Intelligence Bureau had doctored an intelligence report to "prove" Bose's death.[11] However, it has also been alleged at various times that the Indian government and political leadership was aware that Bose may have been alive, and according to one theory, in captivity in Soviet Union,[12][13] but chose to ignore or actively collaborate to suppress this information after Independence.[14][15]

Shah Nawaz Committee (1956)[edit | edit source]

In April 1956, the Jawaharlal Nehru Government formed a committee headed by Shah Nawaz Khan. Khan had earlier risen to the rank of Lt Col in the Second Indian National Army, before he was captured by allied troops after the fall of Hind and was one of the three charged with treason in the Red Fort Trial. He was thus seen as an appropriate person to head the inquiry. Two other members of the inquiry commission were SN Mitra and Suresh Chandra Bose, Bose's elder brother. The committee's report that Bose had indeed died in Taipei became disputed due to several reasons. The most important among them was the dissentient report of Suresh Bose. Suresh Bose refused to agree with the findings of his colleagues and accused them and the Government of India of trying to coerce him into agreeing with their views.

In mid-1990s the released archives of Indian Political Intelligence proved conclusively that Bose was killed in 1945. Since rumours were circulating that he was still alive, Indian Political Intelligence arranged for Military Intelligence in New Delhi to investigate the matter. Captain Turner of the War Crimes Liaison Section in Taiwan(formerly called Formosa) was put on to the case and he managed to locate the last person to have seen Bose alive. This was Captain (Medical), who was under arrest in Stanley He gave a statement that resolved the matter: ‘I personally cleaned his injuries with oils and dressed them. He was suffering from extensive burns over the whole of his body, though the most serious were those on his head, chest and thighs. During the first four hours he was semi-conscious...he murmured, and muttered in his state of coma, but never regained consciousness. At about 2300 hrs he died. I injected Formalin into the body and also had the coffin partly filled with lime.’ The coffin was then taken away and Bose's body was cremated.

G. D. Khosla Commission[edit | edit source]

The Khosla Commission was set up in 1970 to probe the disappearance of Bose. The commission concluded that Bose died in the plane crash. The report was accepted by the Indian government, then led by Indira Gandhi.[citation needed]

Later,[when?] protests by M.P.s during the prime ministership of Morarji Desai resulted in Desai saying that ""The Shah Nawaz Committee and the Khosla Commission hold the report of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's death following a plane crash as true. Since then, reasonable doubts have been cast on the correctness in the two reports and various important contradictions in the testimony of the witnesses have been noticed. Some further contemporary official documentary records have also become available. In the light of those doubts and contradictions and those records, government finds it difficult to accept that the earlier conclusions are decisive."[16]

Mukherjee Commission (1999)[edit | edit source]

In 1999, following a court order, the Bharatiya Janata Party led Indian government formed a one-man board called the Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry. It was headed by Justice (rtd) M.K. Mukherjee of the Supreme Court of India. The commission perused hundreds of files on Bose's death drawn from several countries and also visited Japan, Russia and Taiwan.

Mukherjee's findings were that the news of Bose's death in Taipei was a cover-up for his escape to the USSR. The Commission, however, stated that they could not confirm Bose's presence in the USSR for want of evidence.

The Mukherjee Commission submitted its report to Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil on November 8, 2005. The report was tabled in the Indian Parliament on May 17, 2006. The Congress Party led Indian Government rejected the findings of the Commission.[17]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Bose 2011, p. 320: Quote: "The strong historical evidence suggests that Netaji died as a result of the air crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945 while attempting to continue his fight for India's freedom at the end of World WarII. Stories of his being spotted in various places after that date lie in the domain of rumor and speculation, if not willful fabrication. In particular, there is no evidence to suggest that Bose succeeded in reaching the Soviet Union or Soviet-held Manchuria. (p. 320)"
  2. Bayly & Harper 2007, p. 2a: "If all else failed (Bose) wanted to become a prisoner of the Soviets: 'They are the only ones who will resist the British. My fate is with them. But as the Japanese plane took off from Taipei airport its engines faltered and then failed. Bose was badly burned in the crash. According to several witnesses, he died on 18 August in a Japanese military hospital, talking to the very last of India's freedom.
  3. Bandyopādhyāẏa 2004, p. 427: "The retreat was even more devastating, finally ending the dream of liberating India through military campaign. But Bose still remained optimistic, thought of regrouping after the Japanese surrender, contemplated seeking help from Soviet Russia. The Japanese agreed to provide him transport up to Manchuria from where he could travel to Russia. But on his way, on 18 August 1945 at Taihoku airport in Taiwan, he died in an air crash, which many Indians still believe never happened."
  4. Bayly & Harper 2007, p. 2b: "British and Indian commissions later established convincingly that Bose had died in Taiwan. These were legendary and apocalyptic times, however. Having witnessed the first Indian leader to fight against the British since the great mutiny of 1857, many in both Southeast Asia and India refused to accept the loss of their hero."
  5. Bayly & Harper 2007, p. 22: Quote: "There are still some in India today who believe that Bose remained alive and in Soviet custody, a once and future king of Indian independence. The legend of `Netaii' Bose's survival helped bind together the defeated INA. In Bengal it became an assurance of the province's supreme importance in the liberation of the motherland. It sustained the morale of many across India and Southeast Asia who deplored the return of British power or felt alienated from the political settlement finally achieved by Gandhi and Nehru.
  6. Wolpert 2000, pp. 339–340: Quote: "On March 21, 1944, Subhas Bose and advanced units of the INA crossed the borders of India, entering Manipur, and by May they had advanced to the outskirts of that state's capital, Imphal. That was the closest Bose came to Bengal, where millions of his devoted followers awaited his army's "liberation." The British garrison at Imphal and its air arm withstood Bose's much larger force long enough for the monsoon rains to defer all possibility of warfare in that jungle region for the three months the British so desperately needed to strengthen their eastern wing. Bose had promised his men freedom in exchange for their blood, but the tide of battle turned against them after the 1944 rains, and in May 1945 the INA surrendered in Rangoon. Bose escaped on the last Japanese plane to leave Saigon, but he died in Formosa after a crash landing there in August. By that time, however, his death had been falsely reported so many times that a myth soon emerged in Bengal that Netaji Subhas Chandra was alive—raising another army in China or Tibet or the Soviet Union—and would return with it to "liberate" India.
  7. Bayly & Harper 2007, p. 2: "Rumours that Bose had survived and was waiting to come out of hiding and begin the final struggle for independence were rampant by the end of 1945."
  8. Metcalf & Metcalf 2010, p. 210: Quote: "Marginalized within Congress and a target for British surveillance, Bose chose to embrace the fascist powers as allies against the British and fled India, first to Hitler's Germany, then, on a German submarine, to a Japanese-occupied Singapore. The force that he put together ... known as the Indian National Army (INA) and thus claiming to represent free India, saw action against the British in Burma but accomplished little toward the goal of a march on Delhi. ... Bose himself died in an airplane crash trying to reach Japanese-occupied territory in the last months of the war. His romantic saga, coupled with his defiant nationalism, has made Bose a near-mythic figure, not only in his native Bengal, but across India. It is this heroic, martial myth that is today remembered, rather than Bose's wartime vision of a free India under the authoritarian rule of someone like himself."
  9. Mitchell, Jon, "Japan's unsung role in India's struggle for independence", Japan Times, 14 August 2011, p. 7.
  10. "Reported Death of Subhash Bose". The Hindustan Times. August 25, 1945. http://www.hindustantimes.in/news/specials/Netaji/images/a7.gif.  HT Archives.
  11. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-11/india/32631617_1_khosla-commission-shah-nawaz-committee-ib
  12. "Radhakrishnan met Netaji in Moscow, says witness". The Hindustan Times. November 17, 1970. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/specials/Netaji/images/nov_17_70.gif. Retrieved August 11, 2006. 
  13. Hindustantimes.com
  14. "Gandhi, others had agreed to hand over Netaji". Hindustan Times. January 23, 1971. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/specials/Netaji/images/jan_23_71.gif. Retrieved August 11, 2006. 
  15. "Interview with Capt. Lakshmi Sahgal". The Tribune. India. June 12, 2005. Spectrum Suppl Sunday. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050612/spectrum/main1.htm. Retrieved August 9, 2006. 
  16. http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/specials/netaji/khosla.htm
  17. "Fate of Indian war leader thrown into doubt by new report". The Guardian. London. May 18, 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,1777155,00.html. Retrieved March 27, 2007. 

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