Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Netaji Inquiry Committee: Dissentient Report of Suresh Chandra Bose (1956)

Major Takahashi had deposed that when the plane had just become airborne, there was an explosion and the plane tilted to the left side and crashed on the ground in front of and outside the runway and then came back to its normal position, which he has shown clearly in his sketch, (App. U) and which is absolutely different from what is seen in the photograph sent by Col. Rahman in which the tail is shown as pointing upwards and the place of crash, a hilly country. According to Major's statements and sketch, which are to the effect that there was no breakage or damage to the plane, it could safely be said that the plane had "belly-landed" after striking the ground and that there was no crash.

Col. Nonogaki, on the other hand, had introduced a novel story, which is again different from the three different versions given by the three witnesses named above. He has stated that shortly after he felt that the plane was airborne, and had attained a height of about 20 metres equal to about 60 feet, he heard an explosion and saw the plane nose-diving towards the ground. He also heard 3 or 4 bangs coming from the side of the engine, which he learnt later was due to the left propeller having blown off. The plane crashed on the ground and broke into two pieces, which he has shown in red pencil in his sketch, marked A, (App. J), which was near about the turret. In his sketch, marked C, (App. P.), he has shown on the runway in blue pencil, the X (cross) mark, from where the plane became airborne and the X (cross) mark in red pencil, where the plane crashed on the same runway. The rear portion of the plane broke off and flew away on the runway in the direction indicated in blue dots and the main body of the plane dragged itself to a distance of 20 to 30 metres from where it had crashed and came to a stop on the runway, after striking against a pile of stones and sand, that had been collected at the edge of the runway and which were meant for filling up craters formed on the runway due to aerial bombing by the enemy. According to him, the complete drama of the alleged plane crash was enacted on the runway and nowhere else. It is impossible for anybody to explain this definite statement that the crash and breakage of the plane took place wholly on the runway with the definite statement of Col. Rahman that all this took place 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield or those of the other witnesses that it took place elsewhere.

According to Major Kono, the plane took off, and after reaching a height of about 30 metres, equivalent to about 100 feet, there was a single loud explosion and the plane tilted to the right side, because the propeller and the engine on the left side had dropped off. The plane then crashed on its right side and the right wing was completely smashed, which is an absolutely different version from those of the other witnesses, who have definitely maintained that it was the left side. The Major has confirmed his statement that the right wing was completely smashed, in his sketch marked B (II), (App. V), in which all the main parts of the plane are shown intact except the right wing. In his sketch, marked B (I), (App. W), he has shown that the damage was caused at two places, shown at (a) & (b) of the same sketch, and in his sketch, B (II), in addition to the broken and blown off right wing, he showed at the portion marked (a), that the tail had broken off and at the portion marked (b), he showed and stated verbally that at that joint, the plane had bent inwards, which is his special, but uncorroborated, story of the damage to the plane.

In the written statement, said to have been sent by Lt. Col. T. Sakai, it appears that "shortly after taking off, the plane inclined to right. Thinking that this was not normal, I looked out through the machinegun cage. At that time, the plane had corrected its banking. But it went down lower and lower rapidly from the height of about 50 metres. From my position, I could see only the direction of the sides and rear; when the plane came over the end of the airfield, which was waste land, I saw the rear wheel flew off backward in the left side drawing an arc in the air. The moment I noticed it, I fell unconscious". It will be seen that in these statements, there is no mention about an explosion or a loud noise or bang, or the propeller or the engine of the left side falling off, or of damage to any part of the plane, or of the plane having crashed at a distance of 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield, or of having crashed and being left damaged on the runway itself or anywhere near it. In short, the statements of this military officer are unique by themselves and have remained uncorroborated by any of the five other alleged inmates of the plane, whose depositions have been considered above. I am, therefore, definite, that not a single person with a fair and unbiased mind, reading the depositions of these six persons and perusing the photographs, sketches and papers on record, would agree with the findings of my colleagues, that the plane crash took place, as alleged.

According to Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto), witness No. 51, who was the Ground Engineer at Taihoku Aerodrome, all the passengers boarded the plane, when it was at position A, shown in his sketch marked I (App. N), after the Pilot Major Takizawa agreed with him that there was nothing wrong with the engine. This position A, however, is quite different from that shown by Col. Nonogaki in his sketch C, (App. P). The Captain then stated that the plane was taxied to the position, marked C on the runway and shown on the same sketch, where the engines were speeded up and then slowed down, as is usually done, and after he had satisfied himself that they were correct, they were speeded up again and the plane was allowed to run on the runway and it took off at a point about 50 metres from the end of the runway, and immediately after taking off, it made a steep ascent and then tilted to the left, when he saw something falling down from the plane, which he later discovered to be a propeller. In his opinion, the maximum height attained by the plane would be 30 to 40 metres or something slightly higher than that and that the plane crashed at point G, marked in his sketch I, (App. N), which was a little more than 100 metres from the end of the runway. He is definite that the whole of the plane was intact and that no portion of the body was broken. This statement, considered with the sketch of the plane at point G, shows that the plane had "Belly-landed" and without any damage whatsoever to it. He has, however, not stated that the left engine dropped off the plane, as has been stated by some of the other witnesses. He stated that he saw all this, when he was standing at point F, shown in his sketch, marked I, (App. N) and was only about 30 metres or about 100 feet from the runway. Almost all the statements of the Captain are so different from those made by all the other witnesses and as those statements have been very clearly expressed, it is considered unnecessary to point out the discrepancy in each of them separately with those of all the other witnesses.

It must be very amusing for any reader to peruse how each of these seven witnesses have made seven different statements, not agreeing with one another on the single point as to how the aircraft accident took place.

From a portion of the draft report written by my colleague Shri Maitra, which I had the opportunity to read and discuss with them and from the newspaper reports recently published, giving a gist of the report they have submitted to Government, it appears that they have accepted the opinion of Shri Sastri that the plane attained a maximum height of 30 or 40 metres and that it crashed somewhere near the runway and that they have disbelieved the statement of Col. Rahman, who stated that the plane attained a height of more than 1,000 feet and had crashed at a distance of 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield.

This opinion of Shri Sastri was given by him in the last portion of his deposition and in reply to a question put to him by the Chairman and is as follows: "Chairman; In the event of there being discrepancies between the statements of some witnesses, could you say from the statements and other evidence placed before you, which statement or statements you consider the most reasonable from your point of view as an Air Expert? Ans: Taking a general view of the entire picture, except for the latter portion of the statement of Major Kono, relating to the way in which the aircraft fell down to the ground, I consider Major Kono's and Capt. Nakamura alias Yamamoto's statements to be reasonable."

Before going into the question of Shri Sastri's opinion referred to above, I consider it very important to refer to the opinion and statement expressed by me earlier that the intention of the Chairman was "Anyhow" to come to the finding that the plane actually crashed and that Netaji died as result therefrom and that in pursuance of this intention of his, he regulated his conduct to the best of his abilities. In an earlier part of this report, I expressed my opinion as follows: "I am aggrieved to state that the Chairman's attitude and conduct at times, far from maintaining a judicial approach, has been similar to that of a zealous partisan and worse than that of the most unscrupulous prosecutor". I consider myself fortunate that the Chairman's question itself clearly exposes himself, that he continued calling for new witnesses and examining them not with the intention of arriving at the truth, but to fill up the gaps in the evidence and for explaining and reconciling discrepant and contradictory statements that stood in the way of his coming to the conclusion that the plane had crashed and that Netaji had died.

Now to proceed with the opinion of Shri Sastri, it appears that he has considered the statement of Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto) to be a reasonable one and has also accepted only a portion of Major Kono's statement, but, as stated by him, after discarding, "the latter portion of the statement of Major Kono, relating to the way in which the aircraft fell down to the ground." I am constrained to state that this is a funny manner of believing only one portion and disbelieving the remaining portion of the statement of a witness relating entirely to the same simple point, viz., the manner in which the plane crashed to the ground.

In this connection, I feel it incumbent on me to refer to certain statements made by Shri Sastri. I may state here that when he first appeared before us, I requested him to make his statements after due thought and consideration, because, being examined as an expert, his opinion would be considered to be very weighty and could not possibly be challenged very easily and therefore would have to be accepted by us.

I have mentioned earlier, that the Chairman, finding himself unable to explain or reconcile the glaring discrepant statements of all the witnesses regarding the plane crash, got hold of this Aircraft Accidents Investigation Inspector to help with an expert opinion for tiding over his difficulty and which is plainly evident from his last question to him, as has been stated above.

Except for the statements of Shri Sastri stated below, I have nothing much to comment on his other statements, but it is quite clear from his conduct that he came prepared to state that the maximum height attained by the plane was about 40 metres and that it crashed not on the runway, but further ahead somewhere on the airfield, as stated by Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto) and which appears to have been accepted by my colleagues. It is not understood as to why he did not state that the maximum height that could have been attained by the plane would be less than 40 metres equal to about 120 feet, if the plane took off from the runway and crashed a little ahead on the same runway, which was shown to him in sketch 13 (App. P), evidently, sketch C, drawn by Col. Nonogaki and why he prevaricated in stating that though it could not be 1,000 feet he was not in a position to say whether it could be 500 feet or even 300 feet, which is decidedly an impossibility, unless the plane shot up vertically like a rocket. He has also rejected the altitude of 1,000 feet or 1,600 feet and also the place of crash as 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield or at that boundary, as has been stated by Col. Rahman and by Capt. Arai respectively, without assigning any reason for the same. Later on, when he was questioned as to what would be the crew, he said he had no idea, though he admitted that in 1945 such a plane did not fly without a crew. He declined to give a reply, though several questions were put to him, but he eventually said about the crew both of heavy as well as of light bombers. Shri Sastri's rejection of Col. Rahman's version and and my colleagues' acceptance of Shri Sastri's opinion obviously challenges Col. Rahman's veracity.

While considering only these few, but crucial, points in the evidence on record, viz., the maximum height attained by the plane, the period the plane was in .the air, the cause for the accident to the plane resulting in its crashing to the ground, the condition of the plane after it had crashed, the place where it had crashed, and the nature of the place where it had crashed, considered with the same points as shown in the Photograph, (App. Q), produced by Col. Rahman, saying that it was given to him by the Japanese with the report that it was of the identical crashed plane, it stands out very prominently that the statements of Col. Rahman disagree with those shown in this photograph and are absolutely different from those made by all the other witnesses. It is exceedingly puzzling why quite a different version has been given by him and why not even a single statement of his is in common with those of the others. In my humble opinion, and I am convinced about it, that it could be ascribed to his intense devotion and loyalty to his "Beloved Leader", as Netaji has been designated by my colleagues.

It is unfortunate that I was not given a copy of the report of my colleagues and so I am not in a position to know exactly the contents of the same. The little that I have been able to glean from the newspaper reports recently published, regarding their points or findings, I have noticed that at one place, where Col. Rahman and also some of the Japanese witnesses claimed to have individually removed Netaji's burning clothes, my colleagues disbelieved the statements of the Japanese witnesses, who stated to have volunteered their services for that great Indian leader, for whom they had the highest admiration, and discarding the same, accepted that of Col. Rahman on the sole ground that it must have been he, who, was most likely to have done so for his "Beloved Leader". Although I do not accept this to be the correct and the sole argument for accepting the Colonel's conduct, and for disbelieving what the others had said and done, I would accept Netaji, not only as the Colonel's "Beloved Leader", but also as his "Reverential Master", who believing and relying on the Colonel's unswerving loyalty, confided his secrets, with the hope that he would never be let down under any circumstances. I would, therefore, state that this loyal and devoted follower, dutifully proclaimed to the world under an "Oath of Secrecy", the secret instructions, he had received from his "Beloved Leader" and "Reverential Master", as has been suggested by Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose and Shri Arabindu Bose, who were also under similar "Oaths of Secrecy" to him at the time of his secret departure from Calcutta in January, 1941.

Four photographs produced by Col. Rahman

With regard to the four photographs brought by Col. Rahman to India after his return from the Far East and about which he stated in the last part of his deposition, in reply to a question put by the Chairman and which he evidently sent to the Committee later on and regarding which, I was not informed by the Chairman at any stage, he stated that two of them were of the crashed plane, the third was that of the coffin and in the last one, he is shown sitting beside the coffin.

I am in a position to assert, that due to the fear that these four photographs would easily upset the finding of my colleagues and which was also the confirmed opinion of the Government, they thought it wise not to send them or even show them to me.

As regards the first photograph of the crashed plane, (App. Q), which tallies with what was published in the newspapers and evidently also with the report of my colleagues, I have already held, that by itself, it falsifies the story of the plane crash, as stated by all the witnesses, including Col. Rahman. As I have not been furnished with my colleagues' report either, I am not in a position to know in what manner they have discussed the details shown in the photograph with the statements of all the witnesses, but I am almost positive that they have not dared doing so. I believe they accepted the truth of the plane crash and in support of the same simply produced this photograph, alleging it to be that of the crashed plane.