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)

After a lot of difficulty and expenditure, I have managed to secure prints of three more photographs, but I am not sure whether they are the same as those sent by Col. Rahman and the same three, on which my colleagues have relied upon. As they may be the same, I shall consider them one by one.

The second photograph, (App. R) shows a landscape, but though the Colonel has said that it is of the crashed plane, no plane is seen in it. There is, however, a similarity in the panoramic view shown in it with the same shown in the first photograph, (App. Q), but neither of them shows the "Flat Country" or "The Plain Open Land", stated by Col. Rahman or the airfield or the runway, stated by the remaining witnesses. Instead of these, they show rugged, hilly, undulating country. In my opinion, the second photograph, (App. R) also goes definitely against the findings of my colleagues.

The third photograph, (App. S) does not show any coffin whatsoever, as stated by the Colonel. It shows a white background which, I regret, I am unable to understand what it could possibly signify. If this photograph has been relied upon by my colleagues in coming to their findings, I would humbly state that it is anything but a coffin, which would be long and rectangular in shape.

In the fourth photograph, (App. T), there is no coffin either and if the person shown sitting on the chair, be said to be Col. Rahman, I would not protest against it, as I have not been able to recognise him. In my opinion again, this photograph does not and cannot support the findings of my colleagues.

If these be the sole photographic records to prove the story of the plane crash or of Netaji's death, I am definitely of opinion that not only has there been a miserable failure, but it goes much further and proves that both the plane crash and Netaji's death are false. The Japanese are alleged to have made over all these four photographs to Col. Rahman. If the plane did crash, as stated by the witnesses, though in a highly discrepant and contradictory manner, the two photographs, (App. Q & R) should have shown something that would tally with the statements of the witnesses and not something totally different. If Netaji had received injuries and burns, as a result of that plane crash and had been treated in a hospital and he had actually died there and if his dead body had been cremated, the Japanese Government, for warding off any calumny or treachery, that may have been suggested against them, if not for anything else, would have decidedly taken pains to maintain correct and detailed photographic records of the true incident for the satisfaction of the Indian people, for the Japanese nation and for the world at large and would have thereby prevented any indignity or slander to themselves or to their Government with regard to the gruesome tragedy, alleged to have befallen a great Indian Leader and Revolutionary. An International Figure and their Most Esteemed Friend and Ally, while under their care and companionship and as Mr. M. Shigemitsu, the Foreign Minister of Japan, was pleased to remark during our first interview with him in early May last, soon after our arrival in Tokyo, as the "Greatest Asiatic Hero of The Age" I am definitely of opinion that no better photographs than these four could be available to the Japanese Government, as a plane crashing with Netaji in it, as Netaji with injuries and burns near a crashed plane, as Netaji being treated in a hospital for those injuries and burns, as a dead Netaji in a hospital, as the dead body of Netaji being placed in a coffin and as the dead body of Netaji being cremated and being put inside a furnace of a crematorium were not available to the Japanese Government for being photographed and therefore, it was not possible for them to obtain these photographs. If, on the other hand, it was possible for them to get such an opportunity, they would decidedly have taken, preserved and proclaimed the same, in support of the truth of Netaji's death, if it had actually taken place. In the absence of any such photograph or any reliable evidence, my firm conviction is that the aircraft accident did not take place and therefore, Netaji did not die, as alleged.

Col. Rahman's conduct and antecedents

As has been stated earlier, my colleagues appear to have accepted the opinion of Shri Sastri and the deposition of Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto) that the plane, soon after taking off, attained a maximum height of about 40 metres and immediately hit the ground near about the runway and without any damage to itself, came back to its normal position, or in other words, "Belly-Landed". They consequently disbelieved the story of the other witnesses and also the version of Col. Rahman, viz., that after being 5 or 6 minutes in the air, and after the plane had attained a height of more than 1,000 feet and while it was still gaining height, he heard a deafening noise, as if a cannon shell from an enemy plane had hit the starboard side of their plane, when it started wobbling, then nose dived and crashed on plain open land at a distance of 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield. As I have not been given the report of my colleagues, I am not in a position to know the reasons given by them for disbelieving the Colonel or whether they have stated the reasons or the circumstances, which compelled the Colonel to make such statements. In any case, they have challenged his veracity, or in plain language, branded him as a liar, obviously, without offering any explanation for the same.

In my humble opinion, the statements made by the Colonel, whatever they are, are in accordance with the instructions, which, I am convinced, he had secretly received from and with the sole intention of protecting his "Beloved Leader" in his escape to a safe zone, which was beyond the reach of the victorious Anglo-Americans and the Colonel had, therefore, amply justified the confidence and trust his leader had placed in him.

Col. Rahman was selected by Netaji from the last six of his trusted and loyal followers, whom he desired to take with him to Russia via Manchuria for helping him in his work there for the independence of India. In a way, he was Netaji's first choice from the whole of his administration, both civil and military. It, therefore, naturally follows that Netaji considered him to be his ' most reliable follower, in whom he could repose his trust, confidence and secrets, who would not disclose them under all trials and tribulations, who would implicitly obey all his commands and instructions and who would ever remain loyal to him.

His family connections are exceedingly good. He belongs to an aristocratic family; his father was Raja Mansur Ahmed Khan. They belong to the famous military clan of Chib Rajputs and from his great grandfather downwards have loyally served in the British Indian Army, with whom he was in the last Burma Campaign. When they surrendered to the Japanese there in early 1942, his rank was that of a Captain. He duly joined the I. N. A. and his first appointment in it was Commandant, Officers' Training School, which gives an idea of his worth. His work appears to have been appreciated by Netaji, who made him Deputy Chief of Staff in early 1944 and which post he held till 15.8.45, when Netaji brought him away to accompany him to an "Unknown Destination". He was always in close touch with Netaji and had accompanied him in his visits to Tokyo and to other places. In the British and American Intelligence Reports, it appears that he was praised for his bravery, resourcefulness and loyalty as a British Indian Army Officer. It also transpires from these reports, that he was interrogated several times by different enquiring officers, soon after Netaji's failure in his military campaign against the Anglo-Americans, as he was expected to give the maximum information regarding Netaji, being the only Indian to have accompanied him the farthest, and as they were not getting the requisite information they had expected of him and which they believed he knew. The main trend of their enquiry was to get some clue regarding Netaji's whereabouts, as their reports show that they were not convinced that Netaji had died, as had been announced by the Japanese and that they believed that it was a hoax and that Netaji was living and hiding somewhere. Eventually, they were compelled to confess, that this officer, due to his attachment to his leader, had not disclosed truthfully all that he knew, that he had intentionally withheld certain facts, he was in a position to know and that he had intentionally made certain statements, which appeared to them not to be correct. I am, therefore, convinced that Col. Habibur Rahman would state only what he was ordered by Netaji to state and that he could not under any circumstances state anything, that would go against the interest of his beloved and respected leader, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

After the crash and to the hospital

A careful consideration of the evidence on record, from the very beginning up to the crashing of the plane, has resulted in the definite conclusion that the Aircraft Accident did not take place.

It is now to be seen what conclusion could be arrived at from an examination of the remaining evidence that has been adduced and it would commence with what took place immediately after the crash. I have already held that as there were no seats in the plane and as all the passengers had squatted on the floor, all of them together with the baggage would have been hurled headlong into the cockpit or against any other obstruction in the front portion of the plane, during the period when the plane was nose-diving and decidedly, after the sudden impact due to the plane crashing on the ground with disastrous consequences also to the inmates themselves. However, Col. Rahman, remains slightly injured to continue his story that even after the crash, all of them were still pinned up to their seats on the floor and the baggage also remained midway in the plane to jam the only door and exit of the plane, where there was no fire, and so he advised Netaji to get out of the plane through the fire in front, as the tail and wings, all being attached to the plane, left no opening in the rear. Netaji, accordingly, got out of the plane through a split that had been caused in the front and through fire and he also did so in a similar manner. On getting out of the plane, he saw Netaji standing about ten yards ahead of him with his clothes on fire and he experienced great difficulty in unfastening Netaji's bush shirt belt, as he was not wearing a woollen sweater, but, as his trousers were not so much on fire, it was not necessary to take them off. He laid Netaji on the ground, when he noticed a very deep cut on Netaji's head, about 4" long, bleeding profusely and whose face was scorched by heat and whose hair had also caught fire and was singed. Netaji then told him that he would not survive and so gave the Colonel a message for his countrymen. This version has not only not been corroborated by the other witnesses, but they have also given new stories, also different from each other. Considering the nature of injuries received by Netaji, barring the deep profusely-bleeding cut on his head, which has not been stated by the other witnesses or,' surprisingly so, also not by the 2 Doctors, who allege to have taken all possible measures for no less than 6 hours to save his life, the nature of his injuries would reduce themselves only to burns, the nature of which, as stated by the Colonel, could not surely bring about death and that within the space of about 6 hours. He then lay down by Netaji's side and after 15 or 20 minutes, an ambulance and a lorry arrived with a few Japanese nurses. Both of them were then laid on the floor of the lorry and were the first to be rushed to the nearest Air-force Emergency Hospital.

Capt. Arai has stated that after the plane crashed, he was tossed out of the plane and became almost senseless. Soon after, he saw Lt. Col. T. Sakai running round the wrecked plane, shouting "Shidei! Shidei!" He was the first to be taken to the Hospital in a motor vehicle.

Major Takahashi also stated to have lost consciousness after the plane had crashed, but, after regaining the same, he found himself lying on the ground near the plane and as he was injured in his ankle, he could not walk and so crawled up to Col. Nonogaki, where he was told that both Netaji and Gen. Shidei were still in the plane. After some time, he saw Netaji get out from the left front portion of the plane with his clothes on fire and trying to take off his coat, when he went up and caught hold Netaji's legs with a request to lie down and roll on the ground, in which manner they put out the fire on his clothes, which remained on him, as only patches of the clothes on the upper part of his body were burnt and as his trousers were slightly burnt. A military truck came and carried away Mr. Bose. He was the last to be taken from the place of accident to the Hospital in a lorry. As the plane had crashed on its nose, Gen. Shidei and all the members of the crew were killed inside the plane.

Col. Nonogaki stated that he was thrown out of the plane and he took cover behind a pile of stones and sand, against which the damaged plane came to a halt. He first saw Netaji standing near the left wing of the plane, with his clothes on fire and Col. Rahman taking off Netaji's coat, but who was finding difficulty in taking off Netaji's woollen sweater, which, as stated by the Colonel and other witnesses, Netaji did not wear. Netaji was stripped of all his clothes in the aerodrome and when he saw Netaji arrived at the Hospital, he was absolutely naked and had nothing on him. The Colonel then went to a car waiting there, where he saw Major Kono and both of them were the first to be taken to the Hospital in it. He saw other lorries and cars arrive at the scene of accident in quick succession. After both of them had arrived at the hospital, he saw Netaji arrive there in a peculiar vehicle known as "Shidosha", which, is used for starting the aeroplane propeller.

Major Kono has narrated a new story, viz., that, after the plane crashed, he broke open the plastic cover on the top of the plane and escaped through it and that the tail had broken off from the plane. Petrol splashed on him, when he was getting out of the plane and as his clothes caught fire, he rolled on the ground and put it out. After a few minutes, he saw Mr. Bose standing erect and completely naked near the plane. He was about 30 metres from the plane, when Col. Nonogaki asked him to get away from the plane as far as he could, as the ammunition in the plane might explode. He then saw 4 or 5 lorries, 1 or 2 cars and a "Shidosha" arrive and stated" that some of the aerodrome staff lifted him up bodily into the "Shidosha" and took him away to the Hospital.

In his written statement, Lt. Col. T. Sakai has been very brief, viz., that "A rescue group from the Airfield carried us in a truck to the Army Hospital". Even this short statement is different from those made by the other witnesses. The Ground Engineer, Capt. Nakamura, who had certified that the plane was quite alright and who had allowed it to take off, was standing close by. According to him, the plane crashed, immediately after taking off. He at once jumped on to the "Shidosha", waiting near him and rushed to the place of crash and was followed by 30 of his men, who were also there. They could not go near the plane, as ammunition inside it was going off. He is definite that the whole of the plane was intact and that no part of it was broken and as the front portion of the plane was on fire, they rescued the passengers through a normal door of the plane, which he showed as A in his Sketch II (App. X) and all his men were concentrated in front of that door. Mr Bose was the last person to come out and he did so by walking out of the plane. The Engineer continued that when Mr. Bose was a few yards off from the plane, Col. Rahman shouted "Bose Kakka", (meaning Excellency) "Bose Kakka", and he then saw that Mr. Bose was within the reach of the flames and as his clothes had been splashed with petrol, they caught fire. Mr. Bose then lay on the ground, where the Engineer and 3 of his men took off his coat and stripped him of all his clothing. He then had a blanket brought from a sentry doing duty there and wrapping up Mr. Bose, had all the injured persons, including Mr. Bose and Col Rahman, sent to the Hospital in one Army Truck, but as Mr. Bose was severely burnt, he was not laid on the floor of the truck, but he lay stretched out on the thighs of three of his men, who squatted on the floor of the truck. He also stated that Mr. Bose was not bleeding from any part of his body, but as he was very severely burnt, the skin was falling out, but the hair on his head was not burnt, as he had his cap on. As regards the "Shidosha", he is definite that it was not taken to the Hospital and it must have been taken by one of his men to the depot. He is also definite that only 5 injured persons, viz., Mr. Bose, Col. Rahman, Lt. Col. Nonogaki, Lt. Col. Sakai and Sergeant Okhita were taken to the Hospital in the same truck. This is a nice, detailed story, making interesting reading, containing a few improbabilities and absolutely different from the stories narrated by all the other witnesses.