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)

It has come to my knowledge from reports published, that my colleagues have held that those ashes are those of Netaji and they have recommended that they be brought to India with due pomp and ceremony, so that suitable memorials may be held throughout the country over the same. I would assert in the strongest terms that I am firmly convinced that the evidence on record would lead to the only conclusion that the Aircraft Accident and the incidents subsequent to that, as stated above, did not take place and that the evidence adduced thereon is concocted and false and I am confident that any person without any bias or prejudice will also come to the same conclusion. I would, accordingly, state that there is no justification whatsoever for holding that those ashes are of Netaji and, therefore, our Government should refrain from taking any step that would help in bringing those ashes to India, as Netaji's ashes. I would humbly suggest that if our Government is so very eager to spend money for erecting memorials in Netaji's name throughout the country, they could do so in various ways, including constructive ones, that would materially help our poor and deserving countrymen. I am constrained to say that it is shameful on the part of a Government to commemorate Netaji's name now, by spending money over what they believe to be his ashes, when up till now, they have given him practically no recognition, even in ways, that would not have cost them even a copper.

Col. Rahman's statements, Dated 24.8.45 to Shri J Murti

Before concluding this report, it would be necessary to refer to certain points, which are fairly important, but, at the same time, rather interesting.

Some of the statements made by Col. Habibur Rahman to different persons, at different places and at different times, after being considered first, may then be compared with his statements before the Committee. Excerpts from the statements made by him at Taihoku on 24.8.45 and which he left with Shri Jaya Murti, witness No. (36,) at Tokyo are, as follows:

"— At 14.35 hrs. the plane took off. It had not yet gained much height and was within the outskirts of the airfield, when a loud report like that of an explosion was heard from the front. In actual fact, one of the propellers of the aeroplane had broken. Immediately, the plane crashed on the ground and it caught fire both in the front and in the rear. At the time of the accident Netaji's position in the aeroplane was as follows — On his immediate right was the petrol tank — Netaji got out of the plane from the left side from the front — As soon as I got out I saw that Netaji's clothes were on fire, from head to foot — he had sustained severe burns on his body in addition to serious head injuries — within 15 minutes we were rushed to the nearest Nippon Army Hospital — but he unfortunately expired at 21.00 hrs. (T. T.) — prior to his death he was in his senses — prior to his death he asked me to convey a message from him to our countrymen to the following effect: 'I have fought to the last for India's Independence and now am giving my life in the same attempt. Countrymen! continue the Independence fight. Before long, India will be free. Long live Azad Hind.' — the body was cremated on 22.8.45 at Taihoku. Taihoku, Taiwan, 24.8.45 Sd. Habibur Rahman, Colonel."

Then, in the evening of 8.9.45, at the house of Mrs. A. M. Sahay in Tokyo, Col. Rahman narrated to Mrs. Sahay and Shri S. A. Iyer, a story, which has been recorded at pages 112 to 114 of Shri Iyer's book "Unto him a witness," excerpts of which, are : "It was 2.35 P.M. when the plane took off. We had just cleared the runway and gained two or three hundred feet. We were on the outskirts of the aerodrome. We had been up in the air only a minute or two. Then a sudden deafening noise...Actually there was no enemy plane about. I learnt later that one of the propellers of the port Engine had broken. The port Engine is out of action...We are losing height pretty fast...And in less than a few seconds the plane crashed on its nose and then everything went dark for a while. When I recovered consciousness after a few seconds, I realised that all the luggage had crashed on top of me and a fire had started in front of me. Netaji was injured in the head, but he had struggled to his feet and was get out of the plane through the rear ....So I said to him 'Aagese nikliya Netaji' (Please get out through the front, Netaji)...With both his hands he fought his way through the fire. He got out and stood there about ten to fifteen feet away anxiously looking out for me...So he stood with his clothes burning and himself making desperate attempts to unbuckle the belt of his bush coat and round his waist. I dashed up to him and tried to help him remove the heart nearly stopped when I saw his face, battered by iron and burnt by fire. A few minutes later, he collapsed and lay on the ground...I too was exhausted and went and lay down next to him. The next thing I knew was that I was lying on a hospital bed next to Netaji...Netaji lost consciousness almost immediately after reaching the hospital. He revived a little later and relapsed again into a state of coma. The Japanese made superhuman efforts to save Netaji. But it was all in vain. Six hours after he was brought into the hospital, i.e., at 9 P.M. on 18th August, Netaji's end came peacefully...A few moments before his end came, he said to me: 'Habib, my end is coming very soon, I have fought all my life for my country's freedom. Go and tell my countrymen to continue the fight for India's freedom. India will be free and before long'...The funeral service with full military honours was held in the Shrine attached to the hospital and the cremation took place on the 20th."

Other statements and excerpts from secret reports

Soon after the surrender of the Japanese on 15.8.45, and Netaji's departure from Saigon two days latter, the British Indian Government sent Police Officers, Shri H. K. Roy & Shri K. P. Dey, witnesses Nos. 14 & 15 respectively, and others to the Far East for arresting Netaji under the Enemy Agents' Ordinance. Having failed in their mission, they made thorough enquiries about his whereabouts and so did the British and American Military Intelligence Departments. Extracts from one of those reports, viz., by the Counter Intelligence Corps, G.H.Q. AFP AC on death of Subhas Chandra Bose, dated 29th September, 1945 (Tokyo) are:

"The following information concerning the circumstances of the death of Subhas Chandra Bose, Head of the Indian National Army, was obtained on 24th September, 1945, through interview of Habib-ur-Rahman, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Aide-de-Camp to Bose, at the Tokyo residence of Ram Murti...According to Rahman, the plane had not gained much altitude after the take-off from Taihoku, when he heard a terrific explosion and felt the plane vibrating violently...and the plane crashed at the end of airfield. Rahman stated that he was not rendered unconscious and noticed immediately after the crash that the interior of the plane broke into flames at the nose and tail. Due to the terrific crash the canopy overhead was broken and it was through this opening that those not too seriously injured or instantly killed escaped from the burning plane. He revealed that he had no knowledge of how Bose escaped or was removed from the plane. He stated that upon alighting from the plane he noticed his own coat afire. He removed it immediately and then saw Bose lying by the plane with his clothing afire...He added that the seat Bose occupied in the aircraft was beside a petrol tank...It was later determined that Bose received severe injuries about the head and neck in addition to his severe burns...According to Rahman, Bose recovered sufficiently to carry on a conversation and complained of pain in his head...Rahman declared, at approximately 21.00 hours, 18th August 1945, Bose died of the injuries received in the plane crash...On 20th August 1945, Bose was removed from the Hospital and his remains were placed in a box provided by the Japanese...Major (FNU) Nagatomo, a Japanese Staff Officer, informed Rahman on 21st August 1945 that the body be cremated, and Rahman, after careful consideration, agreed. On 22nd August 1945, the ashes were removed by Nakamura and Major Nagatomo.....According to Rahman, photos were taken at the scene of the crash and also at the hospital after the death of Bose. These photos are at present in possession of the Japanese War Office in Tokyo..."

It will thus be seen that the first statement was written by Col. Rahman at Taihoku on 24.8.45, i.e., only 6 days after the alleged plane crash, the second was what he personally told Shri S. A. Iyer on 8.9.45 at Tokyo, which was just at the end of the third week after that alleged incident and his third one is contained in the Top Secret Report dated 29.9.45 of the Combined British and American Intelligence Officers, as a result of the information they secured from the Colonel on 24-9-45 at Tokyo. On an examination of these three statements, it would appear there are some discrepancies in them and the impression he has given in them is that the plane was only a minute or two in the air and had not gained much altitude, after which it crashed within the airfield, whereas his statements before the Committee are that the plane reached an altitude of more than 1,000 feet, after being in the air for 5 or 6 minutes and it crashed at a distance of 1 or 2 miles from the boundaries of the airfield. Here, he is reported to have stated that he had no knowledge as to how Netaji escaped or was removed from the plane, whereas, elsewhere, he stated definitely that Netaji rushed out of the plane through fire and he immediately followed him also through the same fire. Here he introduced a new story that his coat was afire, but all other statements are that his uniform remained untarnished and he admitted having worn the same in that condition for several years after his return to India. As stated here, he saw Netaji lying on the ground with his clothes on fire, but all the other statements of his are that Netaji was standing, and after he succeeded in putting out the fire he made Netaji lie down on the ground. His sketch (App. I) clearly shows that the petrol tank was much below and away from Netaji's seat in the plane and not by his side, as he had stated here. The dates of the alleged cremation of Netaji as stated here and elsewhere are also different.

The information, contained in the Secret Headquarters, Main File 10 Misc I.N.A., 273, I.N.A. Subject: Subhas Chandra Bose, (Extracts bearing on his alleged death) Pages 1 to 40, is worth considering and it discloses quite a number of facts of varying interest. As it was a very thorough investigation, they started with Netaji's plan of going to Russia and ended with his ashes deposited in Tokyo. I quote below certain extracts from this report.

At Page 10 — Reference B2 dated 5-10-45, it is written: "Bose had been trying to persuade the Japanese to allow him to go to Manchuria since October, 44. When he told them that they had no chance of invading India through Burma, and that accordingly he would prepare to try another road to Delhi via Moscow. Reference should be made to Hikari's telegram at the time Bose arrived in Saigon. Isoda was also there and this fact may be significant that there was any plan on the part of Hikari Kikan to allow Bose to escape and to publish a false story regarding his death. This would have been the ideal place for Isoda to put into operation any such plan...If they are part of a colossal and well executed deception manoeuvre. This file of telegrams along with numerous other documents must have been purposely left for the British to find them. ‘Although at this stage one cannot rule out the possibility of Bose being still alive,’ this file of telegrams contains four and the most important one, which gives an idea of the plan 'to allow Bose to escape and to publish a false story regarding his death' is as follows:

"2. To O. C. Kikan, From Chief of Staff Southern Army, Staff II Signal 66, 20th Aug. 'Top Secret' — T, while on his way to the Capital, as a result of an accident to this aircraft at Taihoku at 14.00 hours on the 18th, was seriously injured, and died at midnight on the same date. His body has been flown to Tokyo by the Formosan Army." It should be stated here that Netaji was referred to as 'T' in all their secret communications regarding him. As it is difficult to challenge the correctness of the statements, made in this telegram sent by such a high-ranking military officer, regarding such an important person and about his alleged death, viz., that the death took place at midnight and the dead body was flown to Tokyo, it cannot be understood why the evidence adduced before the Committee is in general that death took place at about 9 P.M. and the body was cremated at Taihoku after 2 or 3 days. As regards the statements made by Col. Rahman at different places, this report has said at Page 5, No. C-5, Intelligence Bureau, New Delhi, 19-5-46 that "Habib-ur-Rahman's report is unsatisfactory. The multitude of discrepancies in accounts of the actual air crash, as given first to CIC" (Combined Intelligence Corps, which I have referred to above) "in Tokyo and later to CSDIC is being taken up. You will understand our pressing anxiety to get the truth of whether Bose is actually and permanently dead. Government wants to know where they stand in the matter in view of the sayings by Gandhi and others in India that he is still alive. Our examination so far only permits us to say unless there was a very cleverly contrived and executed deception plot, involving a very few of the highest Japanese Officials, Bose is almost certainly dead."

Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose and Shri Arabindo Bose have stated before us that, though they helped Netaji in leaving Calcutta secretly on 16-1-41, they declared his departure on 26-1-41, after they received information that he had crossed the Indian frontier and had entered Afghanisthan and this was in accordance with the instructions Netaji had left with them. They also stated that the Japanese Government had also done the same and which is borne out by the entries at Page 8 noted below:

"Extract from Allied Land Forces S.E.A., No. 57 for week ending 2 November 1945. The first news of the alleged death of Bose was contained in a Domei message from Tokyo dated 23 August 1945. It is stated that he was treated in a hospital in Japan where he succumbed to injuries at midnight on 18-19 August." The death is alleged to have taken place on 18-8-45, and so the reason for the delay in the announcement of the same, may agree with that given by the two witnesses named above, but it cannot be explained, as to why the announcement was to the effect that he was treated in a hospital in Japan and that he died there and not at Taihoku, as has been stated before as by all the witnesses, except by the explanation that the question of death is false.

At Page 30, it has been written as follows: "Extract from Top Secret letter No. SLO/CS/1 dated 1-3-46 from C.I.C.B., to A.D. (J)


"My dear Wright,

There are major discrepancies regarding the disposal of the body.

Isoda and the captured signal state that he died at midnight in Taihoku hospital and that his body was flown to Tokyo by the Formosan Army. Domei, on the other hand, states that he died in Japan, while Habib-ur-Rahman states that he was cremated and buried in Taihoku. The discrepancy here is great and appears suspicious. In addition, if it is a deception plan it is one which has been extremely carefully and ingeniously organised...In conclusion it can be said definitely that Bose left Saigon and probably that there was a plane crash at the take-off at Taihoku. It is possible that Bose escaped from the crash unhurt and either hid in Formosa on his own initiative or was hidden by local authorities who took an ad hoc decision...

I can think of no other channel which would be worth while exploring."