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)

Bias

In this connection, I consider, I will be failing in my duty, if I do not place on record certain facts, which, I regret to state, amount to serious allegations against the Chairman.

As this enquiry is of a semi-judicial nature, and which has been in a way expressed by the Prime Minister in his letter dated 14-4-56, in reply to a reference made by me to him in my letters dated 2-4-56 and 14-4-56, it is my humble opinion, that our position is somewhat akin to that of judicial officers. 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. With the intention of manipulating the evidence, so as to make it easy to lead to the finding that the plane crashed and that Netaji died, to which conclusion, Shri S. A. Iyer, witness No. 6, has arrived at in his book "Unto Him, A Witness", the Chairman, considering that to be an authoritative book, regarding the subject matter of this enquiry, put leading questions to some witnesses from relevant portions of that book and at times allowed a few of them to peruse the book during their examination. Whenever any witness made a statement that did not fit in with his opinion, he would make a suggestion to him as to whether he remembered it definitely, as the incident took place about eleven years ago or would put other questions or suggestions to him to confuse him and to make him modify his answer or change his definite statement to a vague one. Another unimaginable conduct of his was that when a statement made by a witness did not suit his purpose, he would modify it, while dictating it to the Stenographer. Objections were invariably raised by me and at times it was a daily occurrence.

The climax was reached on the 1st June, 1956 in Tokyo, when Mr. M. Miyoshi, named above, stated that Netaji's coffin was placed on one stool, which the Chairman deliberately dictated to the Stenographer as two, because two stools had been stated by other witnesses. When I raised my objections and demanded the Chairman to inform me whether the witness had stated one stool or two stools, he evaded a reply and eventually explained that as an eight feet long coffin, in his opinion, could not rest on one stool, he dictated two instead of one. As stated above, such conduct cannot be readily imagined. This sort of conduct on the part of the Chairman compelled me to make notes at times of the statements of the witnesses separately and to compare the same with the draft copy of the statements submitted by the Stenographer. I fully realise the seriousness of these allegations, but I assure my readers that there has not been the slightest deviation from truth.

When I have been compelled to go so far, I would like to note for the information of my readers, a much less damaging statement, but probably a more interesting one in some other respect. When on the 9th June, 1956, during our sitting in Calcutta, Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose, witness No. 22, started stating about Netaji's wrist watch, the Chairman stopped him from proceeding further, on the ground that this witness was not entitled to make any statement about Netaji's wrist watch as Shri S. M. Goswami, witness No. 16, had already made statements regarding that watch. As the witness was taken aback at the Chairman's objections and insisted on continuing with his deposition, our colleague, Shri S. N. Maitra, came to the Chairman's rescue and explained to him, as one would do to a child, by saying, that if a red shirt was hung up against a wall, a person could state that it was so, another could say it was green and not red, a third could come and say it was white and not red and so on, and so this witness should not be prevented from speaking about that wrist watch. This, I am certain, is something unique in the annals of all judicial proceedings and exhibits the Chairman's colossal ignorance in the matter of holding enquiries. There has not been the slightest deviation from truth in this matter either. This remark of mine and the similar one at the end of the last paragraph, I have been compelled to make, as these facts cannot be readily believed.

Another point, that should be considered, is our failure in visiting Taihoku. In my first interview with the Prime Minister on the 2nd April, 1956, along with the Chairman, I pressed this point and told him that I would not consider it to be a satisfactory enquiry, unless we visited that place, made a local inspection and examined the local people there. The Prime Minister was pleased to reply that it was not possible or necessary to do so, for the following main reasons, (1), because no diplomatic relations existed between the Formosan and our Governments, (2), because, in all probability, that aerodrome with its runway, buildings etc. no longer existed, (3), because, the Hospital, being a Japanese Military one, had probably been demolished, (4), because, the Hospital and the Aerodrome staff, being Japanese, were no longer there and, they, being at present somewhere in Japan, it would suffice, if we went and examined them there, i. e., in Japan. I pressed this point in vain with our Ambassadors at Bangkok and Tokyo. Before finishing our work in Tokyo, and on my query, the Chairman told me that our visit to Taihoku could not be arranged, but he was, however, trying to bring to Tokyo, the Formosan nurse, who was said to have attended on Netaji.

On the 13th July, 1956, during our sittings in New Delhi, I was taken aback, when the Chairman told me that the Japanese Foreign office had arranged for our visit to Taihoku. On asking him, whether our Ambassador in Japan stood in the way of our going there, he replied that it was not so, but that our Prime Minister did not approve of it. This omission on the part of the Committee to visit Taihoku in Formosa, was also stated by Shri Amiyanath Bose, when we visited their house on 9-6-56, for inspecting the rectangular wrist watch there, and it was to the effect that the Chairman had told him that the Japanese Government had arranged for our visit to Taihoku. He enquired of the Chair­man in our presence and hearing, as to the reasons why the Committee did not go there and avail themselves of the opportunity thus offered to us, and said, that it would be admitted on all hands, that a local enquiry would be exceed­ingly beneficial for a correct adjudication of the subject-matter of this enquiry, and an omission thereof would, on the other hand, leave a gap and void that could never be replaced. The Chairman gave no reply. It was for this and for the other statements of Shri Bose and which appeared in the newspapers on the following day, that I requested the Chairman to record the statements of Shri Bose as a witness, which he declined to do, as I have stated elsewhere. I fail to understand why our visit there, to which great importance is attached and which was evidently secured after great difficulty and opposition, was not allowed. If this be correct, it may naturally lead one to suspect that such a visit would probably reveal certain points, which would tend to change the whole aspect of the findings of my colleagues.

Enquiry by the Japanese government

In reply to a question put in the Parliament by Shri H. V. Kamath, on the 29th September, 1955, our Prime Minister was pleased to state, "In a matter of this kind, the only enquiry, that is to say, satisfactory enquiry, that can be made is by the Japanese Government. The matter is in Japan, the whole thing is there. We cannot impose ourselves or an Enquiry Committee on the Japanese Government. Of course, if they choose to enquire we will gladly co-operate and give such help as we can. But we cannot simply enquire into their territory and more specially also when all the possible witnesses are probably either Japanese Government officials or others connected with that Government"... "And as I said, the initiative must come from the Japanese Government in this matter. If it comes naturally we shall give them such help as we can".

These statements are also quite clear and definite. Though the incident is alleged to have taken place in August, 1945, no enquiry was made by the Japanese Government during the last eleven years nor has any initiative or suggestion come from that quarter up to the end of September, 1955. It is really puzzling to persons, who have little knowledge of international affairs, but are possessed with the usual amount of common sense to realise that an enquiry as to whether Netaji is dead or not, should be the duty of the Japanese Government and not of the Indian Government, but, in the course of the next few months, the common sense view was eventually accepted in preference to the other and our Government on its own initiative formed a Committee for making an enquiry, which, it had only recently said, was not at all necessary. It imposed this Committee on the Government of Japan by deputing it to hold its sittings in their territory and for examining their nationals there. As stated once before, a pressing necessity must have arisen for a sudden change in a long-standing plan and conviction.

Non-official committee vis-à-vis official committee

Another very interesting point in this connection is, that the Chairman announced in a meeting of the Netaji Smarak Samity (Memorial Committee) held in Calcutta on the 6th October, 1955, in which he was the President, that our Prime Minister was not in favour of setting up an Official Committee for purposes of this enquiry. So, it is not understood as to why an Official Committee was formed soon after by the self-same authority. I have gone into this matter in some details below. This change in decision was evidently also brought about by some pressing necessity.

One cannot help noticing that these are, after all, very curious and confusing statements and ever-changing decisions, viz,

The question of Netaji's death, being settled beyond doubt and there can be no enquiry about that, — was changed to, —- the only satisfactory enquiry that can be made, is by the Japanese Government. Therefore, the decision, — no enquiry, — gives place to an enquiry by the Japanese Government.

The decision, viz., no enquiry and enquiry by the Japanese Government, vanishes and an enquiry by the Indian Government takes place instead.

The opinion, viz., not in favour of setting up an Official Committee, — disappears, — and soon after, an Official Committee is actually formed and made to function.

The sudden change in these long-cherished ideas and plans is certainly significant and was evidently due to certain unforeseen circumstances, that suddenly cropped up immediately after our Prime Minister's categorical statements made in the Parliament on the 29th September, 1955, and which, apparently, resulted from the initiative taken in the meeting of the Netaji Memorial Committee, stated above, for the formation of a Non-official Committee, that would soon go abroad to ascertain definitely whether Netaji was dead or not. In the Resolution passed in that meeting, there was a request to me to associate myself with the Committee, as a representative of the family, and to guide its activities, and, accordingly, the President of that meeting, who happens to be the Chairman of this Committee, was authorised to meet me at Karmatar in Bihar, where I was living at that time, and to persuade me to join it, so that the Committee could go ahead with its work. The Chairman duly met me there on the 11th October, 1955, and, after handing over a copy of that Resolution, explained to me the whole position and persuaded me to associate myself with it as its leader and thereby help it in having an enquiry made, as a result of which, the Indian public would know definitely whether Netaji actually existed or not, as it was high time that they did know about it. He also told me that he would report the matter to Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, who, he said, was not in favour of an Official Committee, but of a Non-official one and he would request the Prime Minister to use his good offices and to issue necessary instructions to the departments concerned, so that this Non-official Committee could carry on its work smoothly both here and abroad. He told me further, that soon after contacting Shri Nehru, he would hold a bigger and more representative meeting in Calcutta of the admirers, followers and well-wishers of Netaji and in that meeting the remaining personnel of the Committee would be selected.  He opined that necessary funds for this Committee would be readily forthcoming from private sources. After a few hours' stay with me there, he left for Delhi and promised to inform me soon about all the developments that would take place there. There was no further news from him, not even about the result of his interview with the Prime Minister, nor did he hold his promised meeting in Calcutta. So, up to this period, it is clear, according to the Chairman's statements, that our Prime Minister had no intention of setting up an Official Committee, but, was, on the other hand, good enough to promise necessary help for the proper functioning of a Non-official one.

The danger of a Non-official Committee, coming into existence and functioning soon and which was expected to announce a finding that Netaji was not dead, as the sponsors of that Committee were generally of that view, set our administrators in Delhi a-thinking. This, coupled with the fact that the papers, left by the British rulers, as a result of their and the American's thorough on-the-spot enquiries, soon after the alleged incident and which are in the possession of our Government, did not reveal the truth of Netaji's death as convincing, apparently made our Prime Minister change his original plan and form this Official Committee, and also because the finding of the Non-official Committee, as anticipated, would not only be a challenge to his statements in the Parliament, but may also go to the extent of disproving those statements. This was evidently, too much for our high officials in Delhi to remain complacent and inactive any longer. They, therefore, quickly nipped the formation of a Non-official Committee in the bud and set up this three men Committee, with two of their own men as members.

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