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)

The committee's itinerary and work

After the personnel of the Committee had been finalised, the Chairman and the Under Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs informed me in Calcutta that the first sitting of the Committee would be held in New Delhi on the 29th March, 1956. Both the Chairman and I duly attended, but Shri Maitra did not do so. He joined us on the 4th April, when the examination of witnesses, who had already been waiting, was commenced. During its sittings there up to the 14th April, ten witnesses were examined. Due to some private work of the Chairman, the Committee assembled in Calcutta on the 20th April and where, up to the 26th idem, thirteen gentlemen and one lady were examined, but three of them not completely.

The Committee left Calcutta the same night by air and reached Bangkok after about four hours' flight, where up to the 29th idem, four gentlemen were examined and the house, where Netaji stayed at times, was also visited.

Leaving Bangkok by air at about 11 o'clock the following morning, the party reached Saigon the same afternoon, where up to the 3rd May, two gentlemen were examined and during that period, Tourane, a small town in French Indo-China, was visited, as Netaji is alleged to have spent a night there on his flight from Saigon to Taihoku. There one gentleman was examined. At Saigon, the Committee went to see the house where Netaji stayed during his visits there, but they were informed that the house had been destroyed outright soon after Netaji had left that place on the 17th August, 1945 and that other houses had been built on that site and which were inspected.

The party then left Saigon by plane the next morning and reached Tokyo the same night, where up to the 5th June, thirty-one gentlemen and one lady were examined. On the 30th May, the Renkoji Temple, where the alleged ashes of Netaji were kept, was visited.

On the morning of the 6th June, the party left Tokyo by air, reaching Calcutta the same night. On the 8th and 9th idem, the unfinished examination of three gentlemen was concluded and one other gentleman was examined.

On the latter date, the party visited the house of the late Sarat Chandra Bose, where his son, Shri Amiyanath Bose produced two wrist watches, one rectangular and the other round, which he said had been made over to his deceased father by Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and Major Swamy of the I. N. A. respectively. According to Shri Bose, the rectangular one had been made over to Shri Nehru by Shri Bhullabhai Desai, who had received it from Col. Habibur Rahman, witness No. 4, through the Chairman of this Committee, with the report that it was worn by Netaji and recovered from him, before he expired at the hospital at Taihoku. Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose, witness No. 22, who was deposing about the wrist watch worn by Netaji, was allowed to be present there. Shri Amiyanath Bose produced two photographs of Netaji, wearing a round wrist watch. All the gentlemen present there, including the three members of the Committee, agreed that the round watches shown in both the photographs were one and the same watch and all of them, except the Chairman, also agreed that that round watch was not the same as the round one produced by Shri Amiyanath Bose.

I then requested the Chairman to have a note of inspection recorded, as a result of the inspection made by us there and, if necessary, with his sole dissenting opinion incorporated in it and also to have the statements of Shri Amiyanath Bose recorded, as our stenographer was also with us, but he declined to do so and when questioned, also declined to give his reasons for not doing so. Shri Amiyanath Bose, it appears, released a statement to the press, which appeared in the papers on the following day, expressing his surprise at the arbitrary conduct of the Chairman in deliberately declining to record facts, that should legitimately have been recorded.

Before leaving Calcutta on the night of the 9th June, the Chairman requested us to assemble at New Delhi on the 18th idem, as he had to go to his farm at Aithal. Both the Chairman and I duly met there oh the 18th, but Shri Maitra joined us on the following day. Up to the 27th June, three gentlemen were examined by us.

On the 30th June, along with Shri Kundan Singh, witness No. 65, we inspected in the National Museum, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the damaged materials said to have been recovered from the alleged plane crash site, as he was a personal orderly of Netaji and was expected to know about them. An Inspection Note (App. B) in this connection was subsequently written and signed by us.

The last gentleman to be examined was Shri A. M. N. Sastri, witness No. 67, an Aircraft Inspector, Accidents Investigation Branch, Civil Aviation Department, New Delhi on 27-6-56. It appears from his deposition, that excerpts of the statements of a few of the witnesses already examined, sketches drawn by them and photographs, totalling seventeen items, were sent to him on 22-6-56. All this was done without my knowledge and is again one of the several instances of hush-hush policy and other tactics for keeping me in the dark, adopted by my colleagues during the course of this enquiry.

The total number of persons, including two ladies, examined by the Committee is sixty-seven. A list of same (App. C) with details, showing dates and places of their examination, is attached herewith.

A written statement, said to have been obtained from one Lt. Col. T. Sakai, who is alleged to have been a passenger with Netaji in that plane and who is reported to be in Formosa now and who could not be made to appear before the Committee, was obtained and a copy of which was made over to me on 27-6-56.

This concluded the oral and written statements adduced before the Committee in the course of this enquiry.

Preparation for the report

On 23-6-56, I was taken by surprise, when the Chairman suddenly asked me to let him know what my findings were regarding the subject-matter of this enquiry. I replied that I had not formed any such opinion at that stage and it was too early for me to do so, and it would be possible for me to come to a decision, only after I had studied the evidence recorded, after I had tabulated the statements of witnesses regarding the different main issues and after I had carefully weighed the pros and cons of the same. He told me again that it was indispensably necessary for him to know what my findings were, otherwise it would not be possible for him to start writing the draft report. I failed to understand his view-point and after explaining myself, I told him that, in my opinion, what he meant would amount to putting the cart before the horse. When we met again on 25-6-56, the Chairman put me the same question and insisted on a definite reply from me. I again regretted my inability to do so, but told him that I could agree with him in toto or, partly or I could hold a wholly different opinion.

After examination of the last witness, Shri A. M. N. Sastri on 27-6-56, we assembled on 30-6-56 and started discussion as to how the draft report should be written. The Chairman started by saying that the three issues were, Netaji's death, his cremation and his ashes and that the last two would go a long way in proving the first one. On this, I suggested that, as the ashes are not identifiable articles, exceedingly stringent and unfailing proof is necessary from the time of formation of the same up to its present existence by way of containers, seals, guards, continuity of possession etc., otherwise it could not be held to be those of the individual, they are meant to be. I suggested that it would be essential to record the suggestions for the draft report, which should be started with Netaji's plan of going to Manchuria for continuing his activities for the independence of India in Russian territory and that the Japanese Government, agreeing to this plan, were taking him in a plane to Manchuria and had deputed Lt. Gen. Shidei, who knew that area well, to help him in crossing over into the adjoining Russian territory and that after Netaji had succeeded in doing so, the Japanese Government would announce that Netaji had died. Shri Maitra then added that Netaji had discussed this plan with his Cabinet Ministers also. I, accordingly, made a note of this point also. The next point suggested by me was to decide whether the plane actually crashed or not and I told them that if it was held that it did not crash, the recorded evidence on the subsequent events would be of not much importance. My colleagues did not agree with me and they said that it would not be proper to drop the matter so lightly at that stage, but to consider in details the whole of the evidence that was on record on all the remaining points. The discussion continued and I kept notes in my own way and which were exclusively for my personal requirements. The Chairman kept notes also, but Shri Maitra did not do so. In my notes, I recorded the suggestions of all the members, but did not consider it necessary to specify what the suggestions of each member were, as I knew what my suggestions were and so the remaining ones would be those of my colleagues. Our discussions continued and we finished all the main points, a complete record of which I made containing the suggestions made by all three of us.

Up till then, I was under the impression that the Chairman would write the report and that we would help him in doing so and so I recorded the suggestions of all of us, so that I could arrange the evidence for the report in the light of all these suggestions, which I had made a note of. The Chairman then suggested that Shri Maitra should write the report. I was a bit astonished, but agreed to it. The Chairman then enquired of Shri Maitra as to the date by which he would be able to submit his draft report, observing at the same time, that the report must be submitted to Government by 16-7-56. Shri Maitra said he could do so by 10-7-56, on which date, the Chairman said that we should assemble for considering the draft report and that we must finish the discussion, correction and finalisation by 13-7-56, so as to enable submission by 16-7-56, as the Parliament was coming into session and that the Prime Minister was returning home from abroad soon. After I had noted all these points, Shri Maitra asked me whether he could peruse my note, as he had not kept any. I agreed and handed 'it over to him. He then had typed copies made of the same and requested me to sign on them and both of them signed on my manuscript note. I did not object to any of these requests. I am constrained to say that my colleagues and some of the high officials, both in Delhi as well as in Calcutta, tried their utmost to obstruct, influence and coax me in signing the report of my colleagues and thereby make it a unanimous one, after it was decided by all three of us that I would have to write and submit a dissentient report. It is exceedingly strange and cannot easily be imagined that such high officials would stoop to such tactics for preventing the expression of an honest opinion and conviction by a member of a Committee.

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