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 draft report

On 10.7.56, Shri Maitra submitted a draft report, covering 42 typed sheets on points 2, 3 and 4 of my note and on 11.7.56 and 12.7.56, he produced pages 43 to 56 and pages 58 to 71 respectively. On 13.7.56, we started considering the draft report and we did so up to page 28, where all of us put our initials, showing that we had proceeded so far. While discussing this report, I told my colleagues that it contained only a few discrepancies in the statements made by witnesses, which Shri Maitra explained was due to lapse of time and because the witnesses were not tutored, which I said is the usual explanation given while writing judgments, but this could not be a satisfactory explanation for the innumerable discrepancies that existed in the evidence on almost all the major points, some of which, however, Shri Maitra had failed to mention in his report. I requested him to give due consideration to such defective nature of evidence and to reconsider whether such evidence would justify the findings he had arrived at.

On the following day, viz., on 14.7.56, we continued discussing the draft report, which, however, contained a larger number of discrepancies and contradictions on almost all the major points, to quote a few of which would be, the nature of injuries alleged to have been received by Netaji, the manner and the vehicle, in which he was said to have been taken to the hospital, the place and nature of his alleged treatment there, the time of his alleged death, a telegram dated 28.8.45 from the Chief of the Staff, Japanese Southern Army to the effect that Netaji's body had been flown to Tokyo and lastly, the complete failure at the attempt to prove that, at about the time Netaji is alleged to have died in the hospital. Col. Habibur Rahman, witness No. 4, deposed that the attending Medical Officer, Dr. T. Yoshimi, witness No. 48, handed over to him a rectangular wrist watch, said to have been worn by Netaji at the time of his alleged death and which finally came into the possession of the late Sarat Chandra Bose, one of Netaji's elder brothers. This Medical Officer has denied all knowledge of this alleged conduct of his, viz., that he had handed over the rectangular wrist watch to Col. Rahman. There has, moreover, been a complete failure in adducing even an iota of evidence that Netaji ever wore any rectangular wrist watch, nor has a single such photograph of Netaji been produced. Even though Shri Maitra apparently omitted in his draft report several discrepancies and contradictions and tried to explain and minimise only those referred to by him, he was completely non-plussed with the evidence adduced with regard to the watch and had no other alternative, but to observe pithily, "The point about the watch remains inconclusive." Another interesting point worthy of notice here is that Col. Rahman stated definitely that Netaji had a cut on his head, four inches long, which was bleeding. A straight denial regarding this injury comes from the Medical Officer, who is alleged to have attended on Netaji, but, who, however, makes detailed statements regarding the alleged injuries on Netaji, his treatment etc. Regarding this point, Shri Maitra has again made a very terse statement, viz., "This is a discrepancy." His resources, evidently, failed him to come forward with any explanation whatsoever. In another portion of his draft report, he has stated, "There is some discrepancy between the witnesses as to who travelled in which vehicle and who arrived first, but these are minor points and may be overlooked." I am constrained to say that "overlooking" is the third mode of reasoning adopted by my learned colleagues for not considering and judging the discrepancies in their legitimate aspect. At another place it is recorded, "There is some discrepancy between the witnesses as to who were in the same ward with Netaji." Our wise colleague, after discussing some of the evidence regarding this point, concluded, "After a lapse of years, it would be perhaps unwise to lay too much stress on such minor discrepancies." Regarding the blood transfusion, alleged to have been given to Netaji, his conclusion is, "There is no way of reconciling these different statements and they must remain as they are." This is a very clear and frank confession of sheer helplessness on his part.

These are only a few of the many instances in which my learned colleagues have, in my humble opinion, failed to explain the glaring discrepancies and contradictions and to give due weight and consideration with a just, impartial and unprejudiced mind for coming to a correct conclusion or finding, which such evidence would legitimately demand. I cannot but record a queer incident that took place, when I was a student in College about 42 years ago. A British Professor of ours, failing on our repeated requests to explain a mathematical problem, eventually said, "Anyhow it comes to this", and then wrote the final result. I am constrained to say that I have now had the opportunity of obtaining its parallel from my learned colleagues, viz., "anyhow" it comes to this, that the plane carrying Netaji crashed, he died, he was cremated and his ashes are now in Renkoji Temple in Tokyo.

I cannot but bring it to the notice of my countrymen that though the draft report of my learned colleagues contains only a few discrepancies, they, in my opinion, have thought it wise not to make a correct estimation of the whole of the evidence, which contains a "multitude of discrepancies" and to come to a legitimate conclusion for the following reasons so wisely suggested by them, viz., because, (1) the incident took place about eleven years ago, (2) the witnesses were not tutored, (3) the point about the watch remained inconclusive, (4) there was no way of reconciling the different statements regarding blood transfusion, alleged to have been given to Netaji, (5) the inability to explain the contradictory statements about a four inches long bleeding injury on Netaji's head and, lastly, as a trump card, they appealed to their magnanimous readers to use their good sense not to lay too much stress on such discrepancies and finally to "overlook" the same and to agree with their findings.

Under such circumstances, I believe, my readers will agree with me that I have some amount of justification in observing, as I have done above, that my colleagues have come to their findings on the sole basis and reasoning of "anyhow", that has suggested itself to me and that, evidence or no evidence, my loyal colleagues were determined to put down on paper such findings of theirs. After I take up the evidence on record and discuss and consider the same, I am almost certain that our Government and our countrymen will be pleased to agree with me that the findings and conclusions arrived at by my learned colleagues cannot at all be a correct and proper assessment of the evidence recorded and as such, they will also be pleased to agree with me, that with my colleagues, "anyhow" was the only weapon in their armoury, which they had to wield for arriving at their findings.

Though out of regard and pity, we did not pursue the matter further with our helpless Professor, I do hope and pray that our just and benign Government and our inquisitive countrymen, on whose initiative this enquiry has been made, will in due course be pleased to pursue the matter and to consider the evidence very carefully in an impartial and unprejudiced mind and draw their own conclusions therefrom.

From all that has been stated above, from the reports that have appeared in the newspapers from time to time, from the correspondence that has been exchanged between me and some of the high officials in Delhi, from my interviews and conversation over the telephone with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who has also taken the trouble of speaking to a few of my nearest relations, it is evident that it is the intention of my energetic colleagues to have those ashes brought very soon, for reasons best known to them and also to our Government, from the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo to India/as they say that the Japanese nation is belittling the Indian nation for not honouring the ashes of such a renowned Indian leader, who, however, they believe, was mostly instrumental in expediting the departure of the British rulers from India.

The dissent discussed

Returning to our consideration of the draft report, when we came to the portion at page 42, viz., "They all point to the fact that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose died at Taihoku Military Hospital on the night of the 18th August, 1945. The Committee accepts this-conclusion," I immediately and firmly told my colleagues that I regretted my inability to subscribe to this opinion of theirs. It is rather strange that the statements immediately preceding these are in a different and contradictory tone, though, however, with some sort of an explanation. They are "In fact, as will be seen, different witnesses, have given different stories, which would disprove any suggestion of 'Prompting'. So, notwithstanding discrepancies and variations, which are too likely after this lapse of many years, the statements of witnesses must be taken as worthy of credit." Thereupon, I suggested to my colleagues, that in view of such innumerable glaring discrepancies and contradictions and which, in some instances, Shri Maitra had admittedly failed to explain, whether they would not make up their minds to change their findings and to agree with me that such evidence would reasonably justify coming to the only conclusion that the plane crash did not take place and that Netaji did not die. It is left to my readers to form their own opinion as to how much justification there could possibly be for drawing such conclusions from such admittedly defective and flimsy evidence.

Chairman's advice for dissenting report

There was silence. I then requested the Chairman to let me know what my next move should be. He replied that I would have to write a separate dissenting report. I, accordingly, requested him to give me the remaining portion of their draft report and copies of all relevant papers, including exhibits, photographs etc., which Shri Maitra promised to do. As the day's work was over, we all left together with the understanding that we would meet on the morning of Monday next, the 16th instant as usual, which we did, as arranged, when the Chairman told me that I could no longer sit with them, when they continued further consideration of their draft report.

Harassment and departure from Delhi

I, therefore, requested him to put me in touch with the officer, whom he had on my request, referred to on the 13th instant for arranging accommodation for my stay in Delhi. I duly took leave of my colleagues and met Shri S. K. Roy, Deputy Secretary, External Affairs, accordingly. I may mention here that when Shri R. S. Chavan, Under Secretary, External Affairs, informed me in his letter dated 16.3.56, that the first sitting of our Committee would be held in Delhi on 29.3.56, he enquired of me at the same time about arranging accommodation for me in Delhi. As during the whole of my 48 days' stay in Delhi, I stayed with my daughter in her quarters, arrangement and consequent expenditure by the Government on that score was not necessary, but as on 12.7.56, she had to vacate her quarters suddenly, I had to shift from there at about 10.10 o'clock that night and a friend of mine was kind enough to come to my rescue and to give me shelter. On the morning of the following day, I requested the Chairman to have accommodation arranged for me and regarding which, he was good enough to take action. We were informed the next day, that rooms in Kotah House had been secured and all three of us went to inspect the same. We were, however, disappointed, as rooms in the hutment and not in the main building had been arranged. I objected to staying in the hutment and told the Chairman that I took this as an insult. I then requested him to arrange for rooms for me in the Imperial Hotel, to which I could legitimately lay claim, as apart from other considerations, I had lived at the Maidens Hotel on my own, only a few years ago, after having failed to get rooms in the Imperial. The Chairman said that nothing could be done that day, as it was about 1.45 P.M. and as it was a Saturday. I told him that the matter was a very urgent one, as I was inconveniencing both my generous friend as well as myself and as Government had maintained telephones in the residences of officers, it is expected that urgent work should be managed therefrom beyond office hours.

When we met on the morning of the 16th instant, I learnt from the Chairman that nothing had been done. I told him that this was the fourth day that we were experiencing inconvenience and so, more interest and quick action should be taken in this matter. After that, I met Shri S. K. Roy, stated above, and explained the whole situation to him. He was pleased to reserve rooms provisionally for me in the Imperial Hotel and said he would confirm the same before 1 P.M. and inform me accordingly. On my way back to my friend's room, I dropped in at the Imperial Hotel, where I received confirmation of the above fact. As there was no news from Shri Roy, I phoned him at about 2.45 P.M. He met me soon after and told me that he would meet me definitely before 4 P.M. and inform me that he had fixed up rooms for me. I told him distinctly that if he failed to do so by that time, I would be compelled to leave Delhi as I could no longer inconvenience my friend as well as myself and as there is a limit to our endurance. He did not turn up as promised, nor was there any news from him. When the driver of the External Affairs staff car came to enquire from me at what time he would have to come the next day for taking me to the Imperial Hotel, I enquired of him whether he had any message, written or verbal, from the External Affairs Department or from Shri S. K. Roy. He replied in the negative.

Under such circumstances and with such indifference and callousness on the part of officers concerned and without any assurance that accommodation would be arranged for me in the near future, as the Chairman had told me that I could no longer sit with them and as he had not told me that he had arranged any place, where I could sit separately for writing my dissentient report, I was left with no other alternative but to leave Delhi for Calcutta.