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)

I.a. Circumstances

It has been discussed, considered and held under the heading, "NETAJI'S PLAN", recorded above, that due to the surrender of the Japanese nation and consequently that of the Indian National Army, formed and organised by Netaji in the Far East, that a plan was agreed upon both by the Japanese as well as by Netaji, that the Japanese would move Netaji to a safe zone, viz., Manchuria, where the Anglo-Americans would no longer be able to arrest him, with the ultimate object of entering Russian territory, where he would continue his struggle for the liberation of India and in pursuance of that plan, Netaji left Bangkok on the morning of 17-8-45 and Saigon the same afternoon with Manchuria, as his destination under the auspices of the Japanese. With regard to this plan and up to Netaji's departure by a Japanese plane from Saigon on 17-8-45, I believe, there has been more or less unanimity of opinion among all the three members of the Committee. It is, unfortunately, not possible for me to make a definite statement on this matter, as in spite of repeated requests, I was not furnished with the complete draft report of my colleagues and all other important and relevant papers, exhibits, photographs etc., that are on the record and which I am legitimately entitled to be in possession of, for purposes of writing this dissentient report.

All of Netaji's associates in the Far East, who have been examined before us, have stated about Netaji's plan of going to Manchuria, when he parted company from them in a plane from Saigon on 17-8-45 for an "unknown destination." Though Col. Habibur Rahman had admittedly more secret consultations with Netaji than the rest of his Indian brethren there and though he was the only Indian to proceed with him beyond Saigon, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Col. Rahman definitely knew that Netaji's destination was Dairen in Manchuria and he also knew more of Netaji's secrets than any of the others. The fact that Col. Rahman states that Netaji's destination was Tokyo with intention to return to Singapore soon and that he does not state Dairen or Manchuria or Russia, is enough to suggest, as stated by Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose and Shri Arabindu Bose, witnesses Nos. 22 & 24 respectively, that he did so intentionally, on the lines he was tutored by Netaji, and not to mention the names of these places, but Tokyo instead, so as to give a wrong scent about Netaji's whereabouts and also to save the Japanese Government from embarrassment and also to narrate the story of the plane crash etc., as was announced by the Japanese in consultation with Netaji and which he did to the best of his abilities. Both of them state that Col. Rahman must have been under strict oath of secrecy to Netaji not to divulge his plans or secrets. They are those nephews of Netaji and two out of his only five confidants, who helped him to get out of Calcutta secretly in January, 1941 and who were also instructed by him to make such statements, which he had tutored them to say and who were also under similar oaths of secrecy to him, regarding his escape from Calcutta.

Netaji started contacting the Russian Ambassador in Tokyo as early as 1944, because he was under the impression at that time that the Japanese would lose the war and he along with them and because he considered Russia to be a suitable country for carrying on his future struggle for the independence of India. With the gradual lapse of time, this took more definite shape. Shri A. M. Sahay, witness No. 30, and some others have stated that Netaji made attempts at contacting the Chinese Communists through Mr. Ho Chi Minh's party and also the Russians through Mr. M. Shigemitsu, the Foreign Minister of Japan and others. Shri Debnath Das, witness No. 2, also stated that one of Netaji's plans was to go to Yenan, the headquarters of Mr. Mao Tse Tung and that Netaji had asked Shri Iyer, witness No. 6, his Minister for Information & Broadcasting, in May, 1945 to write to Mr. Shigemitsu and enquire whether the Japanese Government would contact the Russians on his behalf and provide other facilities to him and to a few members of his staff for going to Russia. A reply to this was received from the Japanese Government in June, 1945. Shri Das further stated that on more than one occasion, Netaji requested General Isoda, witness No. 35, to continue letting him know the position of the Japanese in Manchuria and North China. Witness No. 5, Col. Pritam Singh, deposed that Netaji had told him that he (Netaji) had contacted the Russians through Mr. Shigemitsu and he wished that he and some of his party should move to Russian territory and operate from there and he also said that the ideology of the Russians was so different from that of the Anglo-Americans, that sooner or later and in about ten years' time, they would come to a clash, when it would be an opportune moment for them to go into action again for the independence of India.

All these would go a long way to show and prove that Netaji's plan of going to Russia via Manchuria, after his failure in his armed struggle against the Anglo-Americans in South East Asia, was not a cursory suggestion, but was a carefully-thought-of well-matured plan, which, as a matter of fact, was the only alternative left to him, as he did not want to surrender himself to the Anglo-Americans and thereby be instrumental in not only finishing himself, but also bringing to an end, his only cherished goal in life, viz., the independence of his mother country. He was naturally very sincere in having his plan executed. It is also proved that though the Japanese Government were in utter distress and confusion, due to their surrender to the Anglo-Americans, they were magnanimous enough "in respecting Mr. Chandra Bose's last wishes" and were also, with all sincerity, giving effect to the same plan, by taking him in a plane to Manchuria and had deputed one of their topmost and renowned generals, who knew that territory well and who, according to Mr. T. Negishi, witness No. 20, was considered to be a key man for negotiations with Russia, with instructions to remain with him there and to help him in crossing over into the adjoining Russian territory. The Japanese Government were keen for the quick execution of their plan and their instructions were, that the plane should make a detour to Dairen in Manchuria, and after dropping only Netaji and General Shidei there, the plane would then come back to Japan and alight the remaining passengers there. The keenness and sincerity on the part of both the Japanese as well as Netaji for the proper and prompt execution of the plan, naturally gives additional importance to it and as the main idea underlying it, was to remove Netaji to a safe place, so that the Anglo-Americans would not be in a position to get hold of him, it would be a natural sequence for the Japanese to announce that Netaji had died, after they were sure that Netaji was safely lodged in a place that was not under the control of the Anglo-Americans. It will be of interest to mention here, that, according to the statements of Shri Dwijendra Nath Bose and Shri Arabindu Bose, witnesses Nos. 22 and 24 respectively, a similar announcement was made by them, when Netaji secretly left Calcutta in January, 1941 and it was made ten days after his actual departure from Calcutta and after information had been received that he had crossed the Indian frontier and was safe in Afghanistan and beyond the clutches of the British rulers of India.

From the evidence on record on this point and which is practically free from discrepancies, though the statements have been made by persons of different nationalities, it can, therefore, definitely be said that the aforesaid plan has been proved very convincingly and without the shadow of a doubt.

It has been stated earlier that both the British as well as the Americans had made thorough and on-the-spot enquiries under different auspices soon after the surrender of the Japanese and had also tried to arrest Netaji under the Enemy Agents' Ordinance and also as he was considered to be an "International War Criminal" and because they doubted the truth of the announcement made by the Japanese that Netaji had died in a plane crash accident and as they considered it to be a hoax and believed that he was alive and was hiding somewhere. Being the victorious party, they had all the facilities and opportunities of making thorough enquiries in all the areas, where they thought Netaji could possibly have been living or hiding.

In one of their reports, it transpires that Netaji wanted to shift a nucleus of his Government to Yunan Province in China and through the Communists there, to get into touch with Soviet Russia. Another report states that in July, 1945, Netaji sought permission to enter U.S.S.R. via Manchuria, with a few selected members of his movement, but the same source contends that there was no need for the Japanese to ask the Russians for Netaji's entry, because he Abid Hasan, all six of whom, he intended taking with him to Russia via Manchuria for continuing his activities for the liberation of India.

At Saigon

The party reached Saigon in the forenoon and here difficulty was experienced by Netaji in securing accommodation for all of his six associates for their forward flight to Manchuria, where the Japanese had agreed to take him.

The conduct of the Japanese authorities, who had decided to "respect Netaji's last wishes" in offering only one seat for Netaji alone, though his request for only six more for his trusted and loyal followers was decidedly a very meagre one, has been construed by some of the witnesses to have some serious significance and weight. It is well known and it is on record that the Japanese nation had not only a very high regard and admiration for Netaji, but their Government had recognised the Government he had formed there and had all along given him due honour and respect as the Head of a State, had presented him with an aeroplane, in which he always went about, flying the flag and insignia of his State, had handed over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to his Government, had supplied him with war materials and all other equipment to the best of their resources and had rendered him help and facilities in all possible ways. It is on record that though the Japanese had surrendered, they were ordered by their victors to ground their planes at about the end of that month or the early part of the next month, viz., September and that their planes were flying in the meantime. On 20-8-45, four of Netaji's associates, whom he was compelled for want of accommodation with him, to leave behind at Saigon, were flown to Hanoi and the fifth one, Shri Iyer, was flown to Tokyo along with other Japanese. A few days later, Dr. Ba Maw, the Prime Minister of Burma and a few others were also flown to Tokyo.

Shri Iyer has deposed that when he was informed by Staff Officer, Col. Tada, that Netaji's plane had crashed at Taihoku and that Netaji had died there, he told the Colonel bluntly that neither the Indians in East Asia nor those in India would be prepared to believe that story, unless positive proof was forthcoming and he, therefore, pressed the Colonel to see that the plane, in which he was offered a seat for going to Tokyo, took him to Taihoku, so that he could get a chance of seeing Netaji's body with his own eyes and be of some service to Col. Rahman in his precarious and helpless condition there. Though Col. Tada promised him that he would be taken to Taihoku, the plane did not land there, but did so at a nearby aerodrome at Taichu, for reasons best known to them. It has been proved by quite a number of witnesses that the usual route for planes from Saigon to Tokyo is via Taihoku and not Taichu. An additional suspicion arises here, because the usual route was not followed in this case and no explanation was given as to why it was not followed.

Col. Pritam Singh, witness No. 5, has clarified this well-founded suspicion into a believable story, when he deposed that, "At the Saigon aerodrome, I learnt that the Japanese were of the opinion that it would be difficult to conceal such a big party. The inference I drew from this was that the Japanese wished to take Netaji alone to some 'unknown destination'. But Netaji was of opinion that it was not for the purpose of going into hiding that he was going to some 'unknown destination'. His primary object in doing so was to continue the struggle for India's freedom, for which it was essential that he should be accompanied by a number of his officers. Netaji discussed all these points with the two Japanese Officers, General Isoda and Mr. Hachiya, who had accompanied us from Bangkok. After consultations with Netaji at the aerodrome, the two Japanese officers left by plane for the Headquarters of Field Marshal Count Terauchi at Dalat" — "to have consultations with the Field Marshal, who was the Supreme Commander of the Japanese Forces in South-East Asia." Later on, he states, "On arrival at Netaji's bungalow, I saw 'General Isoda and Mr. Hachiya seated in one corner." — "Netaji told us that the Japanese had informed him that they would like to take him away alone." As these statements have not been challenged in any way, they must be accepted as correct and as such, it explains, why, instead of a separate plane for Netaji and his six followers, which would ordinarily have been expected from the Japanese, who expressed, as an only solace "to respect Netaji's last wishes," five of them were not accommodated in the plane, in which Netaji and Col. Rahman were taken.

It is, therefore, evident that though Netaji explained to those two high-ranking Japanese officers, his reasons for taking six of his associates with him to Manchuria, the Japanese authorities there, on the other hand, whose intention was to remove Netaji secretly, would, from their own standpoint, carry out the plan as secretly as possible and thereby not expose themselves unnecessarily to the wrath of the victorious Anglo-Americans. This would, therefore, readily explain why only one seat was offered by the Japanese and that out of regard for Netaji, only one more seat was subsequently made available on his further request and that probably with great reluctance. Netaji asked two more of his associates to carry their kit with them, so that they could also accompany him, in case he could persuade the Japanese at the aerodrome to provide him with two more seats. In view of the intention of the Japanese and the risk they were taking for removing Netaji to a safe zone, it would be agreed that they could not possibly accede to Netaji's further request for more seats.

As the consultations both at Saigon as well as at Dalat and as arrangements for seats for Netaji and his party, as stated above, naturally took some time, the plane could not take off from Saigon till late in the afternoon for the onward flight. After Netaji's treasure boxes had been deposited inside the plane, and which will be considered later, he took leave of his associates and his Japanese friends present there, and after embracing them, emplaned fo

As stated earlier under the heading, ‘THIS PLAN WHY PROVED?’, the total number of passengers in the plane, including the crew, as stated by some of the passengers alleged to have been in the plane, would be thirteen. Col. Rahman has shown twelve in the sketch drawn by him, a fair copy of which, reproduced by a draughtsman, is attached herewith, (App. I). Col. Nonogaki has stated it to be thirteen and has shown the same number in the sketch A drawn by him, a copy of which is attached/(App. J). Major Kono has given the number as fourteen, which is also shown in the sketch A, drawn by him, copy attached, (App. K). Capt. Arai has shown thirteen in his sketch, copy of which is attached, (App. L), and according to the statement of Major Takahashi, the number would be between twelve and fourteen. Lt. Col. T. Sakai, who is reported to have sent a written statement from Formosa, has made no mention of the number of inmates in that plane. The sketch, copy attached, (App. M), accompanying the report of the Japanese Government, shows the number to be twelve. Taking the view of the majority, the correct number could be accepted as thirteen.

As stated by these witnesses, the plane took off from Saigon aerodrome between 1.30 p.m. and 5.20 p.m. with this complement of passengers, including the crew and Netaji's five trusted followers, who could not accompany him, returned home with a heavy heart.

Those outside the plane had no idea as to where the inmates inside the plane were seated.