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>>

Personal opinions, public forums

 

The major news sites were screaming on 24th January – Netaji died in Taihoku and there is no need for further research – a definitive statement in an authoritative tone (Netaji died in Taihoku, no need for more research: Italy envoy: The Hindu, No point researching Bose death: Envoy: Times of India, Netaji Died in Taihoku, No Need for Research: Outlook). The PTI story was picked up well. After all, a foreign diplomat was speaking on a very sensitive national issue.

We were curious at the beginning – some new discovery must have been made for any person to make such an authoritative claim! We were eager to know and therefore scanned through all the news reports. We were amused by the end of it, to put it gently.

These were the words of Italy's Ambassador in India Alessandro Quaroni, whose father Pietro Quaroni was the key person in helping Netaji reach the Axis powers in the name of Orlando Mazzotta.

The reports quoted him saying that an Australian historian had conducted 'the most extensive research' in establishing the exact circumstances of Netaji's death. Very strangely, none of the reports had any concrete reference to the historian, or his work, or his findings. Just an oblique reference.

"But I don't know if there is any Japanese report. After all, there is a possibility of a plane crash. At that time Taiwan, where the crash occurred, was under Japanese dominion. So if there is any written proof or record of the circumstances, that should be in the Japanese records," Quaroni was quoted in the reports. We think Mr Quaroni would have done well to consult his hosts before saying this. The Netaji Research Bureau has been parroting the line that the documents were all destroyed since Taihoku was in a turmoil.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at all. After all Mr Quaroni was speaking at the Netaji Research Bureau, known for its opaqueness to public scrutiny, occasional attempts to mislead public opinion and posturing as heirs of Netaji. The tale of how all the biggies of NRB shunned deposing at the Mukherjee Commission and later took up their pens to denounce it is well known. We exposed their game of doublespeak at that time (see http://www.missionnetaji.org/article/do-not-lecture-now-professor-1).

This entire episode has angered Mr V P Saini, Convenor of Netaji Subhas Kranti Manch, so much that he has shot off a letter to the Italian Prime Minister, marking a copy to Dr Manmohan Singh. (A copy of the letter is available at http://www.missionnetaji.org/news/reaction-italian-ambassadors-statement-netajis-death).

We, and the public at large, no more take these kind of definitive public utterances seriously. They are personal opinions and an individual is entitled to his opinion. To be fair to Mr Quaroni, he said it in as many words that what he said is his personal opinion. The problem only occurs when personal opinion is masqueraded in public forums as knowledge, and important pieces of information are concealed. What we did not come across in these reports is what Mr Quaroni’s father told Louis Fischer in November 1946, sitting in a hotel in Moscow. Mr Pietro Quaroni believed Bose had escaped spreading rumours and probably he could be in China. This is exactly what Sarat Chandra Bose published as a front page news in his newspaper, The Nation, three years later.