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>>

Report of the Netaji Inquiry Committee (1956)

During his lifetime, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had captured the imagination of the Indian public by his daring exploits, such as his escape from India to Germany, his voyage to the Far East in the submarine, and his fight with the British in Burma, with his Indian National Army. The limelight was followed by a sudden black-out in August 1945. The information about the last stages of his life came out in bits and pieces, but not as a coherent whole. Naturally, the public desired that all the facts should be enquired into, and made known. This desire was voiced in Parliament from time to time. In response to this, the Prime Minister, on the 3rd December, 1955, announced in Parliament that an Official Committee would be appointed to go into the matter. Accordingly, the Government of India appointed a Committee as per Notification No. F. 30 (26) FEA/55, dated the 5th April 1956, consisting of the following:

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Last Plans of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
  3. Air Crash at Taihoku (Formosa)
  4. Death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
  5. Cremation of Netaji's Body
  6. Netaji's ashes
  7. Treasure
  8. Recommendation
  9. Annexures I and II

 

 

    • Shri Shah Nawaz Khan, MP. (Major General, I.N.A.), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Railway.
    • Shri Suresh Chandra Bose, elder brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
    • Shri S. N. Maitra, I.C.S., Chief Commissioner, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

 

Shri Maitra was a nominee of the Government of West Bengal.

The terms of reference of the Committee were:
"To enquire into and to report to the Government of India on the circumstances concerning the departure of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose from Bangkok about the 16th August 1945, his alleged death as a result of an aircraft accident, and subsequent developments connected therewith."

2. The Committee began its work early in April and finished its labour by the end of July. The principal line followed by the Committee was to examine as witnesses all persons in India and Far East who had useful information on the last phase of Netaji's activities. They also studied reports of secret enquiries concerning Netaji, conducted by Civil and Military Intelligence soon after the war. Over and above official documents, the members of the Committee also studied books and articles concerning Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In all, the Committee examined 67 witnesses. A complete list of witnesses will be found in Annexure I. Of these, 32 witnesses were examined at Tokyo (Japan), 4 at Bangkok (Thailand), and 3 at Saigon (Viet Nam), and the balance of 28 at Delhi and Calcutta (India). A number of persons who were known to have been associated with Netaji in the last stages, were requested to appear before the Committee — in India directly, and abroad with the help of Indian Missions and Foreign Offices of the Governments of those countries. In addition, press notes were issued asking people who had information to give, to make it available to the Committee. The response to the press notes was encouraging. It may be mentioned here that throughout the period of its work, a large number of news items appeared in Indian and Japanese papers concerning the Committee's work. This was a measure of interest people continued to take in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In India the Committee examined five of the six persons who accompanied Netaji on his last flight from Bangkok including Mr. S. A. Ayer, Mr. Debnath Das and Col. Habibur Rehman. Col. Rehman came all the way from Pakistan to appear before the Committee. The Committee also examined General J. K. Bhonsle, Chief of the General Staff of the I.N.A. The Commission examined not only those who had information to give, but those who had theories to propound. Everybody was given a chance. The first witness called by the Committee was Mr. M. Thevar, M.L.A. (Madras), who had made several statements that he had been in contact with Netaji recently. Unfortunately, Mr. Thevar refused to share his secret with the members of the Committee. The members of the Committee left India on the 26th of April, and the first halt was at Bangkok. Bangkok was one of the most important centres of the Indian Independence movement, and was the headquarters of Netaji's Government when he retreated from Burma. There the witnesses examined included Sardar Ishar Singh and Pandit Raghunath Sharma, who were leading members of the Indian Independence League in Netaji's time. Saigon was also one of the centres of the Movement, and Netaji's plane took off from there. At Saigon, the witnesses examined included Mr. Anand Mohan Sahay, Secretary-General to the Azad Hind Government, and now Indian Consul General, Hanoi. From Saigon, the members of the Committee flew out to have a look at Tourane on the Viet Nam coast, from where Netaji's plane took off on its fateful journey on the morning of the 18th August 1945.

3. The members of the Committee reached Tokyo (Japan) on the 5th of May and spent a month there. They found that Netaji's name was still a household word in Japan, and a great deal of interest was taken about him both by the public and the press. In addition to those witnesses who were called through the Japanese Foreign Office, a large number of Japanese witnesses volunteered and gave evidence, in response to newspaper notices. To mention one case, Mr. J. Nakamura, who was an Interpreter, and was present at Netaji's deathbed, although 70 years of age, came on his own all the way from Kyushu, about 1,200 kilometres from Tokyo. The members of the Committee were much struck by the interest displayed by the Japanese public in their enquiry, and by the patience and courtesy with which Japanese witnesses stood long examination through an interpreter. They came from different walks of life. There were ex-soldiers and ex-Generals, businessmen and truck-drivers. The Committee was fortunate in being able to examine four of the six Japanese survivors of the plane crash, as well as two doctors who attended Netaji during his last hours.

4. The members of the Committee were anxious to visit Formosa which was the actual scene of occurrence of the plane crash, Netaji's death, and his cremation. There were difficulties in doing so, as there were no diplomatic relations between the Government of India and the authorities in Formosa. A reference was made to the Government of India, who informed the Committee that they did not consider a visit to Formosa feasible. So the attempt had to be given up.

5. After examining the witnesses, the Committee was engaged in studying the evidence recorded by them, as well as obtaining and reading all the papers concerning the last phase of Netaji, much of which was in the form of secret Intelligence Reports recorded immediately after the war. Books dealing with Netaji or the I.N.A. were also studied. Thereafter, the members of the Committee discussed the whole matter among themselves, and a list of points which was agreed upon by all the three members, including Shri Suresh Chandra Bose, was drawn up on the 30th June 1956. This paper was signed by all the three members, a copy of which will be found in Annexure I. All the members agreed then that there had been an air crash at Taihoku in Formosa, in which Netaji met his death; that he was cremated there, and the ashes now lying at the Renkoji temple in Tokyo are in all probability his ashes. Since then, for reasons of his own, Shri Bose has taken a different view and has not signed the report

6. After going carefully through the evidence and relevant papers, the picture that emerged was like this:

In the last stages when Japan's defeat seemed inevitable, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was preparing to shift his struggle, from South-East Asia to Russia via Manchuria. He left Bangkok on the 16th, and Saigon on the 17th August 1945, in an aeroplane bound for Manchuria. That plane crashed in flames at Taihoku in Formosa on the 18th August. As a result of serious burns sustained, Netaji died in a Taihoku hospital on the same night. His body was cremated at Taihoku. His ashes were flown to Tokyo early in September and deposited at Renkoji temple. Netaji carried some treasure with him, details of which cannot ascertained. A small part of this treasure was salvaged, and subsequently recovered. To bring out the above picture, it was decided that the Report should deal with the following points:
(1) Last plans of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
(2) Air crash at Taihoku (Formosa)
(3) Death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
(4) Cremation of Netaji's body
(5) Netaji's ashes
(6) Treasure

 

Each point is dealt with in a self-contained chapter. The conclusions of the Chairman and the other member who has signed the Report are also given in each chapter. In a final chapter (7), a suggestion has been made that Netaji's ashes should be brought to India with due honour. The Report is in two parts:
Part A - Report (with three annexures):
Annexure I - Copies of relevant papers.
Annexure II - Photographs.
Annexure III - Sketches and plans.
Part B - Evidence of witnesses (with photographs of some witnesses).

7. A large number of witnesses were examined in Japan. Tracing the witnesses and securing their attendance would not have been possible without the ever-ready help and co-operation of the Japanese Foreign Office (Gaimusho). H. E. Mr. Shigemitsu, Foreign Minister of Japan, who had held the same position in Netaji's time, extended to the Committee every courtesy and consideration. The Committee wishes to thank the Government of Japan, Mr. Shigemitsu, and the staff of the Japanese Foreign Office, most sincerely for their help and kindness. The Indian Embassy in Tokyo also were very helpful. In particular, the Committee has pleasure in recording appreciation of the services of Mr. J. Rehman who was attached to the Committee throughout their stay in Japan. Assistance was also received from the Indian Missions at Bangkok and Saigon. The Committee wishes to thank the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, and the Intelligence Bureau of the Home Ministry for lending secret Intelligence Reports. Shri R. Dayal who was attached to the Chairman of the Committee as P. A., worked very hard from the very beginning to the end, and gave satisfaction all round. And finally, the Committee wishes to thank, with all sincerity, the Government of India, for making the arrangement for the work of the Committee, at home and abroad, and the opportunity given to them to make a first-hand study of an important chapter in the history of our times.

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