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 One-man Commission of Inquiry into the Disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (1970-74)

8. Some Miscellaneous Matters

8.1 In this chapter I shall discuss a number of miscellaneous matters without mention of which this report would lack the virtue of completeness. I shall first take up the role played by Prof. Samar Guha in these proceedings.

8.2 Prof. Samar Guha may be said to be the Prime mover and initiator of these proceedings. It was his zeal and persistence which finally prevailed upon the Government of India to institute the present inquiry and appoint this Commission. He took a live interest in the proceedings, and testified before the Commission on three separate occasions. He went to Taiwan and was present there when the Commission paid a visit to that place to inspect the airfield where Bose's plane is alleged to have crashed and to gather whatever evidence was available there. He has made several statements in Parliament and at press conference about the subject matter of the inquiry. He, therefore, deserves more than a passing mention of the role he has played.

8.3 Prof. Guha is an active member of the Forward Bloc and a dedicated, uncompromising follower of Netaji. I have little doubt that he has been actuated by the highest motives in doubting the truth of the crash story and in trying to unravel the mystery of Bose's disappearance. I cannot, however, help observing that he has lent too ready an ear to gossip, rumour, conjecture and fantasies woven by interested individuals. He has accepted newspaper reports as reliable evidence of the published facts, though in many cases, these reports were inspired by sensation-mongering reporters or were given publicity by individuals who had scant respect for truth. This attitude, unfortunately, led him into making a political issue of what should have remained a national cause to which every one should have brought an impartial mind, an unswerving determination to seek the truth and a stern resistance to emotion-charged gullibility. Prof. Guha's zeal led him to convert his pursuit of truth into a predatory hunt in which the objectives were the report of the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee and the story of Bose's death caused by an air crash. This was regrettable because he who seeks the truth does not set out with the prepossessed notion of disproving a hypothesis or theory. The impartial, unprejudiced mind has no blot on its copy book which must be erased before the new score can be written down. Shri Guha's passionate anxiety to disprove Bose's death made him interpret every piece of evidence, every rumour, every conjecture only in terms of his personal prepossessions rather than objectively and judiciously.

8.4 A formal appearance on behalf of the All India Forward Bloc was first entered on 2-11-1970 when Shri Amar Prasad Chakraborty represented the All India Forward Bloc before the Commission. He presented a petition which is a long and rambling political harangue containing nothing of any value to the Commission or any material which would advance the inquiry. There are certain conjectures and speculations, and a great deal of adverse criticism of Mr. Nehru and of the Government. There is no statement of facts, no indication of any evidence that would throw light on the manner of Bose's disappearance. There is a reference to the opinions expressed by Gandhiji and Nehru but no mention of what these opinions were based on. The sum and substance of his long statement is that Bose was a great patriot, brave, resourceful and dynamic, and despite repeated professions and declarations to the contrary, the Government of India has, for a long time, believed in his continued existence in the land of the living. The Government was, however, determined to suppress the truth and hamper any objective inquiry into what actually occurred.

8.5 This proved to be a wholly unjustified charge, and there is not the slightest evidence to support it. The motive behind this charge is the political opposition of the Forward Bloc to the party in power, and a number of false and illogical inferences from perfectly innocent acts and official announcements of the Government of India. There is, for instance, the repeated harping on the failure of the Government to file a statement in these proceedings in accordance with Rule 3 of the Central Commissions of Inquiry (Procedure) Rules, 1960, framed under Section 12 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, and the failure of the Government of India to place at the Commission's disposal all files, documents and other evidence relating to Bose's disappearance. The matter was discussed by me in my Order dated 2-11-1970 by which I disposed of the petition and the oral submissions made by Mr. Amar Prasad Chakraborty in support of the petition. I ruled, by that order, that the terms of reference specifying the scope of the enquiry, clearly implied that the Government had no case to advance or to prove, and this Commission was completely free to determine the truth and submit its report. I also ruled that no case of concealment of evidence had been made out against the Government, and that I would, in due course, call for such files and documents as appeared to be relevant. This is what, indeed, happened. As and when I received information regarding files and documents which could throw light on the subject matter of my inquiry, I sent the appropriate requisition to the Government. The requisition was invariably complied with and all files and documents asked for were made available, except one file which was said to have been destroyed in the ordinary course of routine according to which old and un-wanted files are destroyed to lighten the burden of the record rooms. Prof. Guha, however, persisted in his complaint that the Government had not assisted the Commission and had placed impediments in its path and deliberately withheld evidence. I have, at several places, in the course of this report stated that the Government unhesitatingly placed all material in its possession at the Commission's disposal, and whenever necessary obtained material from other countries through its diplomatic channels.

8.6 Prof. Guha has no personal knowledge of what happened to Bose. His knowledge is derived from what he has heard and read. From the information so collected he has argued a case for disbelieving the crash story. His evidence, therefore, is pure hearsay and thus possessed of no probative value. His statement, can no doubt, be used as a kind of clue or pointer which if followed up, may or may not lead to evidence which would be both relevant and admissible according to the law of evidence. But the inferences drawn by Prof. Samar Guha and the reasoning adopted by him are wholly inadmissible, as they constitute nothing but the personal opinion of Prof. Guha which lies beyond the purview of Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act.

8.7 I shall, however, cite a few instances of the kind of evidence which Prof. Guha relies upon and which led him to the conviction that the entire story of the air crash on the Taihoku airfield and the subsequent death of Bose is not only false but was deliberately fabricated by the Japanese military authorities. Prof. Guha was shown photographs of Vira Dhammavara and the Mongolian Delegation of Peking and a photograph of the Shaulmari Ashram Baba. Prof. Guha categorically stated that the last photograph was a fake document. Regarding the first two photographs he said that he could not be certain, but he was doubtful if they represented Bose. He went on to say that Surendra Mohan Ghosh had gone to Shaulmari Ashram and met the Baba there. Shri Ghosh had also formed the opinion that the Baba was not Netaji, but Prof. Guha went on to say that there were many circumstances which led to the falsity of the crash story. First there was the delay by the Japanese in broadcasting the news of the crash. He interpreted the delay as proof that the story of the crash was only a cover for Bose's escape to safety. The delay is, however, not susceptible of such explanation and may well have been due to a number of other causes such as the chaotic conditions prevailing at Taipei at that period, the lack of any communication facilities in the hospital in which Bose died, or Japan's preoccupation with more Urgent matters.

8.8 Prof. Guha mentioned some documents which he had seen in Japan and East Germany. He, however, was not able to specify the documents, and his statement on this point was extremely vague and inconclusive. He then mentioned an article in the Pravda in which it was stated that Bose could not be given asylum in Russia. Prof. Samar Guha did not say that he had read the article himself, nor did he mention the date upon which this article appeared, although from the context it appears that the article was published in 1945. The substance of this article was interpreted by Prof. Samar Guha as a cover because he thought that Russia was friendly towards Bose and so a contrary assertion in the Pravda could only be intended to distract attention and provide an alibi for Bose. The inference drawn by Prof. Guha is wholly unjustified. In any event, a copy of the relevant issue of Pravda has not been produced, and I cannot hold that such a statement appeared in that paper. Then again, Prof. Guha stated that Gandhiji had said on one occasion that even if somebody showed him the ashes of Netaji, he would not believe that Bose was dead. This statement, even if it was really made by Gandhiji, cannot disprove the crash story. Its contradiction is furnished by Prof. Guha himself when he said that after Col. Habibur Rahman had met Gandhiji and given him the account of the air crash, Gandhiji said: "After meeting Habibur Rahman, I would ask my countrymen to believe what Habibur Rahman said." Therefore, according to Prof. Guha himself, Gandhiji believed Habibur Rahman's story. Another piece of evidence mentioned by Prof. Guha is an article published in the Nation, a newspaper run by Sarat Chandra Bose. This article was printed below the headline "Netaji in China". The article is not before us but whatever may have been written in the Nation, does not prove the truth of the facts narrated, Another matter mentioned by Prof. Guha is that when Mr. Nehru paid a visit to the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo, he wrote in the visitor's book: "May the message of Buddha bring peace to mankind". Prof. Guha has expressed surprise at the omission of Netaji's name from the remarks written by Mr. Nehru in the book; but the omission does not prove that Netaji was alive or that Nehru entertained an opinion which supported such a hypothesis. Prof. Guha next said that Nehru had on one occasion told Shri K.K. Shah that he did not believe in Bose's death. Shri Shah was examined as a witness by the Commission and he categorically denied that Nehru had made any such remark to him. Another statement made by Prof. Guha relates to Mr. Justice Radha Binode Paul. "Mr. Paul told me that on going through the papers of Japanese documents and others in connection with the War Crimes Tribunal he was convinced that there is no proof of the reported death of Netaji". Mr. Justice Paul, however, never took the trouble to mention the material contained in the documents, nor did he hold any inquiry into the matter. A somewhat vague statement made by him that the matter of Bose's death demands a thorough investigation cannot be interpreted to mean that Mr. Justice Paul was convinced of Bose's continued existence, on cogent material which he had examined or that he had seen any positive disproof of the crash story. Yet another vague statement is attributed to Mr. Ba Maw, formerly Prime Minister of Burma. When questioned about Bose's death, he said: "Yes, myself and Dr. Wang were also reported to have died in a plane crash". Mr. Maw is not alleged to have possessed any first hand information about Bose and a statement of this kind throws no light whatsoever on Bose's disappearance. Again, Prof. Guha claims that Shah Nawaz Khan repeatedly told him that he did not believe in Bose's death. Shah Nawaz Khan himself, however, did not corroborate Prof. Guha on this point, and in his evidence, he expressed his unequivocal belief in the truth of the crash story. In the same way, Prof. Samar Guha says that Hayashida said that he had not carried Bose's ashes to Tokyo. Hayashida in his book Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, however, has clearly mentioned this fact. The book was produced before Shah Nawaz Khan and a copy is also before me. The last piece of evidence to which I shall refer is a copy of the Interpress Report produced by Prof. Guha. This is a German publication, but it cannot be said to throw any light whatsoever on the subject matter of this inquiry. When Prof. Samar Guha was asked if he had, in the course of his life, met anyone who had personally seen Bose after the date of his reported death, he replied that he had not.

8.9 Mention must also be made of Prof. Guha's well intentioned activity at Taipei during the Commission's visit to that place. He tried to contact individuals possessing first hand knowledge of the events of August 18, 1945, and to discover documentary evidence proving or disproving Bose's death from the records of the hospital where he was alleged to have been treated. No eye witness of the air crash, no member of the hospital staff who had been on duty in August 1945 could be found. The official who was in charge of the crematorium in 1945 was dead, so was the Mayor of Taipei who arrived there some time after August 18, 1945, and who is said to have made some sort of enquiry into the matter. Not that the Mayor's report, if available, would have been admissible in evidence for it would be nothing more than the opinion of an individual. Prof. Guha, however, succeeded in obtaining copies of two documents, one of which purports to be the death certificate of one Ta Ts'ang Yi Lang (Okura Ichiro), male, born on April 9, 1900, who was an Agent of the Land Forces, Taiwan Army Command, and who died at Taipei at 4 p.m. on August 19, 1945, of a heart-attack. This certificate was issued by Ho T'en Teng Tai Chih (Tsuru Ta Nobori Dai Shi), who was an Officer on Probation, Army Hospital, Army Health Department, Taipei. The other document was a permit to cremate the dead body of the same Ta Ts'ang Yi Lang (Okura Ichiro), who was to be cremated at 6 p.m. on August 22, 1945, at Taipei crematorium, the name of the person to whom the licence was issued could not be deciphered from the photostat copy.

8.10 Prof. Guha, while tendering these documents, stated that both of them related to Bose. Later he argued that since the name and other particulars, stated in the copies, did not correspond with Bose or the doctor who claims to have treated him, the documents could not relate to Bose, and therefore, Bose's death and the cremation of his dead body had been disproved. I have dealt with this self-defeating argument in Chapter Five, and mention it here because Prof. Guha used these documents to make a highly indiscreet statement to the press at Taipei and again on his return to India. This is what he is reported to have told the Press at Taipei on July 17, 1973:

"The mission inquiring into the fate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has found no proof whatsoever that he died at Taipei."

Mr. Guha went on to say that some reports by British and U. S intelligence hinted Bose had escaped from Taipei to the Soviet Union.

8.11. On returning to Delhi, Mr. Guha made several statements to the press. Three news-items based on these statements are quoted below:

"NETAJI DID NOT DIE IN CRASH: GUHA Hindustan Times Correspondent.
New Delhi, July 24 - Mr. Samar Guha, M.P., who visited Taiwan along with the Netaji Inquiry Commission, told newsmen here today that he found 'no proof whatsoever' of the alleged death of Netaji in a plane crash at Taipei on August 18, 1945.

He said that according to some, a body was cremated but nobody was allowed to see it. The Commission found two certificates, one issued by the Municipality and other by the crematorium authority, but on deciphering the Japanese language, it transpired that the name of the person was not Netaji but of a Japanese Army Officer. This and other facts placed before the Commission made him feel that the reported death of Netaji in the plane crash could not have been possible.

Hindustan Times; July 25, 1973"

8.12 It will be seen at once that the report is misleading. The certificates were not found by the Commission, but were obtained by Shri Guha himself who presented them to the Commission alleging first that they related to Bose, and then denying their connection with Bose and arguing that Bose did not die and his dead body was not cremated. He was thus arguing from professedly false premises. I have already dealt with this matter and pointed out that the certificates have no probative value because they do not purport to relate to Bose's death and his cremation.

8.13 Shri Guha made two other statements to the press, one of which was published in the Statesman of July 25, 1973 and is in the following terms:

"New Delhi, Tuesday - Mr. Samar Guha, M.P. convenor of the National Committee to assist the Netaji Inquiry Commission, said in a statement today that 'Our investigation in Taipei made us feel that there is no valid reason to believe the story of the reported death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the alleged plane crash in Taipei on August 18, 1945."

8.14 Shri Guha was thus pronouncing final judgement on the subject matter of the Commission's inquiry. The second statement was published by the Patriot in its issue of July 24, 1973, which is as follows:

"Socialist leader Samar Guha, yesterday told newsmen that the Commission could not get any conclusive evidence on the INA Chief's death in an aircrash and subsequent cremation of the body."

He said: "On investigation in Taipei in Taiwan made us feel that there was no valid reason to believe the story of the reported death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the alleged plane crash on 18 August, 1945, the news in relation to which was officially circulated by the then Government of Japan.

"Prof. Guha substantiated his statement by stating that a former airport unit officer of Taipei, Mr. Lin Chwan, who was an employee of the air force hospital in the month of August 1945, told the Commission that he saw a very fair looking, tall Indian in a partially bandaged condition in a single room, sitting most of the time on his bed in a dignified, calm posture.

Mr. Lin said the patient 'disappeared' from the hospital after three or four days.

Prof. Guha said that this report contradicted the official report of the Government of Japan that Netaji was taken to the South Gate Military Hospital where he died.

Prof. Guha said that the evidence recorded by the first inquiry commission headed by Shah Nawaz Khan differed from the facts gathered by the present Commission.

For instance, he pointed out the different dates given in the official version of the death and the records traced out at the Health Department of Taipei. While Tokyo broadcast the date and time of the air crash as 18 August, 1945 at 9 p.m., the Health Department recorded the accident on 19th August at zero hour.

Similarly, Prof. Guha added, while the official broadcast said that the body of the Netaji was cremated, the Health Department and crematorium records contained the names of a Japanese general and some air force personnel as killed and cremated.

According to department rules, no person could be cremated without a death certificate from the department. Since no death certificate was issued by the department in regard to the Netaji's death, the official version could not be taken to be correct, Prof. Guha contended."

8.15 The news report is clearly tendentious and tends to prejudge the issue before the Commission. Prof. Guha did not contradict these reports, and I must accept the news items quoted above as correct reproductions of his statements to the Press. Prof. Guha, by declaring that the story of the air crash on August 18, 1945, at Taipei and of Bose's death in the course of the next few hours had been completely disproved, arrogated to himself the functions of this Commission by pronouncing judgment on the subject matter of the present enquiry. In judicial proceedings, such a statement would have fallen within the mischief of the law of contempt of Court, and even in these proceedings the statement cannot be described as anything but reprehensible. I, however, decided not to take any action against this misguided and ill-advised outburst of Prof. Guha, as I felt that he was prompted not by any malice, but the excess of his enthusiasm and his superabundant affection for his leader, Bose.

8.16. The sum and substance of Prof. Guha's evidence, therefore, is that he heard various persons expressing at different times, their disbelief in the crash story. These persons, however, had no personal knowledge of the facts of which they spoke. Their disbelief may have been born of wishful thinking or because no official inquiry into the matter had been made and no judgment pronounced upon all available evidence. Prof. Guha's testimony, therefore, has no probative value whatsoever and does not advance the case at all. Newspaper reports, opinions of individual who have heard rumours in the streets or who want to believe in Bose being alive are wholly inadmissible. Indeed, the entire statement of Prof. Guha must be held to be inadmissible in evidence though even on its face value it makes no contribution towards the discovery of the truth relating to Bose's disappearance.

8.17 Of a totally different character were the antics of Shri Balraj Trikha. I use the word antics advisably, for no other expression would accurately describe the colourful and variegated activity of this advocate at different stages of the inquiry proceedings.

8.18 It was clear on the very first day when Shri Trikha put in an appearance on behalf of the National Committee as junior counsel to Shri Amiya Nath Bose, that he was acting not so much out of a desire to render assistance in the search for truth,, as to advertise his importance and to collect political dividends by exploiting whatever had captured the imagination of the people for the time being. Shri Trikha was, by no means, alone in making an exhibition of himself in this way, though he far surpassed the others both in the manner and the degree of his performance.

8. 19 At the very first public session of the Commission, Shri Trikha whose printed letter-heads display his status as Advocate of Supreme Courts of India and Nepal, declared that he had been appointed junior counsel to Shri Amiya Nath Bose on behalf of the National Committee. The next morning he professed to have been briefed by Netaji Smarak Samiti and some Members of Parliament. He did not specify if his new status meant a shift in loyalties or merely an additional burden that had been laid on his shoulders. He then announced his association with the All-India Netaji Swagat Samiti, whose professed objective is to prove that Netaji is alive and to accord him a befitting welcome.

8.20 In a letter he addressed to the Commission on October 28, 1970, he said: "I have been associated with this inquiry as a counsel of the Commission, representing Netaji Swagat Samiti and the National Committee on Netaji Inquiry...I shall do my best as faithfully as possible to be of real service to the Hon'ble Commission to enable the Hon'ble Commission to come to a finding that Netaji did not die in the Taihoku aircrash as reported earlier in the Shah Nawaz Enquiry report. It is now a historical fact that the Shah Nawaz report was a procured document and it did not inspire confidence in the countrymen."

8.21 At several open sessions of the inquiry he declared that he and the party he represented, would produce Netaji in person before the Commission. This, however, was a promise or a threat which he was unable to carry out. Later he made a complete volte face, and tried to represent himself as a wholly impartial individual whose interests and beliefs were those of an objective enquirer into the truth of the matter. He did this because he wished to be appointed the official counsel for the Commission, whose fees would be paid by the Government. His professions were, however, not accepted, and his prayer to be appointed a counsel for the Commission was not acceded to because he had unequivocally championed the cause of the Netaji Swagat Samiti and striven to prove that Netaji was alive.

8.22 He was not beyond uttering innuendoes against the Chairman of the Commission, to gain a modicum of popularity, as the two following instances, among others, will demonstrate.

8.23 Capt. Talwar, formerly of the I.N.A., conveyed to the Commission the name of Col. Raturi, as a possible witness because Col. Raturi was intimately known to him and had commanded a battalion on the front. Acting upon this information the office of the Commission issued a summon to Col. Raturi to appear and testify. Col. Raturi appeared before the Commission on 1-3-1971 and made a statement in the course of which he said that he had believed Habibur Rahman's story and those who disbelieved it were indulging in the exercise of wishful thinking. When Shri Trikha rose to cross-examination the witness, he put to him the following question:

"So, you were called here to make a statement that the story about the death, as given by Col. Habibur Rahman, is correct."

The question clearly contained an insinuation that the witness had been advised to make a certain statement. I was compelled to administer a reprimand to Shri Trikha after calling Capt. Talwar as a witness to state the reason why summons had been issued to Col. Raturi. On another occasion Shri Trikha demanded that the expenses for his journey in Japan should be paid by the Government and if the Commission could not arrange such payments, Shri Trikha would consider that the intention of the Commission was not to allow the counsel to accompany the Commission to afford him the opportunity of cross-examining the doctor who treated Bose and signed a death certificate. I had to tell Shri Trikha that as he was appearing for a specific party, his expenses could not be paid out of public revenues. Shri Amar Prasad Chakraborty, had made his own arrangements for the journey and he was present when the doctor was examined. Shri Chakraborty had full opportunity to cross-examine the doctor. I had to tell Shri Trikha that the insinuation contained in his address was preposterous and quite unwarranted.

8.24 Shri Trikha continued to push himself into prominence, and at one stage, he made the reckless statement that he had met Bose face to face at the Saigon airport. The Commission had proceeded to Saigon, and had held a sitting on 4-11-1971. A day or two later, the Chairman and the staff of the Commission left Saigon. It was then that Shri Trikha claims to have met Bose. He spoke of this to Shri Prem Bhatia, High Commissioner for India in Singapore a few days later, and briefed newspaper correspondents to publish his claim of having met Bose. A Singapore paper published the news item, but the report was not accepted by the Statesman of Delhi as it was considered a false and irresponsible statement. Shri Balraj Madhok, however, made a reference to the Saigon meeting in a speech at the Ramlila Ground in Ghaziabad on 28-11- 1971 and this speech was reported in the Nav Bharat Times.

8.25 In view of the publicity given to this strange encounter at Saigon, I considered it necessary to call Shri Trikha as a witness, but as soon as summons, for his appearance, were issued, Shri Trikha completely disappeared, abandoning his brief on behalf of Netaji Swagat Samiti and remained absent until the conclusion of the proceedings. Summons were issued to Shri Trikha several times by post and some of them were returned undelivered although the address was the address supplied by Shri Trikha to this Commission. Finally, summons were posted on the door of his residence. Shri Trikha knew that he was required to testify before the Commission, as on one occasion, he was orally informed of the Commission's desire, at one of the sittings. As soon as he was told this he withdrew from the hall and remained absent thereafter.

8.26 I was compelled to call Shri Prem Bhatia as a witness, and Shri Bhatia stated that, in fact, Shri Trikha had made a statement regarding his encounter with Bose, to him and some other persons at Singapore. When the statement was made, the representatives of the Statesman and other newspapers, were present. The inference to be drawn from Shri Trikha's conduct is that he made a completely false and irresponsible statement at Singapore. This is a matter which can well be considered as the basis of proceeding against Shri Trikha for professional misconduct, but I refrained from adding this indignity to the reputation he had earned as a reckless and irresponsible member of an honourable profession.

8.27 Habibur Rahman was an important witness, in as much as he was the only compatriot, colleague-in-arms counsellor and confidant of Bose who accompanied him on the last lap of his last known journey. He had given evidence before the Committee presided over by Shri Shah Nawaz Khan, and it was natural that he should be called to testify in the course of the present enquiry. He resides in Pakistan, and it was beyond the powers of this Commission to summon him or compel his attendance. A letter of request issued through our High Commission brought back the reply that Habibur Rahman was not willing to come to India to make a statement, nor would he make himself available for such purpose in Pakistan. He said he had nothing to add to the statement which he had made before the previous Committee. This was unfortunate but there was no means of procuring Habibur Rahman's evidence.

8.28 It has been argued before me that there is no acceptable evidence of Habibur Rahman's refusal or reluctance to appear before this Commission, and the communication received from our High Commission cannot be treated as proof of its contents. Were Habibur Rahman's refusal a matter in issue or something of primary importance, I might have been persuaded to call the official who signed this letter, but I decided, in the circumstances of the case, to treat the letter as an official act performed in the ordinary course of official work and therefore free from suspicion and scarcely needing formal proof. I have no reason for doubting the truth of its contents, nor for suspecting that the official concerned was trying to convey false information, for nothing could be gained by suppressing the truth in this matter. Also, it seemed to be natural enough that Habibur Rahman should not wish to inconvenience himself by undertaking a long journey merely to repeat what he had already said 15 years previously, before another official body. I am, accordingly, satisfied that Habibur Rahman is not willing to give evidence before the Commission. In any event, it is hardly material why Habibur Rahman did not come to testify in this enquiry. The fact remains that he did not come and his evidence is not available to us. At most, his absence can be looked upon as a lacuna or as something missing. The ultimate consequence of this lacuna will depend on the quantum and worth of the evidence adduced. This is not a case in which an adverse inference can be drawn against a party for non-production or suppression of a material piece of evidence, for there are no parties and it is to no one's advantage to hold back Habib's evidence. All that can be said is that an important piece of evidence is wanting, but its absence cannot adversely affect any of the remaining evidence. I have already said enough on the subject and of the Government's attitude towards this enquiry and it is hardly necessary to repeat that the Government had no interest in causing a false report to be made about Habibur Rahman's unwillingness to depose before this Commission.

8.29 Habibur Rahman had made a number of oral statements to a number of persons to whom he narrated his experience and what had happened on the last lap of the flight in which he and Bose were involved. In December 1945, he was interrogated twice by the police and by the Combined Services Detailed Intelligence Centre (CSDIC). An attempt has been made by Counsel for the Netaji Swagat Committee, for the National Committee and the Bose family to argue that there are several discrepancies and contradictions in the various statements made by Habibur Rahman at different times. From this it must be inferred it was argued, that Habib's story of the air crash is totally false and so it follows that there was no air crash and therefore Bose did not die at Taihoku on the 18th August, 1945.

8.30 The previous statements made by Habibur Rahman are wholly inadmissible in evidence. These statements do not fall under any of the provisions of section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act. Even the statement made before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee is inadmissible in this case, if for no other reason than that Habibur Rahman was not subjected to any cross-examination and parties and counsel were not represented before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee. For this reason I do not propose to take into account any of the previous statements made by Habibur Rahman for any purpose whatsoever. These statements cannot be used to support the story of the crash nor to disprove it by invoking the argument that discrepancies prove Habibur Rahman to be a false witness. The statement which Habibur Rahman made to the C.S.D.I.C., however, has a special significance not because of its intrinsic value but because it controverts an argument advanced before me. The argument is to the following effect.

8.31 Shri B. C. Chakrabarty (Witness No. 168) who examined Habibur Rahman and recorded his statement claims to have made a 75-page report. This report was not forthcoming and it was argued that it has been suppressed. The matter has been fully discussed by me when dealing with Shri Chakrabarty's statement and it is only necessary to repeat here that there is nothing in the recorded statement of Habibur Rahman which support the oral testimony of Shri Chakrabarty that in his report he rejected the theory of the air crash and the consequent death of Subhas Chandra Bose. When Chakrabarty was questioned on this matter all he could say was that Habibur Rahman's statement was the only evidence supporting the crash story and he was somewhat doubtful about the accuracy of Habibur Rahman's evidence. Chakrabarty could have given details of his report but he failed to do so. The report, which is available, cannot be used as primary evidence, and its value is merely to corroborate or contradict Chakrabarty's oral evidence as given before this Commission. Indeed, as I have already stated, I decline to accept the story that this report was lost or deliberately suppressed. The file dealing with the C.S.D.I.C. investigation contains the detailed report submitted on the date mentioned by Chakrabarty, and this clearly is the report falsely alleged to have been suppressed.

8.32 I, therefore, do not purpose to say anything further about the previous statements made by Habibur Rahman except to repeat that these statements have no evidentiary value whatsoever.

8.33 The only other matter relating to Habibur Rahman is that he had sustained some burn injuries and these were seen by a number of persons both in Taiwan and subsequently in India. The statements of those witnesses, who claim to have seen these injuries, corroborate the story of the air crash, but let me say it, once again, not Habibur Rahman's story, which must be treated as non-existent.

8.34 It will be recalled that not a few persons claim to have investigated the matter of Bose's disappearance and arrived at certain conclusions. Some of these persons paid visits to Formosa and Japan and their on-the-spot enquiries have been given an altogether undue importance. In effect, the testimony of these persons is nothing more than hearsay and, therefore, wholly inadmissible in evidence. A detailed reference has been made to the evidence of Dr. Satyanarayan Sinha, Shri S. M. Goswami and Shri S. A. Iyer, the last of whom prepared a report which he submitted to Nehru. A word may, in this context, be said about the testimony of Jagdish Chandra Sinha (Witness No. 179). He was a member of the All India Congress Committee, and was elected to the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, in which he sat from 1942 to 1947 and again from 1967 to 1970. At the time of testifying before the Commission he was a member of Senate and Syndicate of the Calcutta University. An individual so loaded with honours and the insignia of respectability merits discussion.

8.35 J. C. Sinha's statement falls into two parts. He claims to have heard Habibur Rahman related the story of the aircrash arid Bose's death on several occasions, and of each occasion the story was in some respects different from the story Habibur Rahman had previously related. These discrepancies led Mr. Sinha to condemn Habibur Rahman as a false witness and reject his story. He also described the result of an on-the-spot inquiry held by him at Taihoku where his plane made an unscheduled halt and then in Japan where he spent about three weeks.

8.36 Mr. Sinha had appeared to make a statement before the Committee presided over by Shri Shah Nawaz Khan, and since his statement made then was, in some particulars, different from the statement made before me, he was asked to explain the discrepancies. He took the very easy way out of the difficulty in which he found himself by saying that his previous statement had been incorrectly recorded and he had signed it without reading it. What he said was: "I had occasion to go through the statement I made before the Shah Nawaz Committee. As soon as it was typed out, it was handed over to me, and in a hurry, I was asked to sign. I had no occasion to go through it."

8.37 This is a completely false statement, and is belied by documentary evidence. On the record of the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee proceedings there is a letter from the witness dated 25th of April, 1956, addressed to the Chairman of the Committee, which is in the following terms:

"My dear General Saheb,

As per our conversation, I am sending to you my Private Secretary, Shri Hem Chandra Das, for getting the draft type-script of the evidence which I have given this morning before your Committee for correction.

I shall be grateful if you will please hand over to him, who is authorised to take the same on my behalf.

With kindest regard

Yours sincerely, J. C. Sinha"

 

8.38 On the back of this letter is the receipt given by Hem Chandra Das for a "closed cover received from the office of the Committee". A perusal of the file of the previous Committee shows that almost all statements were in this manner sent to the respective witnesses, who studied them at leisure, made corrections, signed them and then returned them to the Committee. This is precisely what Shri Sinha also did, and therefore, when he said that he had no occasion to go through his previous statement, he put forward a false explanation of the discrepancies in the two statements he made.

8.39 In any event, the story given by Habibur Rahman to the witness, even if the story varied in some particulars, when related on different occasions does not prove anything. Habibur Rahman is not a witness in the present proceedings and the variations in his statements would have been relevant and admissible only if Habibur Rahman had testified before the Commission and had been confronted with his previous contradictory statements. Had this happened, Habibur Rahman might or might not have given a satisfactory explanation of the discrepancies.

8.40 With regard to the on-the-spot inquiry at Taihoku, the witness said that he found himself there by chance, because the plane in which he was proceeding to Japan made an unscheduled halt there. The witness had made no reference to this halt in his statement before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee. The story of the halt at Taihoku is quite unbelievable and his statement that he met the airport officer who told him something that made him disbelieve the story of the aircrash is wholly unconvincing. Similarly this inquiry at Japan does not advance the matter further. He prepared no record of this inquiry, he did not even reduce to writing any of the statements made to him and he does not remember the names of the persons who expressed their disbelief of the aircrash story. Another matter mentioned by Shri Sinha is that Nehru, on several occasions, expressed to him his disbelief in Bose's death. I am not prepared to accept any of the statements proffered by Shri Sinha and am constrained to dismiss his evidence as a piece of self-advertisement.

8.41 The Government's initial reluctance to accord sanction to the Commission's visit to Taiwan and the observance of diplomatic etiquette when the Commission held its sittings at Taipei, occasioned a great deal of ill-informed and unjustified criticism of the Government of India. It was argued with a great deal of vehemence that the Government did not contemplate with equanimity the discovery of unpalatable facts, and had, for that reason, not accepted the Commission's first proposal to visit Taiwan. It was only when Shri Samar Guha made a personal appeal to the Prime Minister, and spoke of the dissatisfaction which must be felt by him and by many others if the Commission were not afforded the opportunity of inspecting the scene of the alleged air crash and examining the evidence of witnesses available there, that the Government finally agreed to sanction the Commission's visit to Taipei. But the freedom of the Commission (so it was alleged) was circumcised by so many directives and inhibitions that the objective of the visit was stultified, even before the Commission set out on its journey to Taipei.

8.42 The spearhead of this criticism came, quite naturally, from Shri Guha who, in the course of a statement to the press which was published on 25th July, 1973 in the Delhi edition of the Statesman, said: "The Netaji mystery would have been finally resolved by the Commission if its initiative and freedom of investigation into the circumstances leading to the disappearance of Netaji were not inhibited by the restriction imposed on it by a department of the Ministry of External Affairs." A few days later, the matter was raised in Parliament, and Shri Guha asked a question to which Shri Surendra Pal Singh, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, said that "no directive was issued to the Netaji Inquiry Commission. In all its enquiries outside India involving contacts with foreign Government agencies, the Commission has functioned with the assistance of Indian Missions located abroad. Taking into consideration the fact that we have no Mission in Taiwan, such assistance was not possible when the Commission visited Taiwan. In view of this, and in view of the fact that we have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it was suggested that the Commission may make independent inquiries without enlisting the formal co-operation of any official or non-official body in Taiwan, and make its own arrangements on a private basis. The Commission, in its judgment, decided to accept this suggestion. It is incorrect to say that the Commission's work was hampered in any way by Government."

8.43 The Delhi Statesman of August 17, 1973 contained a report of its special representative of a joint statement issued by a number of MPs. The statement said: "the objective of the Commission's visit to Taiwan had been practically frustrated by the External Affairs Ministry by the restriction it had placed on the judicial freedom of the Commission. For it was directed not to write to the Government of Taiwan nor to seek direct help from it in matters relating to the inquiry."

8.44 The argument was taken up and repeated by Shri Mukhoty in the course of his final address when he reviewed the evidence gathered by the Commission and discussed its probative value. Referring to the Government's initial hesitation in processing the visit to Taiwan he said: "even at this stage they Government of India are worried over the question whether tour Lordship will like to go to Taiwan for an on-the-spot investigation. Even after 25 years of the so called tragedy they are worried, because to my mind, the truth will be given to your Lordship by the Formosan Government; they want to put shackles on your arms, so that you cannot approach the Formosan Government to give you any report." A little later, he posed the rhetorical question: "Why Your Lordship was not allowed to correspond freely with the Formosan Government, why Your Lordship was not allowed to ask for the report, which they claimed, to have with them- as far as this inquiry is concerned?"

8.45 The criticism of Shri Samar Guha and others assumes that a specific directive was issued to this Commission prohibiting it from dealing directly with the Government of Taiwan. This, as I shall presently show not only misrepresents the facts but misconceives the diplomatic procedures which must govern relationship between official bodies of different countries. Even in the case of a country with whom India has diplomatic relations, an official body appointed by the Government, such as the present Commission, cannot correspond directly with the Government or official departments of a foreign country. Such an approach must be made through our Embassy. The Government of a foreign country cannot entertain an official requisition or inquiry, for to do this would be, in a sense, to submit to the authority of a foreign government. Even in Japan with whom India has full and normal diplomatic relations, all, correspondence with witnesses and other bodies in Japan was conducted through our diplomatic channels. When the Commission went to Bangkok, it encountered a measure of difficulty because the Thai Government objected to the official Inquiry Commission of a foreign country holding official sessions in their country. They apparently took the view that the Commission would be directly issuing summons and other processes to the subjects of the Thai Government, a position which was not only unacceptable but was wholly untenable because it might have been interpreted as an erosion into the sovereignty of the Thai Government. Our Ambassador in Bangkok had, therefore, to assure the Thai Government that the Commission would be acting like a private body in Bangkok and would not be issuing any writ or letter compelling the attendance of any Thai subject. It was only then that permission was granted to the Commission to hold its sittings in Bangkok. With Taiwan India has no diplomatic relations whatsoever, because the Government of Taiwan has not been recognised by the Government of India. Therefore, there could be no question of any official transactions or official communications between this Commission and any governmental department of the Government of Taiwan. When even in a country where there are diplomatic relations, the Commission cannot, in accordance with diplomatic etiquette, communicate directly with official agencies, the inhibition is all the stronger in the case of a country with which there exist no diplomatic relations and of whose government there is no recognition.

8.46 The Ministry of External Affairs did not issue any directive to this Commission but brought to its notice the diplomatic etiquette in this matter. This w7as already known to me, and therefore, I did not find myself constrained by any directive or inhibition. Even before leaving this country I had informed Shri Guha that since it was his personal appeal which had made possible the visit to Taiwan, the responsibility of producing witnesses before the Commission would be his. Shri Guha accepted the onus and furnished a list of 15 witnesses of Taiwan. I agreed to call them. Apart from this, the Commission had no knowledge of what witnesses would be available. A communication had been received from Pritam Singh (Witness No. 214) who had been a member of the I.N.A. and is now residing in Taiwan. He had offered to produce some evidence having a bearing on the subject matter of the Commission's inquiry, if the Commission visited Taiwan. He did, indeed, give a great deal of assistance to the Commission, and not only did bring some witnesses who deposed before the Commission but also acted as their interpreter. The Commission was able to inspect the Taihoku Airport and to pay a visit to the crematorium. No other evidence came to the knowledge of the Commission, and the Commission did not learn that the Government of Taiwan had, at any time, held any inquiry into Bose's disappearance in August, 1945. There were two or three private institutions which tendered assistance to the Commission. There is, however, no truth whatsoever in the allegation that the Commission's work was hampered because I was unable to communicate directly with any department of government. No direct communication is possible with any official agency in a foreign country.

8.47 The criticism of Shri Guha and others on this score is, therefore wholly unfounded, and appears to have been motivated by the fact that despite the visit to Taiwan so cherished by Shri Guha, no cogent and reliable evidence about the subject matter of the present inquiry could be discovered there.

8.48 Another matter deserving attention is the disposal of Bose's remains. After his death on the night of August 18, arrangements to transport his body to Tokyo could not be made owing to lack of transport. Nor could anything have been gained by postponing the cremation because the top I.N.A. personnel were in disarray and scattered at different places in Burma, Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon etc. The dead body could not be taken to any of these places for a ceremonial funeral because the Allied Occupation Forces were fast taking possession of them. Japan was the safest and the most convenient place. So, the dead body was cremated at Taipei, and the ashes were collected and placed in a wooden casket to await their despatch to Tokyo. Habibur Rahman was recovering from his burn injuries and he was to go to Tokyo. So, on September 5, 1945, the casket containing Bose's ashes was entrusted to Lt. Col. Sakai (Witness No. 47), Mr. Hayashida (Witness No. 61) and Habibur Rahman, who flew from Taipei to Fukuoka. From there Habibur Rahman continued his journey to Tokyo by air while Lt. Col. Sakai and Mr. Hayashida travelled by train.

At Tokyo S. A. Iyer (Witness No. 29) had prepared the text of the broadcast announcing Bose's death. He had been making enquiries at the army headquarters for news of Habibur Rahman and Bose's remains. On September 7, he was told to come to army headquarters the next morning. That day he saw Habibur Rahman and was handed a small wooden box covered with white cloth which he was told contained Bose's ashes. Iyer was, at that time, staying in Sahay's house. He also knew Ramamurti (Witness No. 76) who was a neighbour of Sahay. Ramamurti had also accompanied Iyer to the army headquarters. The box, after a day or two, was taken to Renkoji Temple where it was deposited and where it has remained ever since.

8.49 This story is narrated by 8 witnesses. The evidence of S. A. Iyer, Ramamurti, Lt. Col. Sakai, A. M. Sahay, Hayashida and Karruppiah (Witness No. 112) is on the whole consistent though there are a few discrepancies about some minor details of the incident. The story of S. A. Virik (Witness No. 92) who was in Tokyo in those days is somewhat different. He said that he alone took the ashes to the Temple. Virik was one of the group of I.N.A. cadets who had been sent to Japan for training. It may be that his memory deceived him after a lapse of more than 25 years when he testified before the Commission. The main story, however, emerges consistently and all the witnesses agreed that the box containing the ashes was taken from Taipei on September 5 and it reached Tokyo on September 7. On September 8, it was delivered to S. A. Iyer and Ramamurti, and then, a day or two later, it was deposited in the Renkoji Temple. It may be recalled that Lt. Col. Sakai was one of Bose's co-passengers. There is no reason for disbelieving these witnesses. I have already stated my reasons for rejecting the hypothesis that the entire Japanese nation and the Indians who appeared as witnesses and deposed to the story of the air crash and Bose's death were in conspiracy to deceive the world. It may be mentioned that despite the loud denials of the genuineness of these ashes, all Indians, including members of Bose's family, who have paid a visit to the Renkoji Temple, have treated the casket containing the ashes with the utmost reverence. Their attitude is similar to the attitude of Shri Amiya Nath Bose, who while denouncing the genuineness of the watch he produced, could not even entertain the thought of parting with it, and guarded it as a precious memento of his famous uncle. One is naturally driven to the conclusion that these denials and denigrations proceeded not from any honest belief but from political motives. Mr. Hayashida, when he gave his evidence, made a reference to the ashes, which he took to Tokyo. The incident, as described by him in his book, and before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee is substantially as deposed to by him before the Commission. One or two discrepancies did find their way into his statement. For instance, before the Shah Nawaz Khan Committee he had stated that when he arrived at the airport, he found Lt. Col. Sakai and Habibur Rahman already present with the box containing Bose's ashes. In his deposition before me, he stated that he had reached the airport before Lt. Col. Sakai and Habibur Rahman. When he was reminded of the previous statement he conceded that the earlier statement was correct and that memory had deceived him after the lapse of 14 years.

8.50 From the evidence discussed above, I am convinced beyond all reasonable doubts that the wooden casket lodged in the Renkoji Temple at Tokyo contains Bose's ashes and these ashes were placed in the box at Taipei after the cremation of his dead body.

8.51 I do not propose to say anything about the valuables or the I.N.A. treasures which Bose was carrying with him on his last journey. This matter was not enquired into, and all that emerged from the statements made by a number of witnesses is that the valuables were scattered on the airfield when Bose's plane crashed. Some of the articles were damaged. Whatever valuables could be collected were gathered and placed in a box which was sent to Tokyo along with the casket containing Bose's ashes. This box, too, was entrusted to Ramamurti who, in 1959, handed it to the Indian Ambassador in Tokyo. A suggestion was made by counsel that part of this treasure had been misappropriated by Ramamurti and his brother J. Murti. But there is no satisfactory proof of such misappropriation. This was not a matter specified in the terms of reference given to this Commission, and no useful purpose could be served by pursuing a quest which was not likely to yield anything definite or worthwhile.