Dead or Disguised– India’s Biggest Mystery


“India’s Biggest Cover-up”, the best seller, authored by Indian Journalist Anuj Dhar is an essential source of information to get to know about one of the greatest mysteries of all time- Whether Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose actually died in a plane crash or not.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is the greatest inspiration for the youth of India. His life and death both were extremely mysterious. This great pseudonymist really lived life like a legend. The real face of action for independence, after the end of times of HSRA leaders like Bhagat Singh, Azad etc., Bose had become the inspiration for the then young freedom fighters.

At the time when white-coat politicians were seeking attention to be Gandhi’s favorite, Bose stepped out of Congress and thought of a different way to create an army and deport the British from his motherland. He did succeed in forming the Indian National Army and fought bravely against Britain on the battlefield of Imphal. 

There is much to appraise this national hero. However, the concern here is about the mystery of his death. Nothing definite or concrete can be said about his death. People have many theories about his disappearance. Based on Dhar’s research and information obtained from the Indian Government, however, three main theories are taken into account to be considered.

1.     The Plane Crash Theory

The first and most popular possibility of Bose’s disappearance is the plane crash theory. The background of this theory runs as when Bose had visited Bangkok for a meeting to discuss with Japan the modality to surrender to allied forces in World War II. On 15th August 1945, Japan announced surrender to allied forces. At that time, Bose was in Singapore. On 18th August 1945, Bose started his journey to Japan and it is believed that on 1400 hours his plane crashed in Taihoku. It was a 12-seater plane given to Netaji and INA by Japanese. The INA Habibur-Rehman accompanied Netaji in plane. This is believed that Netaji died while on the plane along with Rehman and some other Japanese delegates. His death was announced in India through a Hindustan Times clip on 25th August 1945. India, as a nation, was deep in sorrow upon hearing the news.

 It is astonishing that Indians were not suspicious of the news. Americans and Britishers first believed the news to be fake. Alfred Waugh, an American Journalist working for Chicago Tribune, was the first man to say that he had seen Bose in Saigon.

The suspicion was, further, strengthened when Gandhi took to speak about Bose. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I believed the report. Later, the news was proved to have been incorrect. Since then I have had a feeling that Netaji could not leave us until his dream of swaraj had been fulfilled. To lend strength to this feeling was the knowledge of Netaji’s great ability to hoodwink his enemies…These were the only reasons for my belief that he was alive.”

The first investigations led by American forces and British intelligence after 11 months of the plane crash yielded no direct evidence of the death. Thus this theory is not believed to have much weight.

2.     Netaji flew to Russia

The intelligence file – dated 8 April, 1946 – noted that Gandhi ji ascribed the feeling to “an inner voice” but Congressmen believed it was based on secret information he got.

The file adds: “There is a secret report which says Nehru received a letter from Bose, saying he was in Russia and that he wanted to escape to India… It is probable that the letter from Bose arrived about the time that Gandhi made his public statement.”

Of all the official files and documents related to Subhash Bose, one file declassified in 1997 contained JK Bhonsle’s statement about confirming meeting at Bangkok about how to get Bose to his destination and his intention to find his way to Russia. JK Bhonsle was an officer of the INA, who went to Bangkok with Bose and Habibur Rehman. This declassified statement opened a gate to possibility of Bose flying to Russia. However, no definite conclusions were made about it.

3.     The Gumnami Baba





The third possibility was sought for in 70s. It was believed that Netaji lived in disguise as a saint called Bhagwanji, who lived isolated from the city crowds in place like Varanasi and Ayodhya. He usually didn’t talk to people and was considered muke by them. Hence, was called Gumnami Baba. However, once someone had seen him talking at night. There were rumors that many unknown people used to come at night to meet Bhagwanji in a very suspicious manner. The man used to never sleep at night and was seen to be involved in some secret activities. In 1985, news was out which claimed Bhagwanji to be dead.

Later, based on it, some local investigations were made, in which links of this man were found with INA. Certain files and documents were found which had shown his immense interest in the then Indian politics, in which he used to give his comments in writing. The investigation then was carried out to find similarities between the man and Bose. Based on public description of Gumnami Baba and the bio-data of Bose, it was found that they were both the same height and build with similar voices and accents, and identical gaps in their teeth. Their handwritings were pronounced to be of the same person by India’s foremost expert on handwriting analysis. Netaji’s niece Lalitha Bose when saw the evidences, was left with no doubt and she claimed with full confidence that the man was indeed her uncle.

However, these were circumstantial evidences and had no other solid background to prove that the man was Netaji indeed.  There had been 3 different committees set up for investigating this mystery. The first two commissions, the Shah Nawaz Committee and Khosla Commission, had concluded that Bose died in a plane crash on 18 August 1945 in Taiwan. The last was the Mukherjee Commission setup in 1999 to inquire into the death of Bose. After a seven-year inquiry, Justice Mukherjee concluded that it was sure that Bose did not die in the plane crash; however there was no clinching evidence to prove that the sanyasi of Faizabad (Bhagwanji) was Bose.

Netaji’s death is still a mystery since no definite conclusions have been drawn in this context. However, he will always remain a legend for us. His life-story will always keeping inspiring thousands of lives.

About the Author:

Rajat Dwivedi (UIET, PU Campus)


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