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Disputed Aircrash theory of Netaji Subhas - many unanswered questions

The term Metamorphosis has been taken from the words of a great man in the book Oi Mahamanab Ase - "I have undergone complete Metamorphosis." The great man calls himself as Dead Ghost or Mrito Bhoot, and Pathik Faqir (Wandering Mendicant).

Several later day researchers have worked on the subject of Netaji's life after the so called death, like Anuj Dhar, whose role in this matter was acknowledged by the Allahabad High Court in its verdict in 2013 (source: Gumnami Baba: A Case History, by Adheer Som). However Prof. Samar Guha remains the pioneer in this field for his ardous zeal to prove Netaji's continued existence, over a span of three decades. Prof Samar Guha's Netaji Dead or Alive, has very succinctly and cogently put together facts and evidences against the plane crash theory. Prof. Guha begins with the letter by R.F Mudie, Home Member, Viceroy's Executive Council, to Evan Jenkins, private secretary of Lord Wavell, suggesting various ways to deal with the "problem" of Subhas Bose. The letter was dated 23rd August, 1945, day on which Japan declared to the world that Netaji died in a plane crash. It would appear that the British were still not aware of Bose's death by plane crash. However the last statement in Mudie's letter may raise some eyebrows - "In many ways the easiest course would be to leave him (Bose) where he is and not ask for his release." The question naturally comes up as to release from where? Bose was not interned either in Japan or in Thailand or in Singapore by the Allied forces.

As per the Transfer of Power document on October 25 the record of the cabinet meeting in presence of Clement Attlee in 10 Downing Street read that only civilian renegade of importance was Subhas Chandra Bose. Therefore it was clear that the British authorities were doubtful regarding the death of Bose in an aircrash atleast until October 1945. Even Wavell mentioned in his diary about the aircrash incident that "it is just what would be given out if he wanted to go underground." Mountbatten's HQ and MacArthur's HQ conducted separate enquiries in Japan and Formosa resp. British intelligence found four Hikari Kikan telegrams in Bangkok that pointed to Bose's death in the aircrash and contained information about his body being flown to Tokyo. The British intelligence thought these telegrams to be cooked up because all other files and records of the Japanese were destroyed, except for the telegrams and their files. There were contradictions in the reports about his dead body being cremated in Formosa and being flown to Tokyo. British intelligence suspected the motives of General Isoda, chief of Hikari Kikan and Col. Tada of Field Marshall Terauchi's HQ in Saigon as both Isoda and Terauchi had great respect for Bose. They would not have wanted him to fall in the hands of the allied forces. News broadcasted by the Domei agency said that Bose died in Japan and his body was cremated there. The elapsed time of five days between the supposed plane crash and informing it to the public also raised suspicions. After interrogation of the Japanese officials and the INA top leaders, it was evident that Bose's plan was to go to Russia across Manchuria. The presence of Shidei was significant as he was the Army Commander of Japan in Manchuria.

Gandhiji stated publicly at the beginning of January 1946 that he believed that Bose was alive and was hiding, ascribing this conviction to his inner voice. A testimony of Shyamlal Jain before Khosla commission revealed that Pandit Nehru received a secret communication from Bose. Jain was a stenographer of Asaf Ali. Nehru had asked Jain to make four copies of the communication which read, " Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose proceeding by aeroplane from Saigon arrived today, August 23, 1945, at Dairen (Manchuria) at 1.30 PM afternoon. The said plane was a Japanese bomber plane. It was full of gold in the shape of bars, ornaments and jewellery. Netaji carried two attache cases, one in each hand. On alighting from the plane Netaji took tea with bananas. When Netaji finished tea, he along with four others, out of which one was Japanese named General Shidei, took their seats in a jeep standing nearby. The said jeep proceeded towards Russian territory. After about 3 hours, the said jeep returned and informed the pilot of the plane who flew back to Tokyo."

Nehru also dictated a letter to Shyamlal which the latter reproduced from memory in Khosla commission-

The letter was directed as Clement Attlee and read, "I understand from a reliable source that Subhas Chandra Bose, your war criminal, has been allowed to enter Russian territory by Stalin. This is a clear treachery and betrayal of the faith by the Russians. As Russia has been an Ally of the British Americans, it should not have been done. Please take note of it and do what you consider proper and fit."

Most of the secret files about Netaji, that were maintained by Pandit Nehru himself, as PM's special file, like correspondences with the INA defence committee, were reported by the Government as either missing or destroyed.

Amritlal Seth, former editor of the Gujarat daily Janmabhumi, who accompanied Nehru during his visit to Singapore,  told Sarat Bose, that Nehru was warned by the British Admiral that Bose did not die in the alleged aircrash. About Nehru's failure to place a wreath on the INA memorial in Singapore, Mountbatten revealed in his diary that Nehru acted very compliantly on his advice regarding treatment about INA. Nehru also opposed any judicial enquiry to the death of Subhas Chandra Bose and only opened a line of enquiry with Shah Nawaz at the helm (whom he  promised a deputy ministership) when there was a strong possibility of forming a non official enquiry under Dr. Radha Binod Pal.

In his confidential note Ayer had reported to Nehru that General Tada told him that at the end of the war when Japan had surrendered, Terauchi took all the responsibility to help Netaji. He had arranged for Netaji to fly in the same plane as Shidei to Dairen. Shidei would help Netaji unto Dairen and then Subhas Chandra Bose would fall back on his own resources to contact Russians. Japanese would announce to the world that Bose had disappeared from Dairen.

A Taiwanese witness Y.R Tseng who appeared before the Khosla Commission told that a plane had crashed in September or October 1944 in the same place and not in 1945. Harin Shah, a Bombay based journalist had traveled to Formosa in 1946 to collect evidences pertaining to Netaji's death and wrote a book "Gallant end of Netaji" which he submitted to Shah Nawaz committee. In his book he had mentioned about a Taiwanese nurse who had treated Netaji in the military hospital. But the fact finding team of Samar Guha and Sunil Krishna Gupta could not find any nurse of that name or description in Formosa. Harin Shah had quoted many other Taiwanese in his books, who, later categorically denied any such statement ever made by them as was mentioned in his book, as per Prof. Guha. The three photographs of the wreckage and the topography of the airport proved that the photographs actually represented different crashes. Prof. Guha also pointed out many contradictions in the evidences given by the Japanese e.g 1) the plane was a new bomber vs. the plane was an old and worn out bomber 2) The plane was stationed in Saigon vs. the plane came from Manila (Nonogaki's evidence) 3) There were different versions as to who the chief pilot was and who the navigator was of that plane 4) versions about seating arrangements within the plane were different by different witnesses 5) Nobody could say with certainty where Netaji stayed in Tourane, before flying to Taihoku 6) There were different versions by different witnesses on when the plane took off from Tourane and when it landed in Taihoku 7) No military dignitary came to receive General Shidei or Netaji in Taihoku, an impossibility in case of General Shidei, the commander in charge of the Manchurian Army of Imperial Japan 8) There are multiple versions on how the crash had actually occurred e.g Habibur Rahman mentioned about a loud report which the Japanese witnesses did not support, some said that the propeller was broken while others told about a broken rear wheel 9) there are different versions from different witnesses on where the plane actually crashed 10) There are again multiple contradictory versions on what happened to the plane after the crash, for instance whether it was broken. Atleast one member Nakamura claimed that the plane was intact 11) There are differences in the versions of depositions of the same witness before Shah Nawaz Committee and before Khosla Commission e.g. that of Takahashi 12) There were contradictory viewpoints on how Netaji could walk out of the plane 13) Witnesses like Nonogaki, Takahashi, Taro Kano and Nakamura gave completely different versions of what happened when Netaji came out of the flight, from that of Habibur Rahman, e.g. who helped Netaji after he came out of the plane, whether Netaji was wearing any clothes or all the clothes were taken off 14) There was no definite conclusion as to what happened to the body of General Shidei, in what manner it was disposed 15) No document could be produced that could prove that a flight had reached Taihoku or took off from the airport or for that matter whether any plane crashed on 18 August 1945. Given the meticulous nature of the Japanese in keeping all documents and records, even during the times of extreme chaos, this is absurd. Japanese discovered Lean Manufacturing & Toyota Production System with emphasis on doing things right. They have a penchant for accuracy and record keeping. There is no evidence that any of the records was destroyed - e.g Hospital Bed Tickets, indent for pharmaceutical supplies for the treatment, death certificate, crematorium certificate in the name of Subhas Chandra Bose, log book entry of the plane taking off or that of the crash, its flight path, list of passengers, newspaper reports about the plane crash - none exists 16) There were multiple contradictory versions of what happened in the hospital when Netaji was brought there, for instance how long he was conscious, whether he was given a blood transfusion or not, when actually did his death take place 17)There are contradictions galore in Nonogaki's account of who from the Formosa HQ came to pay respect to Netaji's body. As a Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces there should have been participation of very high level Japanese military officers during the death or funeral, but none came. Chief of the General Staff of the Formosan Army General Isamaya said that neither he nor General Ando (who according to another staff officer went to this hospital and attended subsequent funeral ceremony) had gone to attend the funeral ceremony. But just a week later he had gone to the airport to receive Dr. Ba Maw and General Tanaka, who were on their way to Tokyo. So the Formosan HQ did not know about the aircrash and death of one of their Generals and allied Supreme Commander 18) Dr. Yoshimi, who was the main witness from the doctors who treated Netaji said that the body was kept in one corner of the room and a soldier had guarded it and flowers had been placed on it as mark of respect. Habibur took the body next day to crematorium. According to Khosla Commission report a certain Taiwanese was asked to guard Netaji's coffin on which Chandra Bose was written and there were some injured persons in the room. On the following day a truck came and took the body to the crematorium. The same Taiwanese had mentioned that he was kept as a guard on August 19 - a vital testimony that was deliberately taken out of Khosla commission report 19) Habibur Rahman gives the date of cremation as August 20 in his statement to Shah Nawaz Committee, but in a statement signed by him dated Aug 24, 1945, the date of cremation was Aug 22. One witness major Nagatomo said that the body was cremated on Aug 19, and the Taiwanese witness puts the date as Aug 21. S.A Ayer was there in Formosa on Aug 20 and yet he was not shown Netaji's body. It is worth noting that even though Ayer had started for Formosa in a Japanese bomber, it diverted him to Taichu instead of Taihoku, on Aug 20. Col. Tada did this without giving any reasonable explanation 20) In the crematorium no Japanese Army Head was present, only Habibur Rahman, J Nakamura (interpreter), Major Nagatomo, a Buddhist priest and the crematorium attendant were present. It is to be noted that Harin Shah in his book had given the photograph of Chu Tsan, the cremator. But the cremator's son had declared in the presence of justice Khosla that the photograph was not his father's. The son also said that there was no Indian present, no officer attended, no flowers were presented, in the crematorium. That directly contradicts Habibur Rahman's testimony that he was present 21) Nobody had seen Netaji's body, it was strictly prohibited to touch the coffin. No photograph could be taken of the body showing that it was Netaji's 22) Habibur Rahman had stated that Netaji's face was disfigured, but Dr. Yoshimi told that he bandaged the whole body of Netaji except his face. Why would a disfigured face be left behind from being treated 23) The body was not carried to Tokyo as the coffin was supposedly too large to be conveyed in a plane. General Isoda on the other hand, during his interrogation, had persistently said that Netaji's body was indeed flown to Tokyo and it was not cremated in Formosa 24) There was no enquiry at the alleged aircrash site by the Japanese authorities, even though Formosa had been in Japanese control for a long time, until atleast 30 September 1945. MacArthur came to Tokyo on on 7 September and Chinese and American forces landed in Taihoku even after that. This was confirmed by the foreign office of Japan.

In this manner Prof. Guha had cited around 45 questions in his book Netaji Dead or Alive.

Dr. Yoshimi could not produce a single document in support of Netaji being admitted to the military hospital. He had instead signed the cremation permit of a Japanese soldier named Ichiro Okura. The said Ichiro Okura was a Japanese soldier who had died of a heart attack and who had been cremated on Aug 22. He was born in 1900.

Prof. Guha goes further to claim that K.K. Shah, the former Information and Broadcasting Minister and Governor of TN, had told him that Nehru never believed the story of Netaji's death and he had personally told this to Shah. Prof. Guha believed that the testimonies of the Japanese witnesses before Shah Nawaz Committee and Khosla commission were nothing but cooked up stories as there were contradictions galore. Gobindo Mukhoty, the counsel of National Committee in Khosla Commission, had observed in front of Justice Khosla about the Japanese witnesses, "What to speak of your Lordship, Sir, even a fool will not believe these stories." Nonogaki, one of most trusted witnesses of Khosla, was proved to be a liar when he claimed himself to be the chief pilot of the plane. Major Takizawa was already recorded as the Chief pilot. There were several other false statements from him -  he mentioned the presence of Col. Tada in the airport, while Col. Tada was not there in the airport, or presence of General Ando during the funeral of Netaji, which was also untrue. Similarly another reliable witness Taro Kano claimed to be the navigator, while the navigator as recorded by Shah Nawaz Committee was Sergeant Okista. About the hospital scenes he gave different versions to Khosla and Shah Nawaz. Another witness Takahashi also lied when he said that the plane split into two halves and doors were open, while all other witnesses said that the plane was intact and the doors were closed. Another witness Sakai told the Khosla commission that he saw the rear wheel breaking away from the place. Others had completely disagreed. Habibur Rahman said that he alone went to put out the flames on Netaji, but Taro Kano said that he did it and not Habibur. Taro Kano and Nonagaki said, contrary to Habibur's claim, that Netaji was made completely naked. Dr. Yoshimi, the other "reliable" witness at first told the allied intelligence that Netaji had died at 11 PM. Later Yoshimi had claimed the time of death to be 8 PM. No nurses who were supposed to have treated Netaji, could be found. Habibur Rahman had said that only the upper part of Netaji's body was completely burnt while Dr. Yoshimi said that the whole body was burnt. There were major discrepancies between the facts given by Habibur Rahman and the facts narrated by Dr. Yoshimi and other Japanese witnesses. This only implies one thing - that Habibur Rahman did not have time to cross verify his story with that of the other Japanese witnesses. Their stories converged in the summary, but differed much in the details. This can only be possible if the details of the stories were curved out independently without having any opportunity to rehearse the parts. Even Dr. Yoshimi's statement that about 400 cc of blood was given to Netaji was contradicted by another doctor in charge, Dr. Tsuruta and Habibur Rahman. Again Habibur Rahaman gave out a misleading story to the British Intelligence on what really happened in Saigon. He suppressed the fact that Netaji had planned to travel to Manchuria, and said that Netaji had planned to go to Tokyo. He told a deliberate lie to the British intelligence that the talk between Ishoda and Bose took place in airport, while it really happened in Bose's residence. Habibur Rahman also concealed the fact that he was taken into confidence in all secret meetings of Netaji with the Japanese in Bangkok and Saigon. Habibur Rahman also feigned complete ignorance about the vast qualities of INA treasure that was supposedly with Bose. E. Bhaskaran, the confidential secretary of Netaji, told Khosla commission that Netaji carried four large suitcases containing gold and jewelry. Habibur Rahman also promoted the story of a burnt rectangular wrist watch that he claimed to be of Netaji. But almost all people associated with Netaji including his personal valet Kundan Singh said that Netaji always wore a round watch. Dr. Yoshimi and other Japanese witnesses ruled out the possibility of Netaji's giving out a last testament to Habibur Rahman, which he had claimed in such a dramatic mode. Nonogaki on the other hand had a completely different version of this testament. So all the principal witnesses including Habibur Rahman had lied, to varying degrees.

Incidentally when Habibur Rahman came to depose before Shah Nawaz Committee, he was staying in Pakistan High Commission. There Prof. Samar Guha and Sunil Krishna Gupta went to meet him. In reply to the question as to why Habibur Rahman did not contradict the report published in Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore which quoted him claiming that Netaji did not die in plane crash, he told Sunil Krishna Gupta, "Why are you so anxious to demolish a story which has no basis? Let them declare that Netaji is dead. It will be our double gain when he will return."

In several other instances Habibur Rahman indicated that he merely obeyed the order of Netaji in giving out his story. He told the same to Secretary of the Prime Minister of the princely state of Alwar, Khem Chand, an ICS.

Justice Khosla had alluded to the absence of documents of the aircrash or the absence of any protocols in giving a state funeral to Netaji and General Shidei to the chaotic conditions that prevailed there after Japanese surrender. But that does not explain how, despite the "chaotic conditions", Tanaka and Ba Maw could receive full military attention and passed conveniently through Taihoku on 25th August, or Dr. Laurel and other South East Asian leaders reached Tokyo much later and Sakai and Habibur Rahman left for Tokyo with Netaji's ashes on 7th of September, and flight charts were available for those flights.There was no sign of any chaos in Formosa as it was under Japanese occupation until September end. Prof. Guha gives numerous examples of how Netaji could have planned his departure to Manchuria to seek Russian help and that the top Japanese Generals were ready to help him in executing the plan. The same was evident from the testimony given by Lt. Gen Takakura to Khosla Commission, which justice Khosla conveniently disregarded.  Lt. Gen. Ishoda also told the commission that the purpose of Netaji's flight was to go to Soviet Union. Col. Tada made a disclosure to Ayer that the Japanese Imperial HQ had decided to make a false announcement of Netaji's disappearance once he crossed the borders of Manchuria. The reason that all the Japanese witnesses had stuck to their stories despite glaring contradictions was because they were fiercely loyal to their country's stand in this matter. If the Imperial HQ and South East Asia HQ had asked them to fabricate stories about Netaji's death, they would do so without qualms. It is to be noted that no death certificate or cremation certificate could be produced even for Lt. General Tsunamasa Shidei by the Japanese Government. The cremation permit of Ichiro Okura showed that his body was cremated on Aug 22 and not on Aug 20 as claimed by the Tokyo HQ, the Japanese witnesses and Habibur Rahman. None of Netaji's personal belongings was available, either from the wreckage site or on him personally - like his sacred Gita, Chandi and rosary beads which always used to accompany him, wherever he went, as per the testimony of Kundan Singh. No evidence could be gathered as to where Netaji stayed in the course of his alleged night halt in Tourane.

Netaji gave an indication of the plan to John Thivy on August 17, when he informed him that he (Netaji) might be involved in an aircrash. Netaji had also told Dr. Pabitramohan Roy, not to believe any special news about Netaji and that he would meet Pabitra again. Netaji had asked Anand Mohan Sahai to establish contacts with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.

It is also to be noted that Emilie Schenkl did not consent to the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India's request in 1993, to give permission to bring Netaji's ashes from Renkoji Temple to India. However her daughter Dr. Anita Pfuff believes that Netaji died in the aircrash and the ashes in Renkoji temple belong to him and should be brought back to India.

In his Dissentient Report, Suresh Chandra Bose, Netaji's elder brother, also detailed out many objections to the aircrash theory and suggested that the alleged plane crash was a cover for Netaji to escape according to his own plan. On 23 January 1951, Shah Nawaz himself had a made a statement that Netaji was alive. K Satoh and Lt. N.B Das, two witnesses in Shah Nawaz committee stated that they saw Netaji taking off in a separate plane, not the one that contained Habibur Rahman. Dr. Radha Binod Pal also did not believe that Netaji died in Formosa.

In Oi Mahamanab Ase, a great man narrates his escape journey, "Disappearance was planned by HIM. Long ago, before Jap surrender. Even before that he went to Russia and nobody knew it. He returned after one and half months. He planned his disappearance.  Jewelry and treasure were packed for dropping at a place of his disappearance. First Bomber was a dummy flight with publicity of Him, Kimura and others. Real Bomber left after, for unknown destination."

Dr. Satyanarayan Sinha in his book Netaji Rahasya, claimed that he went to Formosa to make an enquiry about the so called death of Netaji. He was informed by a Government official that there was only one aircrash in Taihoku and that was on 23rd October, 1944. According to Dr. Sinha, the Japanese had shown the photographs of a different aircrash, possibly of the one that happened in 1944. The photographs showed the crash site near a hill while the witness account of the crash in 1945 did not provide any information about the crash happening near a hill. On 8th August Russians had declared war on Japan. A Chinese communist agent who was in India told Dr. Sinha that Netaji and Shidei boarded a bomber. Netaji had on him the attire of the Supreme Commander of the Azad Hind Government. A certain Taiwanese Colonel also told the same to Dr. Sinha. That person further said that he had himself seen Netaji starting for Dairen on 18th August and he informed the Nationalist Chungking Government on the same. The same colonel, who was working there in the airport, told that Habibur Rahman was tutored by the Japanese on the story to be told. One of his Chinese associates who came in contact with Subhas Bose in Dairen, showed Dr. Sinha a picture of Netaji in the costume of a Confucian monk, taken in 1949, in Dairen. Dr. Sinha also got to know from Goga Mukherjee, the son of Abani Mukherjee, an Indian revolutionary who escaped to Russia, that both Abani Mukherjee and Subhas Bose were interned by Stalin in Yakutsk Gulag. One Trotsky follower who had come back from Gulag claimed that Subhas Bose was imprisoned in the cell no. 45 and Abani Mukherjee in cell no. 57, in and around 1950-51. According to him the Indian embassy and few Congress and Communist leaders who closely worked with the Comintern, informed the Russian leadership that Bose was a Fascist. Accordingly he was imprisoned by Stalin. This revelation by Dr. Sinha had also given credence to the theory that Bose died in Russia. In the MEA file 25/4/NGO - Vol V11, in a deposition before Justice Mukherjee Commission, Prem Das Mukherjee has narrated his conversation with Dr. Satyanarayan Sinha, who had accused that Pandit Nehru knew about the imprisonment and possible death of Subhas Chandra Bose in Russia. Even this was indicated to Dr. Sinha by Krushchev when he came to visit India.

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