Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Seeing the propensity of a certain person who claims herself to be closely related to Netaji to criticize Netaji's actions as well as giving gyan to the Indian PM on his priority, I think we should debunk a myth propagated and promoted assiduously. Of course, this will be done logically and rationally, and I have a few questions for some of the current researchers who want to doggedly pursue certain theories ignoring or disregarding contrary and often powerful evidence. As a doctoral research scholar from an IIM, I believe in the integrity of research. It should be free of bias, and the researcher's dogma and the opposing evidence should be carefully presented while presenting any theory. Otherwise, you can publish any number of books promoting your pet theories, but they will not be acceptable in academic circles and among intellectuals - a first and foremost necessary step to establish a theory. Books are considered grey literature since they are often not peer-reviewed as critically as academic papers in well-reputed journals. One of the preconditions of a good peer review is a double-blind review by reviewers who should not know the writer's identity. In absence of all that writer's biases cannot be rectified. A ground rule for any good theory is that it is generalizable and it is testable. From AI parlance, it should not "overfit" the training data to lose generalizability.
Let me first say that I have the utmost respect for the concerned researchers, and do believe in their sincerity and integrity. It is through their constant and meticulous effort the Netaji issue has been highlighted to people like me who were disinterested even a few years back. Also people like me took the marriage theory and the death theory for granted. Therefore the below piece is constructive criticism like any other peer reviewer, to help them come up with stronger and better arguments in light of the facts.
There is an Occam’s razor principle - " among competing hypotheses that explain known observations equally well, we should choose the “simplest” one. " The current approach by the researchers concerned violates this. The simple, consistent coherent narrative is that Netaji was married, had a daughter, died in an aircrash in Aug 1945, as promoted by, lets call it, an "ecosystem." The other end simple narrative, being protected by few disciples and associates of Netaji is that the aircrash was a fake story, Netaji came back to India as a monk as he was denied legitimate entry, he was never married and never had a daughter, and he became a monk while he continued to work for the betterment of India and the world. This is also a simple coherent narrative, no discrepancy. When we try to mix and match and complicate things, the problem arises as there are serious contradictions.
Let us take this theory of the marriage of Netaji. The facts are known to all - there is a certain letter in Bengali, there is a certain gossip beginning in Germany, information to Nehru and Patel, lack of any indication from MI5 or MI6 or CIA or the German or Nazi Intelligence, from SS, the theory of first an eight-year-old boy, then a girl, the absence of any birth certificate being white-washed to Nazi Germany's dislike for foreigners being married to "Aryans" and so on. We also have a former communist who later became very close to the Nehrus to vouch for the marriage. SS did not know about a secret marriage done with an Aryan by a foreigner! Really!! You are having a rather poor opinion of the entity that is capable of unearthing a huge conspiracy against its leader and executing the perpetrators meticulously. We also see that such facts came up very conveniently after the disappearance of the great leader. Before that, there was not even a vestige of mention of his marriage anywhere. We also note that Netaji did not mention anywhere about his marriage or having a daughter. Is that a natural thing for a leader to do who had left his family in great perils, as a concerned father or as a husband? Else he fails his paternal duties and obligations, and Netaji was not a man to fail in his duties. He in fact denies any marriage in a) his statement to Ba Maw as quoted by Ba Maw himself b) in his address to the Tokyo cadets to whom he says that he has no "son" of his own - understand that can be interpreted in multiple ways, but one possible way is substituting son for son and daughter as well (Putra in Sanskrit often links back to legal heir, son or a daughter, in a generic sense, progeny or offspring). We also see Sarat Bose, who travels to Germany to meet his brother's "wife and daughter" in Germany, becomes extremely quiet after coming back to India and only replies to a question right after landing in India, that he had been deceived. We also note that some of the other people close to Netaji, mostly his elder brother Suresh Bose, vociferously denied any marriage or daughter even as late as 1970, publicly.
Now let us examine the other facts, logically and rationally. The researchers concerned steadfastly promote the theory of Bhagwanji being Netaji. Bhagwanji, in multiple places, including in a letter to Dr. Pabitra Mohan Roy, denied his marriage. The image of the handwritten letter is available in Facebook, courtesy Dr. Madhusudan Pal who has written a book debunking and denouncing the marriage theory. As research scholars, we know a simple ground rule of Qualitative Research on phenomenology or a Persona as epistemology. If we have a person's direct account, we rely on that more than any other evidence to research that person, unless we have strong reasons/evidence to disprove that person or believe that he/she is lying. None of these applies to Bhagwanji's case. In OMA Bhagwanji states categorically that the marriage theory was a fraud perpetrated on him, and that the so-called letter linking him to his "wife and daughter" was a forgery. He even describes how it is a forgery - that a) it is written in Bengali - after 1927 he had not written any letter in Bengali to his brothers b) his letters always begin with an auspicious symbol on the top c) the date and place on the bottom of the letter was never a characteristic of Netaji's letters. He goes on to describe his daughter as the daughter of a Scotland Yard Officer in "Mahakal Kathan" possibly in a letter to Dr. Roy. In another letter again possibly to Dr. Roy, he laments "Tomra make tyag korechho, disown korecho, Bibahito dekhiyocho, Santaner Janak Baniyecho..." - You guys have disowned me, you have made me married, become the father of a child...."
Therefore there are two possibilities 1) Either Bhagwanji was not Netaji or 2) He was deliberately lying in multiple places in multiple contexts. The researchers explain the apparent contradiction in two different ways. But more on that later.
Fact 2 - Sarat Bose never discussed Netaji's marriage, never gave a penny to the "wife and daughter" even when they were in "dire financial straits" and he died suddenly after his disclosure of Netaji in China before he could speak out more. Suresh Bose, the other elder brother extremely close to Netaji steadfastly debunked the marriage, until 1970, just before his death. My question to the researchers is, if you are giving so much credence to both Suresh and Sarat Bose in establishing your theory of Netaji being alive post-1945, why are you not considering their utterances in this matter? Why do we go with a selective, partisan approach that will not stand scrutiny in any good peer-reviewed academic journals? Reviewers can see through researcher biases as they are trained to do so based on their experience. Why would Sarat Bose or Suresh Bose deny their brother's marriage? Political reasons? tarnishing image of Subhas? misunderstanding by public? Nonsensical to say the least. Sarat knew that Subhas never cared for personal disreputation. To him, duty came first. He cared least about public perceptions. And he had no great political ambition. Can I claim that he kept quiet not because of his brother's reputation, but because he loathed to enter into a political controversy? He also did not have proof to disprove the marriage until Subhas returned. Had it been the other way, that his dear brother's "wife and daughters" were in dire strait, would he have kept quiet? The researchers try to explain his silence claiming that he wanted to wait till Subhas returned to proclaim himself. Really!! Is that the best explanation you can come up with? Imagine my ill elder brother with uncertainty about his own life, waiting for the uncertain return of his younger brother, to disclose a certainty, that I am married and have a child!! No brother worth his salt would do that.
Fact 3 - The Netaji files reveal an interesting story, that PM Nehru suddenly took an active interest in protecting and giving financial help to his erstwhile "friend's wife and daughter. Of course, it can be a magnanimity on the part of the great Indian Prime Minister to care for the "wife and the daughter" of his friend and comrade. But critics like me with a devious mind cannot help but ask some uncomfortable questions - Bhagwanji was bitter, and scathing on Nehru's role in the entire Subhas saga, calling him a traitor, calling out the devious role of JLN Combine to even eliminate him. Again assuming Bhagwanji was Subhas Bose as per the researchers, was that a very natural behavior? As per Bhagwanji, Nehru seems to emerge as a completely different character, uncharacteristic of the magnanimity displayed. His active role in promoting Netaji's death story through the Shah Nawaz Committee, his vague reply to Atul Sen's letter, his role in Shaulmari episode, and his snooping of Bose family members, all point to a certain direction - that "dal mein kuch kala hai". That kala stems from multiple sources, one of them being the alleged misappropriation of INA treasure by some great minds, British, Indian and Japanese alike, giving some doles to the ruling elite circles. It may also stem from disallowing the possibility of the return of a dead ghost, which would certainly lead to a collapse of the powers of the collaborators. It was necessary to keep the dead ghost away by any means. In case he appears on the horizon a convenient way would be to prove him an imposter and what better way can be than proving an imposter using the testimony of the "wife (and daughter)" of the leader!!!!
And there are other facts - small and minor inconsequential ones, but nevertheless, worth mentioning. In a Vlog interview, it appears that an ex-revolutionary and Netaji Subhas associate Bimal Nandi came in touch with Bhagwanji, whom he calls "Maharaj." There is no doubt in the minds of Bimal Nandi that Bhagwanji was Netaji, and yet, he refers to someone as "comrade Emilie". Have we ever heard of any revolutionary calling his ex-leader's wife a comrade? Can you imagine Chittapriya calling Bagha Jatin's wife as "comrade" or Anant Singh or Lokanath Bal calling on "Comrade Pushpa", wife of Masterda? Especially if that wife is not actively involved in the work of revolution and being truly a comrade or an associate as Geeta Mukherjee was to Subhas Mukherjee, or Kalpana Joshi was to P.C Joshi for instance. No, no revolutionary worth his cent would be having the guts to demean, defile and denigrate a greater leader's wife as a "comrade." He would at best refer to her respectfully or give no reference at all. Therefore the "comrade" concerned was not a "wife" but a coworker. That leads us to conjecture if there was a "real" Emilie, a coworker in the revolutionary activities but never a "wife," and "dummy", post-disappearance-appearance Emilie who would be entrusted with the duty of identifying a certain imposter whenever he appears!
Now let me come back to the concerned researchers' assertions on the hidden motives. First, in their book the researchers try trivializing the assertion by Bhagwanji and claim that he wanted to put away his snooping disciples from his "family" and thus protect his family from undue attention. Novel indeed! Disregarding the vehement, emphatic, vigorous, and categorical nature of the denial of Bhagwanji for a moment, let us consider this statement in the light of the character of Netaji. It was true that Netaji was secretive, but does that mean that he would lie for his own, personal consideration? He left his "wife and daughter" in dire straits and embarked on a perilous journey, banking only on a letter that would conveniently surface after his disappearance, to his Mejda who was also ill, serving prison terms, and might not be serving uncertain incarceration for long. Would this same guy, to protect his "wife and daughter" from the probing disciples who are doing their utmost for him, serving him day and night, trying to keep him in good and healthy condition, tell a convincing and categorical falsehood to these sincere fellows? To the people who would protect not only him but whomsoever, he orders them to? What would a "truth" cost him? Their respect? Netaji cared too hoots about respect! So this logic, I am sorry, would not stand scrutiny from a peer reviewer.
Now the researchers adopt one more tactic. They come up with the possibility that Netaji might have been tortured in Russia because somebody found him ill there and that somebody could not report it back in India. That there was a story of a video that surfaced from somebody who believes in the "death theory" now, that "Netaji was being slow poisoned in Russia and he was losing his mind." And then there is great Dr Satyanarayan Sinha who got to know from Russian communist party member X that Netaji was interned in cell no XX in Siberia and he had in his company a former Indian communist leader who believed to have died in 1937 in Stalin's great purge. And the message was reinforced by the son of that same leader, who is believed to have perished in the WW2 battle, long after he perished. All these are very convoluted!!!! Bhagwanji mentioned Siberia and Gulag prison camps but he also mentioned about a supervisory duty there. He observed the life there and never mentioned if he underwent the same pains and torture. The testimony of Ardhendu Sarkar does not point to any perceived torture. Can there be a possibility, a remote one, still plausible and equally likely, that Stalin put him in Gulag temporarily, till he had his own atom bomb to deal with the British and the Americans? So this entire theory is conjecture. To build on that the researchers weave another aspect, that there were megalomaniac and seemingly impossible assertions by the leader in certain letters or informal discussions - like the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima was meant for Subhas Bose, or that three other names crop up when Bhagwanji tried crossing over to Nepal, as his company - A Hitler, one Himmler, and a Bormann. I admit, these are seemingly improbable. They confounded me, like the researchers. They don't gel well with the character of Netaji who never boasted about himself. So I thought, either this guy is a fraud, or there is some problem, until I came across Prof JBP More and his deciphering of the French intelligence reports as well as the report of the stringer Alfred Wag who first disclosed about Netaji being alive after the reported crash. The report states that the French allied forces bombed the entire jungle of Indo China to get Bose and his men. French intelligence inflicted severe torture on Lion Prouchandy the foster father of JBP More, who got into a vegetative state until his death, because supposedly Netaji stayed in his house after air crash. He was a close associate of Netaji. Well, if this is the diabolical treatment received by an associate of Bose, what more can be in store for the man himself? Therefore if not primary, could that atom bomb drop have a secondary objective, of eliminating some key people within the radius of its destruction, not stated but implied intention? Plausible, at least more plausible in the light of the facts than inventing a theory to "overfit" the facts.
And then, about this Hitler issue. Let us put it as three Germans! Incidentally, I came across a testimony in Khosla commission that was ignored by Justice Khosla and also by the researchers. A certain Swami Nirvanananda testified that he saw Netaji in North Bengal in the late 1950s or early 1960s (beginning of Shaulmari episode that was later hijacked by JLN Combine?) in a jeep with three Germans, from whom he got a lift. One of them told the sannyasi that he was sitting with Netaji. Considering the story to be true (no reason to disbelief or disown until proven a lie) Is there a remote possibility that those Germans were pen named after those Nazi leaders? That is, they assumed a few important names, but not necessarily they were they themselves. So when Bhagwanji mentioned their names he was referring to the names only, not of the actual persons but some others whose identity he wanted to conceal by any means!!! His helpers perhaps, who might have been of German origin! Possible, right? Better than inventing a theory. As regards the symptoms that are verified by medical experts, they are so generic that I am sure if some researcher had the audacity to run through the same type of study on other great spiritual leaders and masters they would have readily gotten a medical validation and arrived at the same conclusion. When five doctors saw Bhagwanji intimately, all were knowledgeable and honest in their professions and went beyond their personal reverence for him, medical opinion is unproven. It cannot stand logical scrutiny. X has A symptoms, A symptoms are indicative of B illness, and therefore A has B illness, is often proven wrong in medical history. That is the reason we have a medical science developed around diagnostics and other lab-based tests. Sri Ramakrishna was regarded as a madman by many ordinary folks who did not understand him, except for his ardent devotees and sincere seekers. Sri Chaitanya received the same treatment in Navadweep. Some of Swami Vivekananda's statements can be conceived as a megalomaniac by non-discerning folks - like his claim of having the power to convert at least a third of the world. Some of the statements of Vivekananda did not come true during his lifetime like English getting converted to the ideals of Vedanta, or that Japan had great potential on Vedantic ideals. But "Kala nirabadhi". There is no reason to disbelieve that those assertions won't come true in the future. The same goes with some of the assertions of Bhagwanji which seemed to be too fantastic to be true!!! Facts may come up later. Let's set these aside for now, but that is no reason to weave a theory around that cannot be proved. And if the theory is to explain why he never came out of his pardah, to proclaim himself to the outside world, I will just point you to his own version - he wanted to remain dead to the general public, he had no intention to hog the limelight but do his job of great consequence for India and the world silently and secretly, without any scrutiny. For that work to be done, whomsoever he needed to contact he did. And to the common men whom he corresponded with, he put them under oath of secrecy. Indian leadership knew that he was of no danger to their political ambitions, not because he was suffering from some imaginary ailments, but because they knew that he was disinterested in name, fame, power, and position - he had renounced them all. Yes, sometimes he did lament his misfortune. Vivekananda's letters to his disciples like Raja of Khetri show the great spiritual leader's pathetic conditions, his dire strait, where he is begging for a peaceful death. Does that prove that Swami Vivekananda dwelled on them and craved a comfortable life, a life of glory and prosperity? No, he just wanted the basic minimum needed for his work, for his mission. Similarly, Netaji's lamentations to his favorite disciple Pabitra Mohan Roy, who may have played the same role in Bhagwanji saga, does not mean that he really "missed" his fortune! He needed some respite to continue his great mission. Nothing more, nothing less.
I rest my case. Hope anybody reading this will acknowledge at least the logical reasoning and the validity of the arguments. As a research community, we need to rise above our personal biases and dogmas especially if it concerns a great man whom we all love. And any myths, mithyas, or unproven facts need to be taken down mercilessly. If the researchers still want to doggedly pursue their theory they have every right to do so, and they can rightfully publish their own books. But then that will not be seeking honest truth getting over biases and dogmas, that is the hallmark of research philosophy. At the very least they should point out the contradictory facts and the limitations of the research for other discernible minds and unproven theories should not become "facts."
Before closing, circling back to the point that I started with! Which daughter would question her great-father's actions? Which daughter will question the attempt to honour her father? Can you imagine a Sheikh Hasina criticizing her father for his role in the Hindu genocide? Or Aung San Syu Ki criticizing Aung San for collaborating with the Japanese? No, no daughter would criticize her great father, instead will try utmost to defend her father's actions and would bask in the glory of tribute being paid. Such criticism can only happen if a certain person from the academic circle is concerned about her own, I repeat, own, selfish reputation, concerned that an ideology that her academic circle does not support is hijacking a theme that she and her ecosystem had bred for themselves and their own ideology, concerned that the Nazi affiliation will harm her intellectually now that a Hindu Nationalist leader is trying to pay respect to Netaji. Assumptions on my part? May be... but not wild ones I suppose! Would be happy to be proven wrong.