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A year back, Harvard professor Sugata Bose released a biography of the Indian leader Subhas Chandra Bose which claimed to lay all speculation regarding his death to rest. However, last week, a veteran journalist Anuj Dhar released a book which claims to show documents obtained from India's government to prove that the evidence points to exactly the other direction. According to Dhar, documents obtained using the Right to Information Act show that the famous freedom fighter, who was popularly known as "Netaji" (leader) in India, had actually escaped to Soviet Russia in 1945, and that the news of the plane crash was a subterfuge that allowed Bose to escape. The Government of India's last inquiry also supports Dhar's claim. India's government itself seems to have an ambiguous stance on this matter.

Why is it that historians are not able to agree on someone's disappearance over 65 years after it occurred? And why has this great disappearance mystery, about such a famous and controversial Indian leader, not received much attention from historians?

I will be grateful for your replies.

Update I went through the preview of Dhar's book given on Amazon. It claims India's government responsible for intentionally sabotaging its own inquiry into Bose's disappearance. Dhar himself is fighting a judicial battle in Delhi Hight Court over the government's refusal to show some documents related to Bose's disappearance.

Update 2 In case anyone is interested about the latest news on the disappearance story, there is a story about a monk dying in 1985 in Faizabad in India. Many people (including three journalists) had claimed that the monk was Bose in disguise. The High Court of Uttar Pradesh has just ordered the government to conduct an inquiry into this incident.

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Should be Right to Information, not education. –  apoorv020 Jul 8 '12 at 18:32
    
Sorry, it was a mistake. I have now corrected it. Thank you for pointing it out to me! –  Arani Jul 9 '12 at 4:37
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Perhaps because it sells more books if there's uncertainty? –  T.E.D. Jul 9 '12 at 13:42
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@FelixGoldberg I understand that the perspective of people differ. By showing how an independent India could run a government (even if provisional) and an army without being bogged down by religious, linguistic or caste divisions, Bose's made lasting contributions to the birth of India. The Indian Army –  Arani Dec 26 '12 at 20:27
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@FelixGoldberg The Indian Army's marching anthem is derived from that of the INA. As for collusion with the Nazis, to the millions of Indians who were starving to death (see Bengal famine of 1943) in Bengal due to sheer indifference, British rule was intolerable, even at the cost of collusion with the Nazis. Bose recognized this, and never showed any sympathy for the Nazis' racial bigotry. In fact, Bose had a few Jewish friends in Austria, and had expressed sympathy for their plight. –  Arani Dec 26 '12 at 20:37

3 Answers 3

The event (alleged death) took place towards the end of the World War II, just after the surrender of Japan. There was a lot of general confusion and fog of war. And this was a person known for disguises and misdirection.

It would be difficult to get proper documentation or find reliable witnesses. This could very well explain the uncertainty regarding his death.

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Thank you for your reply. I agree that Bose was known for disguises and misdirection, and this might have caused confusion among people. But this does not explain why the matter has got so little attention. There are at least three reasons why the matter should be important to historians: 1) Proving Bose had escaped would show that Japan was serious about helping him. 2) A senior general of Japan Tsunamasa Shidei was also said to have died in the same accident. 3) Bose was acknowledged by almost all Indians to be a great leader, and India's history changed permanently with his disappearance. –  Arani Jul 9 '12 at 11:54

There is a 2010 review of the subject in History Today. In the end, the mystery remains. My own conclusions after reading the article are:

  1. The plane crash version does indeed feel fishy.
  2. The answer is likely to be in the Russian archives - which means it will not be forthcoming for a long time, I am afraid.
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As an Indian, I had always heard Bose being referred to as a great leader. The release of two diametrically opposite narratives about Bose's death had attracted my interest six months ago. I read both of them, and found that Dhar has sued the Government of India to reveal what information it has obtained on this from the Russians. India's government claims that doing so would harm friendly relations between the two countries. The judicial battle continues. Interestingly, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has agreed to help in case they stumble on something in Russia. –  Arani Dec 26 '12 at 20:50

Maybe India would have been a lot different under Subash Chandra Bose than Gandhi family. I personally feel the Russians captured him and he died in Siberia. It was because of Nehru, but why did Stalin keep him in prison and when did he die? I wonder how this one family in India became so powerful and ruled illiterate Indians for so long and will continue to do so. Atal Behari Vajpayee should have helped clear all these doubts in his short 4.5 years of government.

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By now, I have studied Dhar's book, and I appreciate what he says. He says that not only did the Vajpayee government not help the inquiry, it actually actively harmed it. Repeated requests to show the Home Ministry's documents were denied (they were shown to the previous inquiries), permission to go to Taiwan and Russia was given only after an extraordinary amount of delay, and the embassy officials in Japan were very reluctant to help. The inquiry itself was formed by an order of Kolkata High Court, which found the Government of India's silence on this matter suspicious. –  Arani Sep 4 '12 at 20:00
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Do you have any sources? –  American Luke Sep 18 '12 at 1:10
    
Can you please provide facts to support your answer? –  Max Oct 2 '12 at 7:06

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