ENDURING ENIGMA – Britain spread canard: Netaji an MI-6 agent
Sought To Discredit Him In The Eyes of Soviets Yet Soviet Intel Thought He Was Best Bet In India
Late In June 1993, Ajai Malhotra, then Information Counsellor at the Indian Embassy in Moscow, was despatched by the ambassador to the offices of the bi-monthly `Asia and Africa Today’ to investigate whether the magazine was proposing to run a story alleging that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an agent of the MI-6, the external arm of British Intelligence. The deputy chief editor V K Tourdjev said that they indeed were and added that the story was based on information ferreted from KGB archives. He also showed Malhotra, from a distance, a letter marked `top secret’ and written by Colonel G A Hill of British intelligence on December 11, 1943 to Colonel Osipov of Soviet Intelligence that alleged that Bose had `cooperated’ with MI-6. It also alleged that Bose had escaped to Kabul from house arrest in Calcutta in 1941 with the full knowledge of the British Intelligence.
By the mid of 1943 Subhas Bose was already in Singapore and had launched the Indian National Army (INA) with the cooperation of the Japanese. He was fighting the British tooth and nail, who, in turn, were keen to get rid of the Indian patriot by hook or crook. In fact, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) -an irregular war time sabotage agency set up at the instance of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill -had been ordered (soon after Bose disappeared from Calcutta) to ‘eliminate’ him, including by assassination.
The SOE’s branch office in Istanbul had been conveyed this direction because the British intelligence expected Bose to move into Europe through Turkey. However, Subhas Bose travelled to Berlin via Soviet Russia foiling the British attempt. Meanwhile, British Intelligence was also picking up information that Bose could be interested in tying up with USSR to liberate India. That is how the grand conspiracy was launched: Portray Bose as a British agent and sow suspicion in the mind of the Soviets. This would serve the British purpose, if Bose hitch-hiked with the Soviets. The Soviets would not be able to fathom that a patriot like him who spent his entire life fighting the British -could never even think of cooperating with them, much less than be their agent.
As Netaji’s bad luck would be, he broke into Soviet-occupied territory at the end of the Second World War after faking an air-crash in Taipei (the Justice Mukherjee Commission conclusively proved that no air crash took place). Subhas Bose believed that with the end of the War it was only the Soviet Union with its anti-imperialist credentials which could help deliver India from the British yoke. Though he landed in Dairen in Manchuria (now Dalian in China), Bose’s plan was to go to Omsk in Siberia. During the War, a large part of the Soviet administration had shifted to Omsk because it was away from the German borders. Bose had himself sent his representative Kato Kochu (an assumed name of an Indian whose identity is yet to be established) to set up a mission of the provisional government of Azad Hind. What happened in Omsk is not known in precise details, but Subhas Bose fell to British misinformation. The Soviets had a bad track record of dealing with persons they thought had doubtful intentions and Bose was not their only victim. Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish diplomat in War time Budapest controlled by the Third Reich -played a yeoman’s role in saving the lives of hundreds of Jews by giving them Swedish documents. But when the USSR invaded Hungary, one of the first things they did was to gaol Wallenberg on charges of being an American spy. In World War II, the US and the Soviets fought on the same side but this did not deter them from acting against each other. Wallenberg never emerged from behind the Iron Curtain.
Bose possibly fell a similar victim although evidence has been seen by Russian researchers in KGB archives that in October 1946 Stalin was discussing with his foreign minister Molotov how to do deal with Bose. Analysts think that Stalin, who had very rudimentary knowledge about India and thought very poorly of Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi (on whose death he even refused to send a condolence message), was persuaded by the British misinformation to despatch Netaji to the Gulag, at least for some time. The fact that Netaji had no lobby in Kremlin working for him meant that his case went unrepresented. However, he might have been kept alive because this was a necessity. Stalin’s relation with the new India was frosty and the Commissar felt that newly independent country would become a proxy of British and America in the newly emerging Cold War scenario. He may have decided to keep Netaji alive because a section of Soviet Intelligence had indicated that he (rather than Gandhi and Nehru) was the right person for the Soviets to work with in India.
At what point was Subhas Bose released and how he reached India incognito is something that is yet to be unravelled. But when holy man Gumnami Baba died on September 16, 1985 in Faizabad, the story began to circulate that Netaji Subhas Bose has died. “I also heard the story and decided to investigate,“ says then college professor and journalist V N Arora. But this became a little difficult because the caretakers of the baba had locked up his premises putting multiple seals. “A few prominent local citizens like us then represented to the district magistrate to open the premises for us to investigate who this Baba was,“ Arora told TOI.
Taken in by the strong representation, the DM agreed, allowing Arora and others to inspect the premises for half an hour. “In the end we came out after eight hours. There were an astounding range of books and documents pertaining to Netaji including the dissent report of Suresh Chandra Bose (Netaji’s elder brother) to the Shah Nawaz Committee that asserted that the patriot had died in the air crash, there was also the report of Radha Binod Pal who had dissented from the International Tribunal on whose report Japanese bigwigs like H Tojo, the Japanese Prime Minister were sent to the gallows. There were also books on contemporary politics and the original photograph of the Baba -the copy that had been released by Parliamentarian Samar Guha in the late 1970s to newspapers claiming that Netaji was in hiding. There were newspapers from 1964 with comments of the Baba on the side. All the stuff were later stored in the Faizabad district treasury, where it still remains.
After that Arora did more research on who the Baba was and came across a man who, though he remained behind curtains, was constantly experimenting. For instance, he deliberately stayed in a house that had no electricity connections for six months. Yet at the same time, the Baba only ate organically grown food and this was organised for him by Panda Ram Kishore, a leading tirth purohit of Ayodhya. The Panda, whom Gumnami Baba used to call `Nand baba’, is now dead but Arora recollects a story told by him. “It was night in the dead of winter and Gumnami Baba was sleeping in the room. Ram Kishore was sleeping outside with an angeethi to warm him. Suddenly Ram Kishore realised that the Baba could be feeling cold. So he hastened inside to ask the Baba if he needed the angeethi. Baba replied: This body has lived in Siberia. It does not require warmth,” Arora remembers Ram Kishore having told him.