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Rediscovering Life And Death Of Netaji
Sreejith Panickar - A Young man from Kerala who is one of the five to bring out the missing threads of life and death of Netaji to light | By Indu Lekshmi
On Feb 13, 2016

Most of us take history as told by historians. But there are however some who probe deeper into facts and rediscover and retell history. The story of Subash Chandra Bose (Netaji) too takes such a detour when five young men decided to leave their comfort zones and dig out the lost and forgotten evidences of Netaji.    

Netaji
Netaji Subash Chandra Bose
    
The version as told by our history books is that Netaji died in a plane crash on 18 August 1945. Even when many of our brows went up in disagreement and disapproval to that version of history we chose to take it as it is.
    
Sreejith Panickar - one of those five men who brought the missing threads of Netaji’s life and death to light talks to Yentha about his mission and journey travelled so far.
When Sreejith spoke to Yentha, he was in Lucknow awaiting for a meeting with the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav.
    
Now we can wonder what business an ordinary IT professional would have with the chief Minister of another state.
    
The story starts with his interest in Subash Chandra Bose and the mysterious loop holes related to his death. ‘In 2005, I was in a Yahoo Group which had about 300 members. There were many discussions happening in the group about Netaji. Many thoughts and questions kept pouring in during those discussions. After several such chats we asked each other why not do something on the ground  rather than debating in a virtual world. Out of the 300 members only 5 agreed to come forward to actually work towards that mission. The 5 of us were however in different parts of the world. But yet we started our mission there,’ says Sreejith.

SP
Sreejith Panickar
    
They exited from the Yahoo group and started communicating via emails with each other. Coincidently the bill of Right to Information too got passed in the year 2006 and the five could use it as a tool for their mission.
   
 ‘None of us had any background in History and all we had was the passion to dig further. We got in touch with the Home Ministry and External Affairs. We wanted to take a scientific approach and not an emotional path. We feared if we took an emotional path we would not be reaching rational conclusions.’
    
They started reading every material they got about Subash Chandra Bose in various languages. They also collated all possible information about the plane crash. But when they tried to read everything together they felt some pieces were not fitting together. Their conclusion was that the plane crash never happened and Subash Chandra Bose was never killed.
   
Though that was a shocking discovery, they wanted solid evidences to support their findings.
    
One of them wrote to the Mayor of Taiwan where the plane crash supposedly happened. The Mayor wrote back to them saying no such incident took place on that day or in a four to five months of period around that date.
    
‘One of us took print out of that email and approached the Justice Mukherjee Commission. The commission took permission from the Government of India and visited Taiwan to study the records themselves and to confirm about the plane crash. In 2006 the Commission gave a report saying no such plane crash occurred and that Subash Chandra Bose could have escaped to Russia'.
The report however was rejected by the government.
        
The five member team did not get discouraged by the rejection. They instead used the Right to Information bill to get every record related to Netaji. Many records were not accessible and many requests were rejected. Many times they had to give appeal and interact with the Chief Information Officer for releasing those records. Many records did not have the government approval to be made public and the Information officer could not do much to help. The five however continued their pursuit.
   
‘In 2012 after a long legal battle and with the support of the then Information Officer, we won the case and 10,000 pages of information were declassified and given out. The declassification process means digitalising and categorizing all information. The process was completed in 2014 .'
   
With that information being revealed, Netaji’s relatives especially his two nephews were declared as illegal. There were also evidences to prove that Netaji had some secret agreement with Russia.
   
Now where could Netaji go if there was no plane crash and if he did not die on 18 August 1945?  What secret agreement could he have with Russia?
     
From that mystery new threads of the past were rising up again.
     
With Narendra Modui
       
It was also the time when Japan was attacked by America and when Atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasakki in August 1945. When Japan surrendered Netaji escaped to Russia to seek their help to fight for India’s freedom. It was important to convince that Netaji was no more to take the eyes off from Azad Hind movement and to continue fighting for freedom.
    
‘Russian Scholars and diplomats (like Alexander Kolesnikov) give verdicts that in the minutes of meetings in Stalin’s ministry there were references of  discussions with Subash Chandra Bose.'

Some believe that Netaji was in Russian jails and that he was killed later by Stalin. There are no proofs to belief that Netaji was killed by Stalin. However there are verbal verdicts of a high profile prisoner in Russia who was there as a protected prisoner.
  
So where could Netaji go after he escaped to Russia? What was the life of Netaji after 1945? 
   
‘It is for that I am here in Lucknow now,' says Sreejith.
   
From the hoax news of plane crash the story takes a new direction to Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh.
  
There is a place in Uttar Pradesh - Faizabad. This place is near to Ayodhya. There used to be a monk known as Bhagwanji who lived here who was also known as Gumnami Baba- meaning nameless saint. Baba used to be there from 1956 to 1985. He had a few desciples of whom some are still alive.'
   
As we start wondering where the story is heading to Sreejith clarifies the connection.
    
There are some mysterious stories which the locals tell about this Baba. He never allowed anyone to see him. He always had his face covered. He also had very high profile visitors like INA secret services head Pabitra Roy, Freedom fighter Leela Roy and many top politicians visiting him. When the locals went curious about this and started observing they also remember that in some rare occasions when the baba went out he had himself fully covered like a mummy. He used to go in a green ambassador car and then people don’t see him for some time.'  

meet

         
Not just that the on every October 21st the residence of this Baba used to hoist Indian National Flag. Incidentally October 21st was the Independence day declared by Azad Hind movement of Netaji.

Also on every January 23rd some Bengalis used to visit this Baba. Could it be a coincidence that January 23rd was Netaji’s Birthday?
      
As one start wondering ‘ Why should Netaji live in hideout’ Sreejith quotes the words of Netaji.
     
As told to a disciple of Baba. ‘My coming out was not in the country’s interest ' is what Netaji told. He also told that when India got independence there were some transfer of power agreements and not all documents were public.
      
'The day when those documents become public you will know why I remained in hiding'. This is what the Baba told his disciples.
       
Baba’s death too was strange. He died on September 16th. But news of his death was told to the locals only on September 19th after the cremation was done of September 18th. His cremation was done at the historically significant Guptar Ghat by the banks of Sarayu river. The cremation was only attended by his 13 disciples.'
      
When the locals came to know about this, they got agitated. They could never get a glimpse of his face when he was alive and even after his death no one was allowed to see him. Some smelt a secret plot in this and filed a case in the Allahabad high court. When the discussions went heated, the house where Baba was living was sealed and it was ordered to take his belongings to the government.
       
As yet another twist to the story, Netaji’s neice Lalita Bose claims to be the heir to those belongings. She too went to court with her claim in 1986.
         
One of the belongings in the residence of Baba was a match box with some teeth in it. Though there was no proof that it was Netaji’s, being the only biological sample available it was sent for a DNA test. But the test failed.  However, the handwriting samples found from the residence of Baba matched that of Netaji’s.
      
But according to the findings of Mukherjee commission ‘there were no clinging evidence to say that Baba was Netaji’.
         
We were at a crossroads at that point. We five had not met until then and we did not know what step to take next. So as a last chance we got Netaji’s family involved in the matter. We stayed at their family and discussed. When we talked more about what we learnt, they too got interested. They asked us what they could do to help. We requested them to jointly write a petition to Mamata Banerjee to release the records related to Netaji. We believed it would give a new dimension to the issue when Netaji’s relatives get involved.'
      
As per what they told, Netaji’s family protested and did candle light processions which finally got the attention of Mamata Banerjee. She ordered all files under the state’s control to be declassified. She also played a political game by challenging Narendra Modi that there could be a lot of records in the centre government and challenged him to release them as well.
       
‘In October 2015 Narendra Modi invited all five of us for a meeting along with Netaji's family members. The meeting was at the residence of Narendra Modi. It was the first time the five of us were meeting in real. It was a 2 hour long meeting and the Prime Minister shared his thoughts about the matter. Finally all documents were ordered to be declassified. On January 23, 2016 the first set of files were declassified. It is promised that every month 25 files would be declassified.'

Gift
     
The story does not end here. That old case which Lalitha Bose filed in the Allahabad high court got its verdict after its long legal battle in 2013. Lalitha Bose is no more though. The verdict is that there is enough evidence verbal and otherwise to believe that the Baba was Netaji.

The High Court also put forward two action plans - 1) to set up a museum for the belongings of Gumnami Baba and 2) to appoint a special enquiry team to probe into the identity of the Baba. Three years after the verdict, the supplementary budget of UP government allocated Rs.1.5 crores for the museum. However regarding the special team there is still no action so far.
       
We have been trying to pressurise the government regarding this. And the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has agreed for a meeting with the 12 of us. The five of us are included in this.’
   
Sreejith also talks about the belongings of the Baba which were stored in 30 iron trunks in a room in Faizabad treasury which would be moved to the museum.
        
There were about 3000 items. And it included an Empire Corona Type writer made in England, Pair of German Binoculars (History tells us that Netaji was gifted binoculars by Hitler), a pair of ash trays and smoking pipe made in Italy (History tells us that  Mussolini gifted a pipe) , Hithachi micro recording cassettes, Gillette safety razor and a lot many items. It is impossible to think that a monk living in a remote village could possess such things. And all these I am sure is pointing to the fact that Netaji was the Baba and he lived in UP from 1956 to 1985.
       
The meeting with the Chief Minister is to happen today (on 13th February 2016). Sreejith Panickar along with the four others are currently at Lucknow waiting for the meeting.
       
The story of Netaji does not end here. It is entering new twists and turns as more documents are getting declassified.

 
 
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