In response to an RTI application from Bengaluru-based freelance journalist Choodamani Nagendra, MEA has cited a clause in the RTI Act 2005 to deny information on Netaji.
In the RTI application, Nagendra had asked six questions, all of them related to the 'war criminal' tag on Netaji. She wanted to know what efforts the Indian government had taken to remove Bose's name as war criminal from United Nations Organization records; how many records from the UN were with the MEA that related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as a war criminal; whether India's representative to the UN had taken up the matter of removing Bose's war criminal status from UNO records; the number of times such petitions were mooted and when; and the UNO response to them.
The questions are significant as many in the Bose family as well as followers of Netaji and researchers believe he had faked his death in the so-called plane crash in 1945 to avoid being captured as a war criminal by Allied Forces. "I am convinced Netaji didn't die in 1945 but he couldn't come out in the open because of the 'war criminal' tag," said Surajit Dasgupta, whose RTI applications on Netaji have also been variously stonewalled.
He cites the 'Transfer of Power' document (Vol-VI) in which a letter of Sr F Mudie, home member, viceroy's executive council, to Sur E Jenkins dated August 23, 1945, revealed that five days after the alleged air crash, they were thinking of taking a decision on the treatment of Bose as a war criminal and the consequences they may have to confront. The letter suggested the following options: Bring him back to India and try him either for waging war or under the enemy agent ordinance; have him tried by a court in Burma or Malaya for waging war against the King in that country; have him tried by a military court outside India; intern him in India or in some other place in British possession like Seychelles island; or leave him where he is and don't ask for his release.
Anuj Dhar, author of 'India's Biggest Cover-up' that deals with the Netaji mystery says: "The war criminal issue was flagged for the first time in 1956 by Netaji's close friend and aide Muthuramalinga Thevar, who said he had met Bose in China at Sarat Bose's behest and wanted the Nehru government to clarify whether or not Bose was still a war criminal. Since then, the issue has simmered on."
Nagendra, who also came upon the document during her research, filed the RTI to learn if 70 years later, Netaji continued to officially be considered a war criminal for his association with Germans and Japanese during WW-II. "I also found a reference of one Satyabrata Tafadar who had written to the UN secretary general in 1997, seeking the removal of Netaji's name from war criminal records. The UN official, in the reply on May 1, 1997, had said that that the past could not be undone but assured that henceforth, Bose's name would not be linked with war criminals. I wanted to know if things had indeed changed or continued to be so," she said.
The reply from MEA was disappointing but not unexpected given the extreme reluctance on the part of the Centre to declassify information on Netaji. Nagendra who has been researching on Netaji and writes a column on Bose in a vernacular daily in Karnataka has made another RTI application with the ministry of home affairs in which she posed questions on the same subject. She wants to know if the MHA had documents classifying Bose as war criminal; the status accorded to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as per records of MHA; the MHA's stance on UNO classifying Bose as war criminal; and records pertaining to it that were with MHA.
The MHA has not sent its reply yet but sent the queries to director (legal) internal security. Nagendra wonders why a national icon's name would figure in a cell that should deal with extremists and other types of criminals.