A few leads pointed towards VietnamOur research on these leads took us deeper into the subject and brought to light some stunning claims. [We came to know about the occurrence of a secret meeting between Netaji, Ho Chi Minh and the Chinese General Liu-Po-Cheng on the 19th of August, 1945, when the world was told that he died in an air crash on the day before. Similarly, it came to our notice that former war correspondent of Chicago Tribune, Alfred Wagg, had claimed to have seen Bose at Saigon in 1945, much beyond the official date of his death.
We came across some papers talking about Bose being sighted at an airport in France in the late sixties. An eminent journalist and once the High Commissioner of India to Singapore, Prem Bhatia appeared before the Khosla Commission of Enquiry (1970-74) and filed an affidavit mentioning his meeting with Balraj Trikha who had seen Bose at the Saigon Airport in 1971. All these facts came from different credible sources at different points in time and from people who had nothing to do with Bose.
Prime Minister Narsimha Rao's official visit to VietnamWhile we were trying to fit the jigsaw puzzle together, we came across the following newspaper article filed by Prabha Jagannathan. Jagannathan had accompanied Prime Minister Narsimha Rao in his official visit to Vietnam, where he was apparently told that Vietnam holds many documents on Bose that could bring the mystery of his disappearance to rest once and for all.
She was summoned several times by the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry (1999-2005) (set up to inquire into the death of Netaji), to explain her story which was published in the Telegraph in 1994, but she did not show up. Finally, a few years ago, I succeeded in contacting her.
At the War Remnants Museum, VietnamFollowing the lead, I visited Ho Chi Minh City in March 2010 and found a picture in the War Remnants Museum which featured a person having striking similarities to Bose. Strangely, my inquiries regarding the identity of the person in question were not responded to by the museum authorities and subsequently from the Vietnam Cultural & Foreign Affairs, and Defence Ministries. I had managed to take photos of the framed pictures in the museum, and had them checked by a few other researchers. The consensus was that although the photos taken with my mobile camera aren’t very clear, yet if we relate these images with the information available from diverse sources, in all likelihood the story of Bose’s death in a plane crash in 1945 can be shown to be a hoax. To my astonishment, when I visited the museum again after a year to obtain a better quality image, all the documents and pictures were exactly at the same places except the one that had featured the Bose-like man.
An unlikely source in Uttar Pradesh, IndiaThe other link to the possibility of this person being Bose himself came from an unlikely source – from a mysterious man living incognito in Uttar Pradesh from the 1950s to 1985, and popularly known as Gumnami baba or Bhagwanji. Gumnami baba had a group of illustrious followers including former revolutionaries of Bengal and a few officers of the Indian National Army who believed that he was none other than Bose.
Bhagwanji told his followers that he had been clandestinely involved in global affairs and that he visited Vietnam several times, also attending the Paris Peace Talks related to the Vietnam War. He called Ho Chi Minh the ‘Poet President’ and mentioned to his followers in the 1970s that it was him who had advised Ho to dump "the very most special cocaine and opium in South Vietnam for free.” Thankfully, due to the declassification of the Vietnam War documents in 1991, we now know that the US was battling a deadly drug menace among its troops in the region. “War is not an emotional business. It is a cold calculated affair,” he told his followers.
Later on Anuj Dhar spotted and procured another photo of the Paris peace talks that features a Bose-lookalike. Proper forensic examination of these photos may provide further clarity on the issue.
Seeking furtherWe decided to seek further. On August 18, 2013, a colleague of mine and I visited Hanoi trying to get another breakthrough and we managed to meet Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, a former Vice President of Vietnam, and one of the signatories to the Paris Peace Treaty, who must have known about the person (s) who looked so much like Bose. Although we did not get any direct answers from her, our hour long conversations surely made us believe that we got the answers we were looking for.
Bose’s China connection had been earlier stated by his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose, and his former colleague and later a Forward Bloc MP Muthuramalinga Thevar. Recently declassified files by the West Bengal Government also show that while Sarat Bose was pursuing the Vietnam link with the head of that country, the British intelligence strongly suspected that Bose was in China after his alleged death. Now, with the release of the classified documents, we at Mission Netaji are getting armed with more and more documentary evidences capable of transforming mere hearsay into reality. We are waiting for the next set of documents to be declassified from India as well as the rest of the world, including Vietnam, China, Russia, Germany, France, and America, to name a few.