Book title : What Happened to Netaji?
Author- Anuj Dhar
The book gets an 8 rating pretty much because of the explosive content and the thoroughness of the underlying research.
This is the third book by journalist cum researcher Anuj Dhar. I have read his second book i.e. “India’s Biggest Cover up”. To pass the good word around, I gave it to an acquaintance and of course never got the book back.
Dhar and his friends at Mission Netaji have been working tirelessly for almost a decade to generate public awareness and put pressure on the Bharatiya government to declassify the Netaji files. It is primarily due to their dogged approach that a large volume of files on Netaji has been made available to the public. Their extensive use of the RTI instrument to force the bureaucratic crocodile to open its mouth is quite unique, especially where contentious historical issues are concerned.
I will briefly summarize the book contents before giving my comments on the book.
The book is essentially an updated version of Dhars 2012 book, “India’s Biggest Cover up”. The book picks up from the India Today story of 2015 which used the declassified documents to show that Netaji’s family has been extensively spied upon by the West Bengal (WB) government and the Government of India (GOI). It then updates the reader on the present status of the demand with pressure increasing on the Modi government to declassify the files (At the time of writing the major bulk of documents has been put online by GOI thanks to Narendra Modi). Mamata Banerjee stole a march on the vacillating BJP government by declassifying the files lying in WB closets. Also chronicled are Mission Netajis efforts to coax the files out of the government.
From the 2nd chapter onwards the reader is taken back into the late 1940s with the dramatic declaration of Netajis death in 1945 and the doubts which were expressed about the air crash theory by Allied intelligence agencies. The underhanded manoeuvring by “Chacha” Nehru, who setup the first sham commission in 1956 led by ex-INA Shah Nawaz Khan, is well described and backed up by solid evidence. Dhar skilfully describes the shoddy and biased investigation conducted by the congressified Shah Nawaz. The shenanigans of the second sham commission setup under Indira Gandhi in 1975, the Khosla commission, is also described in great detail.
The integrity and frustration of the head of the third commission, Justice Mukherjee, is also documented in detail. The Mukherjee commission was setup in 1999 towards the fag end of the NDA government and presented its report in 2006. The conclusion of the report was: the air crash story of Netaji’s death was fake. The Congress government rejected the report outright.
The undercurrent running throughout the book and something that literally hits you in the face is that of “Bhagwanji” alias “Gumnami Baba”, a sadhu who lived in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. By the skilful use of first-hand accounts and credible evidence, Dhar shows that Gumnami Baba was Netaji. For those who do not know this, Gumnami Baba passed away in 1985 and in Uttar Pradesh there was a strong outcry in the local media for the government to take action. A case was lodged in 1986 and in 2013 the court gave a decision to preserve and inventory Bhagwanji’s belongings. As I follow Dhar on Twitter, the items that are coming out from Bhagwanjis belongings are truly incredible: personal photos of Netajis family, intimate records, rimmed spectacles, Omega watch…the list is endless.
Some of the most interesting and startling bits about the book are the chapters on Bhagwanji and extracts from a Bengali book called “Oi Mahamanab Ase” . I won’t spoil the suspense and would encourage people to read the book. Needless to say, the thrust is that Netaji was alive post 1945 and was involved in epoch making events in India and across Asia.
Another interesting aspect brought out is that Netaji in his incarnation as “Bhagwanji” was strongly pro Hindu. This contrasts with Netaji’s blinkered view of Islam, which has been analysed by Sarvesh Tiwari in his blog (https://bharatendu.com/2011/02/10/subhas-chandra-bose/). The confused attitude of great Hindu leaders towards Islam is hardly new and the catastrophic consequences are well recorded.
My comments: The write-up is solidly backed by historical and documentary evidence. The book is well written. For outsiders it is quite enlightening to learn of the different factions in the Bose family (pro air crash theory and anti-air crash). For me personally, the air crash theory never held water. There was never a doubt in my mind that Netaji did not die in the air crash.
There are no quibbles about the content except that Dhar professes himself to be an anglophile. For anyone who has read or knows about the magnitude of British atrocities in India, this is quite annoying. However this attitude is held by a considerable number of well-meaning Bharatiyas, an artefact of our malfunctioning education system.
The major quibble is about the quality of book production. The paper and cover are good, but the typesetting is patchy and quite haphazard. The editing also is not upto the mark. Quite a few typos in the text. The book was clearly brought out in a hurry, possibly to pre-empt the release of the Netaji files by GOI. The previous book was well laid out and the planning showed through. I hope the next edition will correct these issues.
My recommendation is to buy the book . As I said previously, the content is excellent.