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Book Review – What Happened to Netaji?

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I have been instructed to review the book titled “What Happened To Netaji” authored by Anuj Dhar. Anuj Dhar is an Indian research journalist whose work focuses on a mission to demystify the biggest cover up of our nation post independence. He is also the founder-trustee of the New-Delhi based not-for-profit organisation named as ‘MISSION NETAJI’. The author and his team of fellow journalists have put in concerted and undeterred effort to collect the facts and related proof to substantiate the same, thereby making the book stand the tests of time and public opinion.

This book is the third and the latest of his three book series, the journey which started from the book titled as “India’s Biggest Cover Up”. The author and his team started research on the subject after a media onslaught in the form of a cover story in India Today magazine in the year 2015. The author mentions that the cover story titled “SNOOPING ON NETAJI” went to be a talk of the town for quite some time, till it surrendered to the apathy of fellow Indians.

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The book not only secures a grade of four on a scale of five from critics but, also gathered praises for the bold stature assumed by the author. This rating is aptly justified by the explosive and thoroughly researched content of the book. The previous two books from the same series could not gather much attention as compared to this one. This book has also topped the sales chart among all three of the series, thus driving more public and bureaucratic attention. This is for a simple reason that it is one of those credible books, which uncovers the facts with providing undeniable material evidence for substantiating the claims resulting from these facts and evidences.

The results of thorough research can be seen on the pages of the book in the form of figures and text which have been cleverly placed next to each other to give a thought provoking environment to the readers. The day-in day-out efforts put by the team in getting declassified, a shocking figure of 70,000 documents related to the great leader of independence era is noteworthy. This hard work paid off in the form of pursuing the government to release a total of 65,000 documents to the national archives for public viewing. To gather this voluminous pile of documents, the team extensively used the public information tool which we know as the RTI act. The author has succeeded to scrape out the information treasure, which was lying beneath a layer of treachery and deceit in the form of classified documents.

The book consists of nineteen chapters which have been titled serially. The first chapter takes back readers to the mid 1940s and introduces to the basic facts related to the mystery. This chapter also throws light on the reasons of Netaji’s alleged demise in a Japanese bomber crash near Saigon, onboard which Netaji and his close aide Habibur Rehman were believed to be travelling to Russia. Subsequent chapters parallely raise a doubt about the air crash theory expressed by the intelligence agencies, with further describing the biased and politically influenced investigation done by the Shah Nawaz commission led by an Ex-INA official Shah Nawaz Khan.

The book narrates a series of political turmoil’s and a number of mysterious claims about Netaji’s sightings in disguised forms. These led to the formation of the second investigation commission during the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This investigation commission came to be called as Khosla commission after its sole member GD Khosla. The Khosla commission maintained the tone and tenor as that of the previous commission thereby pleasing the ears of his political masters. The third and final commission to investigate the mystery was formed in the year 1999 under the leadership of Justice Mukherjee. The report was submitted after a long seven year investigation, which concluded with outrightly rejecting the theory of Netaji’s death in an air crash, as was earlier proposed by the ‘politically influenced’ commissions. As it would be, the claims made in the report were rejected by the congress, which went on to term the same as, one maligning the repute of its ancestral leaders.

The author presents interesting accounts of mysterious people across the country being identified as Netaji himself, by dedicating few chapters for the same. Out of all, the prominent narration is that of “Bhagwanji” or “Gumnami Baba” who lived in the city of Faizabad till late 1980s. The author raises curiosity levels of the readers by introducing this person to be Netaji himself by providing evidence which cannot be sidelined. The mention of personal belongings, which were recovered from Bhagwanji’s possession after he passed away, made the head spin in the perspective direction as that of the author. These items included personal photographs of Netaji’s family members, personal records and documents, spectacles and watch same as that of Netaji and many more. This initiates a positive belief on the theory that Netaji survived till late 1980s.

As a student officer, I found this book very interesting, as being a classic example of concerted work, containing firsthand accounts, which have been supported by substantial and undeniable evidences. The book has 280 pages out of which numerous contain well placed illustrations of the declassified documents to provide the readers the theory and evidence on the same platter akin to a ready to eat meal. Thus recommending the fellow LLMC student officers to read this book, I would like to submit following points:

(a) The research which has gone in for writing the book itself speaks volumes about the dedication and keenness of the author for the subject and a mission to uncover the biggest mystery of modern India.

(b) The book gets to a sweet yet sarcastically flavoured language while mentioning the infidelity and disinterest of the congress leaders. It announces their firm will for not investigating the mystery for the mere fear of losing mass attention to Netaji post independence.

(c) The book also questions the long-handed down narratives about the fate of great INA leader, and the reports as submitted by the first two investigative commissions. It peels off the veneer which has been formed by the conclusions drawn by these reports and narratives.

(d) The claims are precisely supported by the documents obtained as a result of the bureaucratic battle fought by the members of MISSION NETAJI. This makes the book not only an interesting read, but an attempt to uncover the veils of treachery during the formative years of young India.

(e) The main drive of the book is to say that Netaji was alive post 1945 and was involved in the events of epoch times of India, which was pacing towards the ultimate goal of “Poorna Swaraj”.

After reading the book, the conclusion I draw is that the air crash theory, as propagated, holds no water. The need of the hour is to investigate the mystery with the evidences which are contained in the remaining classified documents, which are yet to be released in the public domain. The cover of the book itself incites a sense of inquisitivity in the prospective readers like me, as it contains the famous illustration of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, backed by a bombing scene from the Second World War. The author needs to be applauded with the kind of investigative and research work which has gone in to write this book of the series, which is righteously christened as “MISSION NETAJI”.


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