If Not Netaji, Then Who Was Gumnaami Baba?
On his 119th birth anniversary, the Modi government is expected to declassify all the files related to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death. Does this mean India’s favourite mystery will finally be de-mystified?
Probably not, considering the West Bengal assembly elections are around the corner and Bose is second, perhaps, only to Tagore in the pantheon of Bengali gods.
His daughter, Anita Bose, spoke to Prasun Sonwalkar of Hindustan Times and dismissed what she called “asinine theories that Netaji survived the plane crash in Taipei in 1945 and lived in the mountains as Gumnami Baba”.
“But if not Netaji, then who was Gumnaami Baba?”, asks Shakti Singh, a BJP supporter and President of the Subhash Chandra Bose Rashtriya Vichar Manch.
Shakti Singh’s father, Guru Basant Singh, let a two-room annexe in his house ‘Ram Bhavan’ to Dr RP Mishra’s ‘dada’ who he called Bhagwanji in 1982.
“He was shifted in a wheelchair late at night while we were all asleep. I asked if I could be introduced to Bhagwanji, but Dr Mishra told us that he had resolved not to meet people, that he wanted to live in isolation. He spoke to me only from behind the window”, recalls Singh who was studying in Allahabad at the time.
A lady called Saraswati Devi lived with Bhagwanji and took care of the reclusive ascetic.
The Myth of Gumnaami Baba
On September 9, 1985, Bhagwanji passed away. About a month later, a lead story in Naye Log newspaper asked the question – Faizabad Mein Agyaatvaas Kar Rahe Subhaschandra Bose Nahin Rahe?? (Subhash Chandra Bose who was living in Faizabad no more?).
Successive news reports in the Faizabad-run newspaper quoted people who claimed to be close to Bhagwanji and fuelled further speculation about the Netaji link. The news reports that referred to Bhagwanji as Gumnaami Baba claimed handwritten notes, letters and family photographs left behind by Bhagwanji proved that he was Netaji.
The one-man Mukherjee Commission that probed Netaji’s death concluded that the freedom fighter had not died in the 1945 plane crash in Taiwan, but it also desisted from casting any aspersions on Gumnaami Baba’s identity.
Justice Mukherjee said that in the absence of any clinching evidence to prove that Gumnaami Baba was Netaji, “the question whether Netaji died in Faizabad on 16 September 1985, as testified by some of the witnesses need not be answered.”
Anita Bose Pfaff would agree.