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Netaji: Declassified Yet Inaccessible?

Documents on Subhash Chandra Bose may have been declassified. Yet, they are far from accessible to the public. 

Updated
Politics
3 min read
(Courtesy: Netaji.org)

Friday morning threw up a surprise as the country learnt of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s attempts to spy on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

In 2014, the BJP-led government said there were two top secret files on Subhash Chandra Bose which had been declassified and sent to the National Archives of India (NAI).

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. (Courtesy: Netaji.org)
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. (Courtesy: Netaji.org)

These two files, it appears, suggest that Pandit Nehru had put Bose’s family under scrutiny, intercepting correspondence between family members and spying on them for two decades.

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In Pursuit of Documents

Since I happened to be working on the story, it was only fair to see what these documents held - beyond the obvious that had already been discussed.

My first stop was the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs which declassified these Intelligence Bureau (IB) files. I found that the MHA’s online records did not have these declassified documents.

Any search on Subhash Chandra Bose only threw up results on the Justice Mukherjee Commission which investigated Bose’s disappearance.

(Source: mha.nic.in)
(Source: mha.nic.in)

If not the MHA, the next reasonable place to look for these documents would have to be the National Archives of India (NAI). I got online again to check the NAI database.

Here again, unable to find any trace of records pertaining to Bose, I called the office. The Deputy Director General’s office said they knew nothing about the declassified documents.

The National Archives of India makes provisions for Indian Researchers who can access documents after submitting a letter of introduction (Source: nationalarchives.nic)
The National Archives of India makes provisions for Indian Researchers who can access documents after submitting a letter of introduction (Source: nationalarchives.nic)

We do not know what documents you are talking about. We have a few documents from the Ministry of Defence on Subhash Chandra Bose. We need to see if there are declassified documents by the IB. If you want to access any of these documents, you have to first come to the office at Janpath and then there is a procedure before you can access them. We don’t make it available online and neither can we provide them through e-mail.

– Office of the Deputy Director General of Archives, NAI

After inquiring after the documents for several minutes, the call was transferred to the Director General’s office, which did not respond.

In the United States, documents declassified by the CIA are also sent to the National Archives in Maryland. People can freely access these documents, they can even ask for them via email.

But at our National Archives there seems to be a disregard for a citizen’s right to information.

The ‘System’ Clams Up

And then, news came of an Intelligence Bureau statement insisting that “the documents had not been declassified”. Then, information from the West Bengal government as well, saying that the documents were still classified.

It was the familiar ‘sarkari’ stonewall that a journalist often comes up against. The ‘system’ clamming up after an ‘embarrassing’ leak from somewhere within.

Declassified or not, one will definitely have to move mountains if one wishes to delve into the nation’s history - a fact that Subhash Chandra Bose’s family, that has waited for decades to learn what happened to Netaji, is painfully aware of.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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