Bose Dead or Alive? Netaji’s Niece Recollects Time Spent With Him

Bose Dead or Alive? Netaji’s Niece Recollects Time Spent With Him

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(This story was first published on 22 January 2018 and has been recontextualised and reposted from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary.)

Speaking to The Quint in 2018, Subhas Chandra Bose’s niece Chitra Bose, then 87, didn’t have to stress her memory to recollect her childhood days she had spent with Netaji in Kolkata.

The countrymen would always remember Netaji as the epitome of patriotism who sacrificed his life to free India, but for Chitra, he was more than just a great freedom fighter. He was her beloved uncle who played with her.

Born on 14 November 1930, she is the youngest child of Sarat Chandra Bose, Netaji’s elder brother.

Netaji with his brother Sarat Chandra Bose.
Netaji with his brother Sarat Chandra Bose.
(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

The octogenarian considers herself lucky to be born as the niece of Netaji, and thanks the Almighty for the rare honour bestowed upon her, “I didn’t have to do anything special to share an inextricable bond with the great leader and one of the finest human beings that I have ever met. It was my destiny and I don’t have words to thank the Almighty for this,” she says, while sitting at her house in Ballygunge area of South Kolkata.

Netaji’s niece Chitra Bose poses with his portrait. 
Netaji’s niece Chitra Bose poses with his portrait. 
(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 
Chitra has every reason to feel proud as she is the sole surviving member of the Bose family who had physically seen Netaji. She was just 11-years-old when he made the great escape on the intervening night of 16-17 January 1941.

She turns emotional at the mere mention of her uncle, “He loved children very much and always inquired about our well-being. He was very dear to my father because the other siblings were involved in some kind of work, but he (Netaji) didn’t have a profession and was working with a single-minded goal of freeing India from the subjugation of the British rule. My father (Sarat Chandra Bose) always took care of him and loved him more than his other siblings.”

She shares an anecdote of Netaji that occurred at Kurseong in Darjeeling, “My father had a house in Kurseong that we used to visit during our holidays. I still remember the time when he was playing with us and suddenly he slipped and rolled down a hillock. He was lucky enough to get struck in a branch of a tree, although he sustained wounds and bruises on his hands and legs. He was in pain and blood was oozing out of the wounds, but he was still smiling. He came to my mother and asked her to wrap a bandage around it. But soon after, he began to play with us again as if nothing had happened,” she says while taking a trip down the memory lane.

Netaji’s Escape Route.
Netaji’s Escape Route.
(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

She also remembers that Netaji had grown a beard to impersonate a Muslim when he was planning the great escape of 1941, “We were too small to understand his grand plans. He jokingly asked us how he looked with a beard. We children unanimously told him that he was looking bad and should shave it off immediately. Little did we know that it was a secret plan.”

(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

She fondly recollects the culinary delights of the great leader, saying “he was essentially a non-vegetarian who loved to dine on dishes made with fish and chicken. He didn’t like sweets much.”

Unlike many others, she also refuses to believe that Netaji died in a plane crash, and wants the present regime to order a fresh inquiry to unearth the truth.

The historic car of ‘The Great Escape’
The historic car of ‘The Great Escape’
(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

Her demand finds support from Purabi Roy, a Netaji researcher, who says that French archives have documents that claim that he (Netaji) was alive till 1948. “The Mukherjee Commission has already proved that he didn’t die in a plane crash at Taiwan in 1945. The French archives have documents that find his mention till 1948. We don’t know what happened to him after that. I think the plane crash theory was a ruse and the Union government should look into it with a fresh perspective.”

The Mukherjee Commission was one-man board constituted by the Centre in 1999 to inquire into the death of Netaji. Justice Manoj Mukherjee, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, was appointed to lead the inquiry.

A wall of portraits at Netaji Bhawan.
A wall of portraits at Netaji Bhawan.
(Photo: Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

After a 70-year inquiry, Justice Mukherjee concluded that Bose did not die in the plane crash on 18 August 1945 in Japanese occupied Formosa (now Taiwan).

This part of the conclusion of the report however, was rejected by the Union government.

Chandreyi Alam, a lawyer who had represented Purabi in the Commission, said that Justice Mukherjee had visited the Taipei airport and had found no documents in support of the crash theory, “Justice Mukherjee had personally visited the airport and the crematorium and had found no documents to corroborate the plane crash and the burning of a body on that particular day. Of the 131 witnesses deposed before the Commission, only seven said that they believed in the plane crash theory.”

Producer: Abhishek Ranjan
Editor: Prashant Chauhan

(The author, Gurvinder Singh is an independent journalist based out of Kolkata. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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