Kolkata: The Indian government in 1967 refrained from setting up an India-Japanese joint probe team to investigate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s death, as requested by retired Japanese army officer General Iwaichi Fujiwara, a declassified file said.
Fujiwara, a former liaison officer between the Indian National Army and Imperial Japanese Army in east Asia, arrived in Kolkata (then Calcutta) to hand over Netaji’s sword to the Netaji Museum in the city on March 19, 1967.
During his Calcutta tour, he said at a press conference that “the governments of India and Japan should hold a joint inquiry to resolve the mystery”.
According to a file (C/551/4/67) – declassified by the Narendra Modi government on Netaji’s 119th birth anniversary on Saturday – the then central government (headed by prime minister Indira Gandhi) was aware of Fujiwara’s statement on the joint probe.
In a reply to the Lok Sabha (reply scheduled for April 3, 1967) the then minister for external affair M.C. Chagla said that the government did not propose to take the initiative of setting up joint probe teams.
The reasons for dismissing Fujiwara’s request, according to Chagla, was that the central government was “convinced” of the accuracy of the Shah Nawaz Committee report in 1956.
The official inquiry committee was appointed in 1956 to investigate the facts relating to the Bose’s reported death. After examining all evidence, it presented a report that established that Netaji had died in an air accident in 1945.
“The government is convinced that the report is accurate and there is no need for further inquiry. Lt. General Fujiwara has not come out with any new facts.”
Further, a ministry of external affairs document (east Asia division), argues that India shouldn’t shift from its “present position” (1945 plane crash theory) in the absence of any “concrete” evidence shown by Fujiwara to “justify his demand”.
“Without knowing more about Fujiwara’s reasons, it would not be proper on our part to agree to change the attitude which we have been taking for such a long time. Unless Fujiwara brings forward concrete evidence to justify his demand, it does not seem necessary for us to change the present position.”
In the likelihood of India being on the same page with Fujiwara, the MEA document says diplomatic conversations between India and Japan would be necessitated.
“Even if Fujiwara is able to convince the government of India that there are grounds for re-opening the question, and that there are mysterious aspects of Netaji’s death, government will still have to conduct diplomatic conversations with the government of Japan before any decision is reached.”
The file also clarifies Fujiwara’s visit to India and the presentation “have all been done on his private initiative” and the government of Japan did not take any “official interest in the matter”.
It also raised a “pertinent” point: “Fujiwara does not seem to have come forward as a witness before the Shah Nawaz Enquiry Committee and has also been silent on the subject for so long.”
“We do not know, therefore, whether at this moment, he is merely playing to the gallery or whether he is making a serious suggestion.”
“For the immediate present we could continue to maintain that the General’s statement does not contain anything new and that a new enquiry is not called for.”
However, it also considers the possibility of revision of the decision, given the political scenario in then West Bengal.