Saquib Salim

Today India is remembering the last sighting of anti-colonial Indian leader Subhas Chandra Bose before he finally disappeared. There were reports that a plane he boarded crashed near Taipei in Taiwan killing everyone onboard on 18 August 1945. But not all believed this version and there are still contestations over what had happened to Bose on that day.

Not many in India are aware of the fact that it was the past life of Bose which led people to believe that the plane-crash story is a concocted one to deceive enemy forces.
On 30 March, 1942, almost a year after Bose broke himself free from the British custody newspapers across the World carried news items that Bose had been killed in a plane-crash.

The New York Times, on behalf of Reuters, reported, “INDIAN AIDING AXIS REPORTED KILLED; Subhas Chandra Bose Is Said to Have Died in Air Crash on Way to Tokyo Parley ONCE HEAD OF CONGRESS Was Ousted by Gandhi Forces in 1939 — Two Leaders From Thailand Also Die”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 30 March, 1942

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that Subhas Chandra Bose was travelling by air from Berlin to Tokyo. He was to attend a conference of Indian leaders in exile there. According to the report Japanese radio broke the news that the plane with eleven onboard including four Indians was missing. The reason of the crash was reported to have been a storm.

The same day Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi paid his tribute to the untimely demise of Bose. He termed it an ‘incomprehensible loss’ to the nationalist cause.

As we all know, soon these reports proved to be a camouflage against the British spies.

So when reports emerged on 18 August, 1945 that Bose had been killed in a plane crash it was none other than Mahatma Gandhi who told a gathering that he did not believe in the report and Bose will soon return. Though a few days later he wrote that there was no rationale for the statement and Bose might have died.

Morning Bulletin, 24 August 1946

Indian National Army (INA) officer Karim Ghani, Indian-Burmese leader, was one of the few officers who met Subhas Chandra Bose in Bangkok before he flew. In 1946, he told the Associated Press that Bose was not flying to Japan but looking for a hideout. According to Ghani, Japanese reports that Bose was flying to Japan were to mislead the enemy. According to him Japanese and Bose had tricked the enemy in the same fashion earlier also, which we already know that they did in March 1942.

Thus what happened to Subhas Chandra Bose on 18 August, 1945 remains a mystery.

(Author is a well known-historian)