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Mohan Guruswamy | 16 APRIL, 2015

Subhas Chandra Bose: The IB ‘Knows’ All

Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru


The media is making a frenzied meal out of the alleged snooping of the remnants of Subhas Chandra Bose family in Calcutta from 1948 to 1968. According to official sources in Japan, Bose died on August 18, 1945 1945 from third degree burns when the overladen K1-21 Mitsubishi bomber crashed at shortly after take-off from Taihoku in Formosa (Taiwan). Bose was accompanied by Lt.Gen. Tsunamasa Shidei, Vice Chief of Staff of the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria and his secretary, Col. Habibur Rahaman of the INA. While the Japanese crew and Gen. Shidei died immediately, Bose survived the crash with severe burns. Habibur Rahman escaped unscathed and was there when he died. Bose was treated by Japanese doctors but did not survive. He was cremated on August 20 and his ashes were flown to Tokyo where they were handed over to the President of the Tokyo Indian Independence League, Mr. Rama Murti. On September 14, after a ceremony the urn was placed in the Renkoji temple in Tokyo, where they still lie. Unclaimed by a family who will not let him rest in peace, and unclaimed by a government too afraid to provoke a storm.

Bose and Shidei were bound for Darien, now Dalian, in Manchuria to make contact with the Red Army under Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, which began advancing after the Soviet Union suddenly declared war on Japan on August 8, a day after Nagasaki was nuclear bombed. The previous year Bose had sought to establish contact with the Soviet Ambassador in Tokyo, Jacob Malik, but the Japanese foreign ministry did not allow it. This was the beginning of the fairy tale that some in his family and associates perpetuated about him being incarcerated in a Siberian prison camp. There were many other myths also, some include sightings in the Himalayas with Bose incognito as a sadhu waiting to reveal himself. The Government of India made a few desultory attempts to close the issue, but the the legend flourished, mostly due to the efforts of a branch of the Bose family in Calcutta who made the perpetuation of the myth a full time occupation.

Its true that, both, Gandhi and Nehru disliked Subhas Chandra Bose. By his later day activities, which included becoming Hitler’s ally and a cog in the Imperial Japanese Army’s war machine, he probably justified that early suspicion about him. But that is not the point.

The point is that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) routinely spies on everyone, friend or foe, well-wisher or hater, and right or wrong. It evolved from a clandestine institution founded by John Sleeman to infiltrate and hunt down thugees, into the Raj's all seeing and all knowing keeper of order. Huge evidence of the depredations were collected and collated and given to the police for arrest and prosecution. Thus began the IB tradition of never making arrests and never prosecuting. It is still chartered to only find out who and why.

The IB is probably the largest single intelligence organization in the world operating almost entirely by humint. It does do technical snooping like when its bugs were discovered in the office of the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. It would not have been with any malice aforethought, but just habit. One NSA who was close to the House was in the habit of trying to unnerve ministers by saying "I know who you were with last night!"

One of the major reasons why Rajiv Gandhi fell out with his fellow partner in crime, Arun Nehru, then the Internal Security Minister, was because the IB made over to the PM a list of friends who called on his lady. What the IB intended to keep him informed about were the visits of a particular Italian gentleman and a particular Pakistani lady. They could have been just friends, but to the IB it is nevertheless information the head of the world's biggest democracy ought to have. The PM held the IS minister responsible for this, and the minister's protest that this is what the IB does irrespective of office and the incumbent, did not assuage the PM. He even told the PM that they probably watch even him, which they did.

The IB is very good at this kind of information trivia. Who came and who went is its standard fare. It often flubs when it comes to reading the obvious or connecting the dots. After I went on a junket to Tibet in the august company of some very prominent persons including a former RAW chief and a top daily newspaper editor, I was invited to speak on it at the IIC. I delivered an illustrated talk replete with gorgeous photos accompanied with some very snide and sarcastic comments about the "happiness" and "development" seen there. I have never hidden my view that the PRC is viewed by most Tibetans as an occupier and the struggle for freedom and emancipation in Tibet is going to be a long drawn one. But the IB sleuth reporting, a man I recognized right away, a sub-inspector/field officer type, reported I gave a very pro-China talk. The next morning I got a call from a high official of the IB, who was also a friend, to ask me about what had got into me? I just told him that the IB needs people with more intelligence.

Most people don’t realize that spying is not entirely about catching traitors and those inimical to the nation, but mostly about gathering and collating information. How to use that information is for the decision-maker. For instance in the months prior to Kargil the intelligence people told the then NSA about Pakistani Army purchases abroad of high altitude and alpine gear such as shoes and parkas, hiring of Chitrali porters for high altitude deliveries of supplies and disposition of some troops. But the NSA, still wearing rose-colored spectacles in the immediate afterglow of the Lahore bus trip, told the spymasters off suggesting they had a Cold War mentality.

Now suppose, SC Bose didn’t die in that Mitsubishi Ki-21 bomber crash at Taihoku in Formosa, and suddenly to everybody's consternation showed up in Calcutta one fine day to lead the Stalinist revolution? He was after all last headed to Darien in Soviet occupied Manchuria. Then there would have been shouts all around of intelligence failure. The IB was doing just what it always does. And if PM Modi thinks it is not keeping track of who comes in and goes out of 7 RCR he will be sadly mistaken. The IB knows all.

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