British Raj analyzed pros and cons of ‘trying Netaji as war criminal’

Brand-new DELHI: Full five days after Subhas Chandra Bose was reported killed in a 1945 air crash, a top official of the British Raj had weighed the pros and cons of “trying” Netaji as a “war criminal” and suggested that the “easiest way” would certainly be to leave him where he was and not seek his release.

“In several ways the easiest course would certainly be to leave him where he is and not ask for his release. He might, of course, in certain circumstances be welcomed by the Russians.

“This course would certainly raise fewest immediate political difficulties, but the security authorities consider that in certain circumstances his presence in Russia would certainly be so dangerous as to rule it out altogether.”

This was one of conclusions arrived at by Sir RF Mudie, house member, of the Clement Attlee government’s India Office, which he sent to Sir Evan Jenkins, house secretary and the last governor of Punjab, five days after Bose was reported to have actually been killed in the aircrash near the Taihoku aerodrome in Taipei on August 18, 1945.

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Mudie’s letter and the note are among the 17,000 pages of secret documents in 100 files relating to Bose declassified and made public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

The letter was in response to Jenkins’ communication to Mudie, saying His Excellency the King would certainly want him to analyze and advise on how to deal with Bose, the men of the Indian National Army and his civilian supporters across the length and breadth of the country.

Mudie’s letter and a note, dated August 23, 1945, dealt with Bose’s influence over almost 30,000 Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) and said “it affects all races, castes and communities almost equally strongly.”
“They regard him with deep admiration, respect and confidence as a sincere patriot, as an able leader without peer, as the organiser of India’s first ‘National Army’,” the note said about the “most difficult questions” which would certainly confront the British house department.
Mudie said various options — ranging from Bose’s trial for waging war in India, or in Burma (now Myanmar) or Malaya (Malaysia) or intern him in “some other British possession e.g. Seychelles Islands” were considered.

However, he analyzed the extreme impact it would certainly have actually on the Indians in India and abroad and warned of a volatile situation in case of his trial and finally suggested that keeping Bose “out of sight would certainly be to some extent out of mind and agitation for his release could be less”.