This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Annesha Ghosh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Declassifying Netaji’s Archives: Government Transparency Or Just A Clever Move?

More from Annesha Ghosh

By Annesha Ghosh:

On September 18, the West Bengal government declassified all the 64 files in the custody of the state government. The released documents include 8 DVDs of over 1200 pages, many of which have handwritten notes on the margins. These files, which were scrutinized by the Justice M K Mukherjee commission, contain personal correspondences between Netaji and his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose, the British intelligence’s analysis of Netaji’s speeches at various public meetings and invitations he received to attend various functions.

Image source: Twitter
Mamata Banerjee declassifying files on Bose. Image source: Twitter

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee explained the rationale behind this move saying, “We want to maintain transparency and accountability. We don’t feel there is anything related to internal security. Netaji was a national icon. Everybody wants to know what happened to Netaji.

Despite her claims of transparency, the ulterior motive is far too obvious for one to overlook. Given the extraordinary grip Netaji continues to hold on the public imagination, the move on the part of the state government comes as a masterstroke. Even after 70 years of his purported death in a plane crash in Taipei, the memory of Bose as an unequaled nationalist continues to evoke strong passions, especially in Bengal. In a way, by declassifying these files she has particularly attempted to earn the good will of people from that part of the country which constitutes her political backyard.

Clearly, the Chief Minister of West Bengal can be seen making attempts at cashing in on the ‘Netaji’ factor to shape a favourable public discourse ahead of the 2016 elections. This will not only help play on the sentiment of Bengali pride but in a way will allow her to align herself in Bose’s tradition of challenging the establishment. Aren’t we already familiar with her 34-year-old-Left rule conquests and spoils of breakaway battle with the grand old party of India?

In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had had promised to release each of the 135 classified documents on Netaji that have been lying with the central government. Prior to that, the Congress regimes weren’t ever keen on going ahead with the disclosure because, as Ardhendu Bose, nephew of Subhash Chandra Bose stated, “they probably did not want to declassify something that would hurt Nehru’s legacy.” In fact, writer Anuj Dhar claimed in his book ‘No Secrets’ that “at least four secret files that were in existence in the Internal Security Division (ISD) of the Ministry of Home Affairs during the Atal Bihari days” were made to “disappear“.

Perhaps, decisions as unprecedented and incomprehensible as this are only possible in politics for Mamata Banerjee had constantly snubbed attempts by the Bose family to meet her over the declassification issue over the past few years.

What made the TMC government suddenly change tack remains anybody’s guess. More so, given that the decision came after the Prime Minister had held several meetings with members of the Bose family between April- May this year.

With the disclosure of the 64 Top Secret files on Netaji having created quite the buzz the West Bengal government would have hoped for, the Chief Minister has effectively launched a tripartite offensive.

Netaji Subhas Bose with Mahatma Gandhi at an Indian National Congress meet. Image source: Wikipedia
Netaji Subhas Bose with Mahatma Gandhi at an Indian National Congress meet. Image source: Wikipedia

One cannot rule out the possibility of a split in the four-party-CPI (M) led Left-front in Bengal in the very near future. It should not come as a surprise if the All India Forward Block, an organization that was founded by Netaji, now finds itself favourably inclined towards the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and its supremo. Her prior unsuccessful attempts at getting nationalist forces like the Forward Block out of the Left by milking Communist insults of Netaji (who was labelled as a ‘fascist stooge’ and Japan’s lapdog) may now finally bear fruition.

Though the Forward Block has for long only been a largely-ignored constituent of the Left, its shift towards the TMC in a charged electoral atmosphere, can possibly add the final nail to the Left’s coffin which has, anyway, been down in the dumps following its dismal performances in state and parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2014 respectively.

The Congress, which never allowed Mamata Banerjee gain stature while the TMC was part of the UPA, now finds itself embarrassed by the skeletons tumbling out of its closet vis-à-vis the revelations on successive Congress governments in the Centre and the state having snooped on Bose’s kin.

Will This Declassification Have Any Bearing On The Interpretation Of History In The Realm Of Academia?

With a view to getting a sense on the possible imprint the declassification of these 64 files could make on historical scholarship, apart from the undeniable socio-political implications, 4 students from across different universities in Kolkata shared their thoughts:

Nilanjan Paul, B.A History, Presidency University

As a student of history, I appreciate the decision of declassification of the Netaji files. Facts are the basis of history. Moreover, Bengali sentiments, coupled with popular imagination have made Netaji an urban legend. The revelation of facts will help in the mythical history revolving around him and ensure better research. However, I haven’t seen the files and according to my little research, there is nothing new in the files which might have “impact”. More files are needed to be declassified. But keeping in mind all the political agendas revolving around the issue, I wonder how these facts will be used. In the words of E.H Carr, History is nothing but historian’s interpretation of facts.

Upasana Ghosh, B.A, Jadavpur University

The opening of the Netaji files is a positive step as Netaji is a hero close to every Bengali’s heart. The fact that an old mystery can be thoroughly researched is a historian’s dream. But it should be remembered is that a government’s primary role is to govern. While its interest on academics is encouraging, it shouldn’t obsess on any particular issue.

Akhil Sengupta (name changed), M.A, University of Calcutta

The West Bengal government’s decision to initiate the process of declassification of documents can majorly impact the approach to research on India’s freedom struggle vis-a-vis post-1945. The documents can be expected to dispel many misconceptions about Subhash Chandra Bose for good. It will be relatively easy for academics to structure their research around Netaji as they will have an improved cache of verified information to foreground their study in. The documents may also give us a better sense of Bose’s apparently Fascist inclinations, such as his Faustian Treaty with Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. Furthermore, the declassification of all of the 263-odd files on Netaji can help expose an unpleasant side to the Nehru Congress government, which has, so far, found little or no consistent mention in History books.”

Swati Singh, M.A, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)

In my opinion, every student of History deserves to approach the subject from the point of view of fact and not fiction. Therefore, I welcome Mamata Banerjee’s decision to make these classified documents public. As a student of this discipline, I understand the possible risks the content of any declassified file on Netaji can throw up, especially with regards to India’s foreign policies and international relations. But that should not deter the central government from declassifying the files that lie in its custody. It’s no use studying the history of the Indian freedom movement if a significant portion of it continues to remain bereft of truth.”

Although the ‘Netaji’ mystery remains far from being resolved and it may be early days to predict possible alterations that may finally make their way onto pages of History books, there remains little doubt over Mamata Banerjee’s opportune act having set the tone for Bengal’s assembly polls next year. With her masterstroke, she has irrevocably earned the bragging rights for having brought the discourse around the fiery freedom fighter right back into the centre of national politics. More importantly, Mamata Banerjee has surely scored a well-timed goal, playing on the offensive to get ahead of all of her three opponents in Bengal at one go.

You must be to comment.
  1. asit guin

    Declassification of all Netaji files may prove that JAPAN AND BRITISH JOINTLY PLAYED A FOUL GAME WITH NETAJI; In WW-I, Japan was a British ally. Before WW-II, Japan-US trade war and
    political war started, this led to actual war between US and Japan. So British became an enemy to Japan by diplomatic manipulation as US – British alliance was there. After WW-II, Japan revived their old connection with British. Japanese and British spies were enough linked before WW-II. JAPANESE SPIES AGREED TO ELIMINATE NETAJI. Motive was to appease British and purchase security for Japan royal family. So, JAPAN HANDED OVER NETAJI TO BRITISH AND BRITISH EXECUTED HIM IN SECRETE. The false news of air crash was fabrication of Japan. In any controversial case, liar is to be suspected first.
    Netaji plan to start second independence war with USSR help was known to Japan. There was enough scope for British and Japanese spies to develop a common minimum program against pro-communist agenda of Netaji. Why should Japanese imperialism agree to patronize emergence of independent India as a permanent communist ally? Is it not more logical to fulfill British condition and purchase favor? Why Japan royal family was not tried as a war criminal? What is the mystery behind this favor?
    There is another point about gumnami baba. Who was he? Gumnami baba was a dummy created as a part of common minimum program of Japanese imperialism and British imperialism. In axis camp, creation of dummy by plastic surgery was a common practice. Hitler and Mussolini were having number of dummies. Japan sold Netaji-dummy to British. British deputed this dummy at faizabad of UP, with a purpose to create confusion that as if death or life of Netaji is doubtful. The confusion prevented the nation to be doubtful about role of Japan or British. So gumnami baba of faizabad is a common creation of Japanese spies and British spies. Never had he told the truth. If he had told anything, that must be lie. In a controversial case, liar is to be suspected. So, JAPAN SOLD NETAJI TO BRITISH AND BRITISH EXECUTED HIM IN SECRET. Japan sold Netaji-dummy to British and British deputed him at faizabad of UP. JAPAN SURRENDERED TO US-UK SIDE ON 15TH AUGUST 1945. Netaji’s last flight was on 18th august 1945. A SURRENDERED JAPAN WAS NO LONGER AN ALLY OF AZAD HIND. They worked as per their new mentors, the British.

More from Annesha Ghosh

Similar Posts

By India Development Review (IDR)

By Kashish Singh

By shakeel ahmad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below