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5 reasons why the Nehru letter calling Bose a war criminal may be fake

All versions of the much circulated letter either have typographical, grammatical or factual errors

Vandana Yadav  |  New Delhi 



Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (Photo: netaji.org)

The controversy surrounding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's fate got reignited on his 119th birth anniversary on Saturday when PM Narendra Modi released at least 100 secret files of Subhas Chandra Bose, of which a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to the then UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee had allegedly addressed Bose as a “war criminal”.

The purported letter reads:

Netaji letter
The missive bears no cursive signature, just “Yours Sincerely, Jawaharlal Nehru" in printed lines.

1) Curiously, different publications reported different versions of the same facsimile.

The one carried by The Times of India shows December 26 as the date on which it was written. It also spelt “Jawaharlal” wrongly as “Jwaharlal”. The one carried by DNA carries the correct spelling of Jawaharlal but is dated December 27. The one carried by opindia.com carries a version where the spelling of Attlee is wrong, though the date matches with that of the one carried by DNA.

The text in all these versions is similar, but have either typographical, grammatical or factual errors. And, they do not bear the Archives of India watermark. The letter could have been dismissed as a poor attempt at malicious forgery to whip up passions on the contentious issue of Subhas Chandra Bose's death.

2) The letter certainly wasn't part of the declassified documents released on Saturday. It has long been a part of the social media folklore, mysteriously appearing at different times and then vanishing from public memory.

3) One of the reasons could be that the declassified documents confirm the existence of a sworn affidavit of stenographer Shyam Lal Jain who had told the Khosla Commission, set up in 1970 to investigate Netaji's death, that he had indeed typed such a letter dictated by Nehru in December 1945. Mail Today reports that the deposition finds mention in the declassified file “Disappearance/death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose 915/11/C/6/96-Pol” from the Prime Minister's Office. The Khosla commission, which concurs with the theory of Netaji's death in a plane crash, for reasons yet unknown, did not take note of Jain's testimony.

4) One of the files declassified on Saturday answers the question of whether Netaji's name was ever listed as a war criminal by the UK after the end of World War II. Answering the question, Indian High Commission in UK said his name was never a part of the list of war criminals as the list was only drawn up for Japanese and German citizens.

Netaji letter

5) Anita Pfaff, Netaji's daughter from his marriage to Emilie Schenkl, says the controversy can be put to rest only if a DNA test is done on his remains, believed to be in the Renkoji temple in Japan. She is likely to make the request to the Union government during a visit to India in February. She believes the theory that her father died in an air crash in 1945. Ashis Ray, a London-based journalist who has uploaded the evidence of the last days of Bose on his site www.bosefiles.info, has welcomed the declassification, while supporting the demand for DNA testing. On the letter written by Nehru to British PM Clement Attlee calling Bose a “war criminal”, Ray said that Nehru “never wrote such a letter.”

“It was fabricated by mischievous pro-Bose anti-Nehru elements on Calcutta,” he told The Hindu.


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First Published: Mon, January 25 2016. 11:43 IST

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