Monday, 30th October 2017

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Ashis Ray explores the mystery shrouding Netaji’s death

  • Published 6.03.18
(From left) Moderator Sandip Roy; Jawhar Sircar, former CEO of Prasar Bharati; Krishnan Srinivasan, former foreign secretary; and author Ashis Ray at the panel discussion at Calcutta Club after the launch of Laid to Rest: The Controversy over Subhas Chandra Bose’s Death.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s name always brings to the fore the mystery behind his alleged death in a plane crash and Ashis Ray has set out to answer some of these questions in his book, Laid to Rest: The Controversy over Subhas Chandra Bose’s Death. The book that was launched at Calcutta Club as part of the Kolkata Literary Meet on February 16 saw a panel discussion featuring Krishnan Srinivasan, former foreign secretary; Jawhar Sircar, former CEO of Prasar Bharati, and the author, which was moderated by author and journalist Sandip Roy. Excerpts from Ashis speak... 

Laid to Rest: The Controversy over Subhas Chandra Bose’s Death by Ashis Ray (Roli Books; Rs 595)


The various contributions about Subhas Chandra Bose’s death, fall into three categories — conspiracy theories, fabrications and facts. I would say that the entire book deals with facts. This book is not my opinion. This book deals with 11 different investigations, official and unofficial, which all reached the same conclusion that Subhas Chandra Bose died as a result of a plane crash in Taiwan on August 18, 1945. End of story.

I have been working on this subject from 1987 but it was not my day job and therefore I could only do it during my leisure. Fortunately, I used to work for CNN and my job took me to different parts of the world and that included Taiwan (where the crash occurred), Japan, Russia and the United States. I used to go to the US frequently, CNN being a US-headquartered organisation. Most importantly, Pakistan where I had the opportunity to meet Naeem-ur-Rehman, the son of Raja Habib-ur-Rahman Khan who survived the crash. And last but not the least, living in London for 40 years, I had access to papers that are now in the National Archives but were gradually declassified. And so this built up the story. By 1995, I had enough material to go to former Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and request him to bring Netaji’s ashes back to India. But what I have today is three times of what I had in 1995 and therefore, that is the revelation. 

Of the 11 investigations, four are Indian, three British, three Japanese and one Taiwanese. Most of these investigations are unknown to the general public and that is what is the new element, bringing all these together, with more than 50 pages of documents to support what I have quoted in the main chapters of the book.


Many distinguished people have done a lot of work based on the life of Subhas Chandra Bose… and the contribution of the Netaji Research Bureau is enormous. But I have never had any ambition of competing with such work because my focus was on the work that I was competent enough to do, especially because Netaji’s death was the most controversial aspect of his life and which still remains unresolved. So today whatever I have deduced as a culmination of my efforts, concentrate on his death and therefore, this book is a document that I believe has enough evidence and facts and, most importantly, has first-hand eyewitness accounts from six survivors of the crash — five of them Japanese and Raja Habib-ur-Rahman Khan.

There was also a very important depiction by the ground engineer, Captain Nakamura, who saw the plane rise and fall and then you had between four to eight people in the hospital, in the room beside his bed when Netaji passed away. These are pieces of evidence you do not ignore as it is not just one person. Normally speaking, corroboration from one independent source is credible. In this book, you have a dozen and more. This is compelling evidence, which no one rational and reasonable or sensible should ignore.

Ashis Ray with Krishna Bose, wife of Netaji’s nephew Sisir Bose.

Text: Sulogna Ghosh
Pictures: Koushik Saha