Monday, April 13, 2015

Mohan Guruswamy - Watching out for Subhas Chandra Bose: noting who came and went is Intelligence Bureau's job

Gathering and collating information is routine. How to use that information is up to the decision-maker. 

"... 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.."

NB: The author's phrase 'frenzied meal' is about right. The investigation is dated October 1947, when Patel (whom Bose excoriated as a 'rightist'), was Home Minister. Why don't our news reporters say "Patel shared information with MI5" ? Or "Nehru and Patel"? The entire focus is on Nehru, that too, a matter of weeks after independence, when Indian intelligence, hardly decolonised and indeed, still recovering from the necessary habits of WW2, were definitely going to keep Axis collaborators (and/or anyone linked to them) under surveillance. See: Modi govt takes UPA line; won't disclose Netaji Bose files / Selective release of files to attack NehruBose was killed in an air crash in August 1945 - this was what everyone believed, and accepted by his major biographers, including Sugata Bose and Leonard Gordon. How could Nehru be mindfully ordering surveillance of Bose when he knew him to be dead? But its sheer day-dreaming to expect logic and facts to retain any sanctity these days. Those interested in historical analysis rather than propaganda could read Rudrangshu Mukherjee's Parallel Lives: Nehru and Bose . Some may even be interested in the racism of the Japanese Army: Imperial Japanese army ate Indian PoWs, used them as live targets in WW2 in occupied Papua New Guinea -DS

The media is making a frenzied meal out of the alleged snooping of the remnants of Netaji Subhaschandra Bose family in Calcutta from 1948 to 1968. According to official sources in Japan, Bose died on August 18, 1945, from third-degree burns when the overladen K1-21 Mitsubishi bomber in which he was travelling crashed at shortly after take-off from Taihoku in Formosa, now known as 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 Indian National Army. 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, 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 latter-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.

Routine operation: The point is that the Intelligence Bureau 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 in the 19th century to infiltrate and hunt down thugees into the Raj's all-seeing and all-knowing keeper of order. Evidence of thugee 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 organisation in the world operating almost entirely by humans. It does occasionally do some technical snooping, like when its bugs were discovered in the office of Pranab Mukherjee in 2011, when he was finance minstry. It would not have been with any malice,  but just out of routine. One National Security Agency member 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 prime minister 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 prime minister held the internal security 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 Gandhi. He even told the prime minister that they probably watch even him, which they did.

Trivial pursuit: 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 Research and Analysis Wing chief and a top daily newspaper editor, I was invited to speak on it at the India International Centre in Delhi. 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 People's Republic of China 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 recognizsd 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 realise 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 in 1999, 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 Vajpayee's 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 Prime Minister 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.

Nehru & Bose: Parallel lives By Rudrangshu Mukherjee, 
Reviewed by Mukul Kesavan
In this finely judged book, Rudrangshu Mukherjee sets out to chronicle the fraught political relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, friends and rivals in the Congress-led struggle against colonialism in the first half of the 20th century. "Chronicle" is apt, because Mukherjee tells his story sequentially. With a historian's respect for linear narrative, he walks us through their story as it unfolds. He establishes a time-line, blocks in the necessary context of Congress high politics, and allows his protagonists to speak for themselves through their letters and memoirs. Some of the best moments in the book are the occasions when the author intervenes (like a discreet editor) to point up the difference between the version of events his protagonists chose to remember and the historical record that he has scrupulously established... This is a self-denying way of telling a story because it rations authorial commentary for the sake of narrative momentum. But in letting his story speak for itself, Mukherjee does his subject a service. The movie begins at once, and though you vaguely know the story, you're constantly surprised by the details of these juxtaposed lives..

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