Thanks to the enforced stay at home, I finished reading the 834-page tome titled "CONUNDRUM - SUBHASH BOSE'S LIFE AFTER DEATH" by Chandrachur Ghose and Anuj Dhar.
Subhash Chandra Bose reportedly died in the Taihoku air crash of 1945, and his remains are said to have been interred at the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo. Conspiracy theories abound that he escaped to Russia after the war, where he was jailed in a Siberian camp where he ultimately met his end on the orders of Joseph Stalin (acting in concert with Nehru). Another variant is that Subhash returned to India and lived the life of an ascetic named "Bhagwanji" nicknamed "Gumnami Baba" or referred to by himself as the ghost.
After sifting through tons of classified material released after much prodding, interviews, forensic findings, and correspondence, and doing their part of the research, the authors have pieced together a fantastic account of what really could have happened to Bose. The book explores the Gumnami Baba angle in detail and does address some vital questions- Was Gumnami Baba indeed Subhash Chandra Bose? If yes, why wouldn't he make the fact be known? Indians would have given him a rousing reception, wouldn't they? What did he do in the period between 1945 and 1957 when he first appeared? If the astonishing claims of Gumnami Baba were indeed true, why would he be living in a state of near-penury all the time? Why did the inquiry commissions instituted by various governments over the years fail to put the matter of Subhash's death to rest conclusively?
The book starts off with Gumnami Baba's death in September 1985. Some of his disciples break the vow of secrecy and discloses that the body wrapped in the national flag, which they cremated on the banks of the Sarayu river within the limits of Faizabad army cantonment (without permission) was indeed that of Subhash. The media frenzy, public uproar, and court action yield little over the next few months as an "unrelated" order by the district judge of Faizabad in the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi case eclipse the event. Now, if that doesn't get you hooked, I don't know what will!
The book moves on to recount the stories and high-level associations of Gumnami Baba after his appearance in 1957 in Lucknow and then his movement to Neemsar and later to Faizabad. It covers his association with former INA confidantes, family, political connections, and his financial troubles, among others. It also explains the gaps in subsequent inquiry commissions – dissent, fraud, as well as political pressure.
Bose's (Baba's) revelations of his involvement in international affairs are quite astonishing by the authors' admission. The association with the Russians, Tibet/Dalai Lama in the 50s, the Chinese withdrawal of 1962, the Vietnam War, and Bangladesh liberation, this book has a lot of jaw-dropping "incredulous" sections. To top it all, comes a finale which involves clues to what happened to the villain in the Berlin bunker in the April of 1945 and thereafter.
The book can be taxing with its attention to detail and seemingly excessive/obsessive documentary coverage, but then, it was my mistake in the first place to get carried away and request from the authors the pace of a thriller from a piece of non-fiction. That said, a chapter or two are quite long-drawn to the point you feel like yelling for a ruthless editor to appear.
As the authors mention in the introduction, it will be great if someone follows through and investigates the claims made in this volume. For better or for worse, skeletons cannot remain confined to the closet forever, if our understanding of history is to be considered even remotely complete. A big shout out to the authors and the members of Mission Netaji for sustaining this herculean task in a remarkable manner!