On the night of 19 September, 1985 a body wrapped in tricolor was moved out of Ram Bhavan, a house in front of the circuit house. It was accompanied by 13 people including Dr. RP Mishra, Dr. Priyabrat Bannerjee and Saraswati Devi Shukla. Another man Ram Kishore Panda had been looking after Bhagwanji, the Saint who had just died. He cried out as the pyre was lit on the banks of Saryu at the Guptar Ghat – a place where Lord Ram was supposed to have shed his body. “We are only 13 to see him off on his last journey, there should have been 13 lakh!”
24 boxes full of Gumnami Baba’s belongings have been kept at the Faizabad Treasury. They contain “round frame spectacles, Belgian typewriters, many newspapers of pre-independence and post-independence time with Baba’s comments scribbled on them, boxes full of books of international relevance, several books gifted by ‘sister’, cigars from Germany and Italy, and some huge-size family photographs.”
All the people there were however sure of one thing – the person cremated at Guptar Ghat that night was none other than Subhash Bose.
What did he do until then? How did he move out of Soviet Russia?
Bhagwanji, or Gumnami Baba, gave a hint on when he moved out of Russia and what happened thereafter. He would once say that he was in the Russian Gulag as a prisoner and moved out of Russia in 1949. Thereafter, he was engaged in “covert activities to counter world powers, especially America’s, clout in Asia.”
Forensic evidence of Gumnami Baba1
Forensic evidence, based on the teeth recovered from Bhagwanji’s assets and handwriting – both English and Bangla – were examined by a top expert and said to be a match. Unfortunately, the Central and State appointed “experts”, acted suspiciously and gave wishy-washy reports and refused to come to the Mukherjee Commission along with B. Lal for proper questioning. In the words of Anuj Dhar:
Three handwriting experts checked Bhagwanji’s handwriting. The first among them was B Lal, a former Chief Examiner of Questioned Documents – the highest post for a handwriting expert in government. B Lal is a legendary figure in the field and one of the best. That’s why he was initially approached by then Hindustan Times journalist Anuj Dhar, now with Mission Netaji. After B Lal gave a positive report, he was hired by the Mukherjee Commission and made available a large number of samples from both sides. B Lal gave a descriptive, first rate report backed by loads of exhibits. He duly appeared before the Commission when summoned and made his case brilliantly.
The other two reports were given by then Chief Examiner of Questioned Documents and state government expert. A look at the state government expert’s report would convince anyone of its fraudulent nature. While giving report, a handwriting expert is supposed to state reasons [as B Lal did] for the conclusions.
The central government report gave some reasons as their report first admitted that there were similarities in the handwriting and then changed tack in the end. That they were not sure of their ground was clear from the fact that they did not appear before the commission in Delhi where their former boss B Lal was also present at the time of hearing. Though located in Shimla, they chose to go all the way to Calcutta to depose.
The Government acted in a similar manner in terms of the DNA evidence when the teeth of Bhagwanji were examined. The Government appointed officials gave conflicting and inconclusive reports and then refused to be cross-examined.
There were two different DNA tests performed on some teeth presumed to be of Bhagwanji. While the Hyderabad lab gave an inconclusive report, the CFSL Kolkata report was negative. It is to be noted that for some reason the expert who supervised the DNA tests was not willing to appear before commission. He did so only after repeated summons.
It must be stressed here that Mukherjee Commission report criticized government of India for not cooperating with it. In fact the report said that certain actions/inactions of the government “put a spoke in the wheel of this inquiry”.
An independent and private investigator to probe into the DNA evidence was needed, which unfortunately did not happen in case of the Mukherjee Commission.2
Dr. Priyabrat Bannerjee was one of those 13 who saw Bhagwanji alias Gumnami Baba on his last journey. He was – along with his family – in touch with Bhagwanji in his last years, after Saraswati Devi had come looking for his father Dr. TC Bannerjee – a Homeopathic doctor – to take care of a patient who wanted to remain anonymous. In this video, Dr. Priyabrat Bannerjee explains the meetings with Bhagwanji and why he – and his family are convinced that Bhagwanji was indeed Netaji Subhash Bose himself.
Accounts of prominent people on Gumnami Baba3
Many prominent people in India have stated publicly from time to time about the existence of Netaji as a sanyasi and Bhagwanji specifically. The most important of them being Ms. Leela Roy, a close associate of Netaji. She was in regular touch with Bhagwanji as her letters to him and his letters back to her show. Based on the letters from the property of Bhagwanji, the following comes out clearly.
First, from Dec. 1954 to April 1957 Dr Sampurnanand, the then Chief Minister of UP was in touch with Bhagawanji and he paid for his expenses. In 1962 Leela Roy established contacts with Bhagwanji and sent him the items required by him. On 25 March 1963, Bhagwanji told a person called Srikant Sharma to convey to Leela Roy “My coming out is not in country’s interest. It would not do anyone any good if I emerged now.”
On 3 April 1967, Samar Guha raised the issue on the floor of the Parliament. Subsequently, a memorandum signed by 350 MPs was sent to President of India to make a fresh probe into the Netaji Mystery. As a result, the G. D. Khosla Commission was constituted. Witnesses expressed that Netaji was present in Amarkantaka, Madhya Pradesh during 27 September to 2 October 1968 and in Mainpuri, UP during February – March 1969. In 1970, Bhagwanji paid homage to Leela Roy through a letter. The handwriting on this letter exactly matches with that of Netaji. Leela Roy was in constant touch with Bhagwanji during 1963 to 1970 till her death.
On 28 August 1978, Prime Minister Morarji Desai rejected the conclusion of the Shah Nawaz Committee and the Khosla Commission about Netaji’s death in August 1945 in the house of the Parliament based on “further contemporary documentary evidence” received by the Government. On 6 July 1983, on the occasion of the re-release of Samar Guha’s book “Netaji: Dead or Alive”, Morarji Desai said in a gathering openly that “Bose is alive and has taken sanyas”.4
Justice M K Mukherjee, the former Supreme Court judge who led the Justice Mukherjee Commission Investigation (JMCI) into the mystery of Netaji’s life and death, made a remark in Bengali off-the-camera, though the camera was inadvertantly recording. He said that “he is 100 per cent sure” that Bhagwanji of Faizabad was Netaji in disguise. This clip is from Times Now and was provided by filmmaker Amlan Ghosh, who captured Justice Mukherjee’s off the record comment.
Now, one thing to be sure about is that no one investigating this mystery has devoted so much time, energy and resources as Justice Mukherjee has. He had thoroughly investigated the Bhagwanji angle and met with all the relevant experts in this connection. Although, a report that was to be based only on the scientific evidence did say that the evidence was non-conclusive. However, it never dismissed it as incorrect or contradictory! As the report discussed:
Apparently, there is no reason for not acting or relying upon the evidence of the last two categories of witnesses particularly of the category who had seen Netaji before 1945 and also met Bhagwanji/Gumnami Baba face to face on a number of occasions, more so when their evidence regarding the frequent visits of some freedom fighters, eminent politicians and former members of INA on January 23 and during the Durga Puja festival is supported by the fact that letters written by some of them including Prof Samar Guha, Dr Pabitra Mohan Roy and Ms Leela Roy were found in `Rambhawan’.
Here is the clip of Justice Mukherjee’s private remark.5
What is irrefutable in the whole Netaji mystery is that the Government of India was busy indulging in subterfuge with respect to the whole issue of Netaji’s death. As late as the 1970s, when while the GD Khosla Committee was at work, many files pertaining to Netaji were destroyed. That Netaji did not die in an air crash in Taiwan is a rock solid truth as is the fact that he was in Russia right after that. Now, if indeed he had been killed by the Russians in 1950, as many believe so, then why was the Indian Government going after every piece of news on Netaji well into the 70s and 80s? Why was his family under surveillance? This is what Anuj Dhar says on how the Indian Government, along with the Intelligence Bureau created fake stories and Babas to de-legitimize the true existence of Netaji at that time. By throwing in fake “Babas” and disproving them it was easy to brush aside the true story there was. The one person who was in touch with everyone who was related to Netaji in any way. Bhagwanji alias Gumnami Baba.
The sadhu baba stories were planted by the Government with the twin purpose of diluting the Russian angle and trivilising the entire issue.
The game started in early 1960s with Shoulmari baba. BN Mullick, the famed Director of Intelligence Bureau and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s right hand man, was behind it.
I am led to believe that our Government does have a good idea about the case. Two, there was something fishy about the sadhu of Shoulmari. The fellow who was said to be the administrator of the Shoulmari ashram was possibly an Intelligence Bureau officer.
And, I can’t help notice that the propagators of Shoulmari and other babas evidently had no insight into Netaji’s disappearance from Saigon. While countering the plane crash theory, which they had to, these people lifted arguments of Professor Samar Guha, who used to frequent Bhagwanji. Shoulmari and other babas also skipped the Russian angle, which I think is a reality so far as Netaji’s going there is concerned.
Bhagwanji called the Shoulmari subterfuge a “parallel bluff” and talked about “his” escaping to the USSR via Diren in Manchuria after a “concocted air crash”. He made an allegation about a top Azad Hind Government Minister – which rings true if we look at still classified records. It was rather intriguing for a holy man to talk about the functioning of prisons camps in Siberia. He gave out more details which appear to be the reasons why could not come out. One gets goose pimples thinking should they turn out to be true.
I fail to understand one thing: If indeed Netaji had been killed in the USSR in early 1950s, and some agency set up fake babas early 1960s onwards, what purpose would it have served? Why would the Government, which allegedly had things to hide, shoot itself in the foot by starting off a frenzy over a dead issue? What did Bhagwanji mean by “parallel bluff”? Why was the Central Intelligence Agency of America receiving dope on Subhas Bose as late as 1964? Didn’t those guys have better things to do?!
Some of the arguments made before Khosla Commission were hair-raising. It was charged that the Intelligence Bureau, a bugbear in those days, was on a lookout for information related to Bose. I remember one statement verbatim: “When the Government of India has accepted Shah Nawaz Committee’s report that Netaji is dead then how is it that the Intelligence Department goes after every news when it appears that Netaji is not dead and he is alive?”
What one finds most amazing is that Netaji roamed his own country and lived fairly recognizably – though not to all – till as late as 1985 and there was no one to celebrate him. Go back into your life to September of 1985, two years after India had won its first Cricket World Cup and almost one year after Indira Gandhi had been killed and the Sikh massacre happened in Delhi – and try to remember how the country seemed like and how the air smelled like. Netaji was breathing in the same air!! Here is the samadhi of Gumnami Baba – or Netaji himself in Faizabad.