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Quest For Bose

Nehru, Netaji, Car And Envy

Refurbishing the 1937 Wanderer, in which Bose ­escaped, has opened faultlines within the family

Nehru, Netaji, Car And Envy
Photograph by Getty Images
An inside view of Netaji Bhavan overlooking the historical car
Nehru, Netaji, Car And Envy
outlookindia.com
2017-01-28T11:32:44+05:30

What transpired on the cold night of January 16, 1941 is perhaps the only non-controversial episode in the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose even as far as the great nationalist leader’s own family is concerned. Bose had reportedly had an early dinner with the rest of his family at his home on Calcutta’s Elgin Road informing them that he would be retiring to his room, where he would confine himself for an indefinite period of time for the practice of renunciation. He would not meet anyone. His meals and other ­essentials could be left for him at the door. Earlier that afternoon his nephew Sisir Kumar Bose, son of his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose had dropped in too. The 20-year-old medical student had arrived there in the 1937-model, four-door Wanderer which he had recently bought and proudly drove around in. At that time, no other family member realised that what seemed like a regular, innocuous visit by Sisir, was part of an escape plot hatched by his uncle and him. After his release from prison on December 5, 1940, when the revolutionary freedom fighter was placed under house arrest by the British, he had asked his nephew for a favour. It was to transport him secretly out of his house in the dead of night, ensuring that the fourteen-odd sentinels stationed in the premises did not get even a hint of it and drive him to Gomoh Railway Station (now in Jharkhand) from where he would take a train to Delhi. These are the facts of what has come to be known as the “great escape” that Bose’s family has ­accepted as undisputed.

But what has more or less been kept under wraps so far is that the larger Bose family is completely divided on the issue of what subsequently happened to their illustrious ancestor. One part of the family has unequivocally stated that they have no reason to disbelieve news which had filt­ered in at that time and which was ­endorsed by senior Congress leaders ­including Jawaharlal Nehru, that Bose had died in a plane crash in Taiwan in the year 1945.  However, another section of the Bose family vehemently opposes this view, claiming that there is evidence to suggest that Bose did live on, travelling to Manchuria and the Soviet Union, even ­alleging that keeping alive the theory that he had died was part of a systematic ­endeavour by powerful and influential leaders of the time who saw Bose’s return as a threat.

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