Friday, August 19th, 2022 17:26:28

Where Is INA Treasure?

Updated: July 17, 2015 4:20 am

When Mr. P. V. Chakraborty (former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court on March 30, 1976) was acting as Governor of Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee, who was the British Prime Minster in post-war years and who was responsible for India’s freedom, visited India and stayed at Raj Bhawan, Calcutta (now Kolkata) for two days. He asked Attlee: “The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time, which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why then did they do so?”

In reply, Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were I.N.A. activities of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Mr. Attlee’s lips winded in smile and disdain and uttered slowly, “Minimal”.

From the above conversation it is clear that the contribution of Netaji was immense, whose service has never been recognised in the country for which he fought and died. The saddest part is that 70 years after his mysterious disappearance, the country still doesn’t knows what actually happened to him, but more shocking is the revelation that the treasure which Netaji collected as donation for Provisional Government of Azad Hind (PGAH), was looted with the collapse of PGAH. The answer to all this mysteries lies in the 120 declassified files which are now with the government at the centre.

25-07-2015The secret documents which are out now raise serious suspicions about cash, gold and jewellery that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose collected to finance his armed struggle for Independence but which are being wiped away by some vested interest in power after declaring, Netaji died in the plane crash and in the course of time the matter of treasure too disappeared and became a mystery.

The suspected loot took place soon after Bose’s demise in a plane crash in 1945. The startling twist is not about the missing Indian National Army (INA) treasure worth several hundred crores of rupees today. The more shocking is the great fact that the government of the day knew about it but did nothing. Some letters and documents obtained by this journalist reveal that the Jawaharlal Nehru government did not pay any heed to these developments or ignored the matter.

The INA treasure was reportedly to the tune of over Rs 2 crore including more than 80 kg of gold. Fund collection drives were not new to the INA. Netaji wanted his two-year-old government-in-exile not to depend as little on the Japanese for financing his soldiers. He turned to an estimated two million Indians in erstwhile British colonies conquered by his Japanese allies. He relied on the sheer dint of his personality, emotive speeches and unswerving commitment to Indian independence to ask the community for funds.

Netaji had raised the largest war fund by any Indian leader in the 20th century. But by 1945, this was to no avail as the Japanese army and the INA crumpled in the face of a resurgent Allied thrust into Burma. It was only a matter of time before Rangoon, headquarters of the Azad Hind Bank and the springboard for the leap into India, fell to the Allies. Netaji retreated to Bangkok on April 24, 1945, carrying with him a part of the treasury of the provisional government. Debnath Das, head of the Indian Independence League (IIL) in Bangkok, told the Shah Nawaz Committee of inquiry in 1956 that Netaji withdrew treasure worth Rs 1 crore, mostly ornaments and gold bars in 17 small sealed boxes.

On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers. The 40,000-strong INA also surrendered to the Allied forces in Burma; their officers marched off to the Red Fort to face trial for treason.

Habibur Rahman recounted the last hours of Netaji before the Shah Nawaz Committee in 1956. Netaji had been injured in the plane crash but his uniform, soaked in aviation fuel, caught fire, grievously injuring him. He died in a Japanese army hospital six hours after the air crash. Also destroyed in the aircraft were two leather attaches, each 18 inches long, packed with INA gold. Japanese army men posted at the airbase gathered around 11 kg of the remnants of the treasure, sealed them in a petrol can and transported it to the Imperial Japanese Army headquarters in Tokyo. A second box held the remains of Netaji’s body that had been cremated in a local crematorium in Taiwan.

The two containers came to represent two of modern India’s biggest political mysteries: the fate of Netaji and the whereabouts of his treasure.

25-07-2015An 18-page secret note, prepared for the Morarji Desai government in 1978, quotes Netaji’s personal valet Kundan Singh as saying that the treasure was in “four steel cases which contained articles of jewellery commonly worn by Indian women, chains of ladies watches, necklaces, bangles, bracelets, earrings, pounds and guineas and some gold wires”. It also included a gold cigarette case gifted to him by Adolf Hitler. These boxes were checked before Netaji departed from Bangkok to Saigon. A leader of the Indian Independence League in Bangkok, Pandit Raghunath Sharma, said that Netaji took with him gold and valuables worth over Rs 1 crore. There was clearly much more of the treasure than the two leather suitcases burnt in the airplane crash.

Conclusive evidence is that Netaji had died in the air crash could help silence government critics. The INA treasure, or what was left of it, was secretly brought into India from Japan. It was inspected by Nehru who called it a “poor show”. There was a debate within his cabinet on what to do with it. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the education minister, suggested the gold be given to Netaji’s family. Nehru overruled the suggestion. The Bose family had not accepted Netaji’s death in an air crash, he said. Besides, the burnt jewellery should be preserved by the government since it was some evidence of the aircraft accident and subsequent fire. The jewellery was sealed and consigned to the vaults of the National Museum, then located in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was in the loop on most INA matters and was quick to intervene in other cases where former INA men sought to cash in on their wartime fortune. Nehru’s silence on the fate of the INA treasure was baffling, especially since the Shah Nawaz Committee set up by him to probe Netaji’s disappearance in 1956 also recommended an inquiry into the fate of it. It was impossible to conclude what had happened to the treasure, the committee noted and called an inquiry into all the assets of Netaji’s government.

By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata

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