Did Netaji die in an air crash?

More than three years before Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was said to have died in an air crash in August, 1945, there was already ‘news’ of an air crash killing him in 1942!

Mahatma Gandhi with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Mahatma Gandhi with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

National Herald Archives

Significantly, on January 23, 1946, five months after the air crash believed to have killed Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the National Herald carried a front page photograph of the leader under the headline ‘Netaji 50 Today’. The caption declared that the nation was celebrating Netaji’s 50th birth anniversary and, like Mahatma Gandhi, the nation believed “He is alive today and one day will come back to his country”.

Ironically on the same day the newspaper had a report, again on the front page, on a press conference in Calcutta addressed by Captain Shah Nawaz of the Indian National Army, who said that Habibur Rahman who was in the ill-fated plane with Netaji when it crashed at Taihoku, had claimed to have carried Netaji’s “last words”.

But first the Red Herring. The following report appeared in the National Herald on March 29, 1942, quoting Lyons Radio in France :

Subhash Bose killed in air crash

Accident off Japanese Coast

London, Mar. 28 : “Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose was killed in an air crash off the coast of Japan, according to the Lyons Radio quoting a Tokyo message.

Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose lost his life when the plane in which he was flying to Tokyo to attend a “Free India Congress” crashed off the Japanese coast, according to a Tokyo message. With him were his adjutant and a number of other Indians.

Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 28, 1897, and was the son of Janki Das Bose, a prominent lawyer of Cuttack. He was educated at the Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Cuttack, Presidency College and Scottish Church College, Calcutta and at Cambridge.”

Almost four years later on Netaji’s birth anniversary in 1946, this report appeared of a press conference addressed by Captain Shah Nawaz of the INA:

Netaji’s last command

CALCUTTA, Jan. 22-“The last message that the INA personnel had from Netaji was to follow the lead of the Indian National Congress”, said Capt. Shah Nawaz concluding his talks with the representatives at Woodburn Park, shortly after his arrival in Calcutta.

Netaji’s exact words, according to Capt. Shah Nawaz, were: “The Indian National Congress is the flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. We regard ourselves as servants of forty crores of Indians, and it is for their liberation that we fought. To us, the independence of our country comes first and all party politics afterwards.

Continuing, Capt. Shah Nawaz said that immediately after the plane crash at Formosa Island, Netaji asked Mr. Habibur Rahaman to go back to his countrymen and tell them that Subhas Chandra Bose fought for Indian liberation till the end of his life. Capt. Shah Nawaz thought that the greatest service the INA personnel could render was to infuse among Indians the spirit of communal harmony and brotherhood and to discipline and organise the masses.”

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