There are two most prominent theories propounded by those who have an opinion about the ‘death’ of India’s beloved Netaji, Subhas Chandra Bose. The first being that he met with an air crash which resulted in his death. The second being a bit harsher suggesting that he was strangulated in a Soviet prison. The third, however, is counted among India’s top mysteries. It is the claim that the acclaimed Gumnami Baba, who spent approximately thirty years travelling across Uttar Pradesh, was in fact none other than Netaji himself. Over the years, this mystery has only grown bigger, with more and more people getting aware of it, even if in patchy details. Through this article, I aim to provide a comprehensive analysis on the merit of the above-mentioned claim.
Ordinary people would tell you that Netaji died in 1945. However, followers of Gumnami Baba would say that he died in 1985. They, however, never referred to him by this name. For them, he was ‘Bhagwaanji’. The term Gumnami Baba was coined by the media of the time. When the same media questioned the followers of this Baba, they would hesitantly admit that he was Netaji Subhas Bose. It turned out that the Baba had told his close followers to keep their mouths sealed in this regard in ‘national interest’.
Gumnami Baba, some also claim, was a criminal called Kaptan Baba who was famous in the state a decade before the appearance of Gumnami Baba. A particular K D Upadhyay had allegedly murdered one of his colleagues over a financial feud. He then escaped to Nepal, after which he reappeared in Basti. From Basti, Kaptan Baba moved to Ayodhya, and then to Faizabad to spend the rest of his days there itself. An article on the Scroll claimed that Kaptan Baba and Gumnami Baba were the same person because they had mutual friends.
However, this theory is not convincing to me. For the simple reason that the belongings of Gumnami Baba tell a completely different story. Why would a killer like K D Upadhyay have materials which indicate an obvious connection with Netaji Bose? The variety of items retrieved from Gumnami Baba leave no confusion about him, in all probability, actually being Netaji. Items like cigarettes, cigars, alcohol, spectacles, books, warfare binoculars, a typewriter, notes on various subjects, watches all bear a striking resemblance to those which were used and consumed by Netaji. Moreover, there is a clear resemblance in the facial images of Netaji and Gumnami Baba, leaving little to doubt about them actually being the same person. People also claim that the Baba was fluent in English as well as German!
It was only after Baba’s death that rumors of him being Netaji started doing the rounds. The matter intensified when Lalita Bose, niece of Netaji arrived in Faizabad in 1985. She conducted a personal inquiry and was convinced that he was her uncle. Lalita tried to persuade the then Chief Minister of the state, Vir Bahadur Singh, to order a proper inquiry, but he is said to have told her that the matter was beyond him. Lalita and two citizens then filed a suit in the Allahabad High Court, using the services of eminent lawyer Robin Mitra. In response, the state government just clammed up and filed a counter-affidavit only after 13 years.
In 2013, Akhilesh Yadav constituted a one-man commission of Justice Vishnu Sahai, the report of which was found to be inconclusive. What is noteworthy, however, is that even in the case of this Baba, there are many theories, among which the most prominent is that of senior BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, who claims that this Baba was a mere implant and dummy by the IB and Central government in order to deviate attention from Netaji’s actual cause of death. Another theory suggests that Baba was a ‘CIA’ operative.
In what may be perceived a rather surprising and unwarranted move, in March this year, the family of Netaji wrote to PM Modi to stall the release of a book by Anuj Dhar and Chandrachur Ghose, titled “Conundrum: Subhas Bose’ life after death”. The family claimed that this book was a work of fiction and was being used to spread slander against Netaji.
The famous Mukherjee Commission set up in 1999 to look into the death of Netaji had dismissed possibilities of Netaji dying in a plane crash. For those who remember, the Congress government in 2006 rejected this report in ‘Parliament’ for being ‘inconclusive’, according to them. In 2010, Justice Mukherjee, who headed the Mukherjee Commission also backed the claims of Gumnami Baba indeed being Netaji. He also further made stunning claims of the Congress government hindering and attempting to influence the working of the commission. Why should a government try to create impediments in the investigations of an independent commission? It also turns out that the commission constituted by Akhilesh Yadav never approached Justice MK Mukherjee, even when he might be the sole person who knows most about this case. Why did Justice Sahai not approach him?
What also needs to be questioned is why the handwriting tests of Gumnami Baba were not paid attention to. While two tests had negative results, one of the experts said that there was much similarity between the handwritings of Netaji and Baba. Even if this was a minority opinion, shouldn’t the authorities have looked deeper into this aspect, keeping in mind the sheer sensitivity and cloud around Netaji’s death and claims of this Baba being Netaji? Further, it is said that MS Golwalkar, RSS’ second and revered Sarsanghchalak held Gumnami Baba in very high esteem. Apart from this, the fifth Sarsanghchalak went on record to claim that Gumnami Baba was indeed Netaji.
In view of all these facts (and theories as well), it becomes imperative upon the government to set up a high-powered SIT to look into the death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and also into the claims of Gumnami Baba being Bose. We need closure to all the conspiracy theories, once and for all. India deserves that, at least now.