Two Declassification Drives in America and India
The Modi government does not have as much drive to know the truth about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as its American counterpart has to know the truth behind 9/11
On the bottom floor of the United States Capitol’s new underground visitors’ centre, there is a secure room where the House Intelligence Committee maintains highly classified files. One of those files is titled ‘Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.’ It is twenty-eight pages long.
Thus reported The New Yorker in September last year.
On the basement of New Delhi’s North Block is housed the secretive T-Branch, where the Ministry of Home Affairs and Government of India maintain highly classified files. One of these files contains top secret material related to the fate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Across the road in the South Block, dozens of classified Bose-related files pile up at the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs, too. Twenty of the classified PMO record room files are related to Bose’s fate. One does not know how many more files have been kept elsewhere. The intelligence agencies are fiefdoms of their own. The exact number of Netaji files is a mystery at par with the one about the exact amount of black money stashed in foreign banks.
The 28 pages in America are said to describe the involvement of specific foreign governments in the 9/11 terror attacks. It is now widely reported that the main nation in question is Saudi Arabia, America’s long-standing ally. These pages were classified under the Bush administration. One official explanation given out was that disclosure would damage American intelligence operations against “the war on terror”.
However, Walter Jones, a Republican Congressman who read the pages, stated, “There’s nothing in it about national security. It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.” Looks like Michael Moore’s controversial 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 had a valid point.
The Bose papers in India are rather explosive and their full disclosure is likely to scald the reputations of many living and dead Indian icons. In 2006, during the course of an RTI proceeding involving this writer and friends, the Central Information Commission was told by the Home Ministry that releasing certain top secret papers “may lead to a serious law and order problem in the country, especially in West Bengal”. Yes, these words are on record. This is the ‘gospel’ coming straight from the Raisina Hill!
The Prime Minister’s Office has repeatedly maintained that if it were to release its files, it would hurt India’s relations with foreign nations. Going by the sensational statements of senior BJP leader Dr Subramanian Swamy — that one of these foreign nations could be Russia — the successor state of Soviet Union.
Swamy, the man who thinks he knows too much about the Netaji matter, is the proponent of a long-standing conspiracy theory that holds that Bose was killed in Stalinist Russia at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi’s protégé Jawaharlal Nehru. “Netaji was declared a war criminal after World War II and fake information was flashed that he had died in a plane crash. He had gone to the USSR for political asylum, but was arrested there by Stalin,” Swamy said on 23 January. Seen from that perspective, the fear that there would be violence in Bengal, where admiration for Netaji as well as Joseph Stalin still runs deep among different sections, seems valid.
It would seem from the latest media reports that the US government may make public those 28 pages. While the demand for their release has been there since the release of 9/11 Commission Report in 2002, pressure increased recently with the deposition of 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Following this development, public, media and lawmakers joined the chorus for declassification. Former Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Select Committee that issued the report, called a press meet to assert that 28 pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of the hijackers.
The demand for release of the Bose-related papers is decades’ old. But since this writer’s book, India’s Biggest Cover-Up, was released in 2012, the issue has been making news like never before. First the Bose family, except with those with links to the Indian National Congress, demanded the release and then a slew of RTI disclosures put the spotlight on the issue across the country.
So much so that in the run up to the general election in 2014, the BJP promised to act on the matter if voted to power. So far, it hasn’t.
Interestingly, 28Pages.org, an online resource for the growing movement to declassify the 28-page finding, has put out ready-to-print letters. The one that can be sent to the US President reads:
Dear President Obama, I’m writing to urge you to honor a promise you made to 9/11 family members and declassify the 28 page finding on foreign government support of the September 11 hijackers.
The White House stated last week that “the administration, in response to a specific congressional request, last year asked the intelligence community to conduct a classification review of that material”.
Voted to power, the BJP discovered that there was more wisdom in paying obeisance to Mahatma Gandhi than remembering the man who rejected his fetish for non-violence in larger national interest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi could find time to chair the meeting of the committee set up to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, but was too busy to attend a brief Parliament ritual to pay certain lip service to Bose on his 118th anniversary.
Modi talks about transparency, but a letter outlining settling of the Bose matter sent by this writer and friends at the start of his tenure remains unanswered.
While our media has been giving some coverage to the Netaji issue, it is nothing like in the US over the 28 pages matter. The PMO’s excuse that foreign relations would be affected in this age and time if Bose files were released has been swallowed without much protest. For argument’s sake, I am sure such an excuse wouldn’t have worked in case these files were about Gandhi or Sardar Patel. In Parliament and political circles, only a handful protested the government’s stonewalling tactics. The BJP MPs who were vociferous in the time of previous Congress-led government are silent today. Wasn’t it a BJP lawmaker who had asked in Parliament, “Are the friendly countries more important or are the people of India more important?”
In America, people come before foreign nations — even if it is an ally as close as Saudi Arabia. It’s a matter of time before the 28 pages are released. But thousands of Bose papers will remain secret, unless we followed the American example. The world’s largest democracy surely has a long way to go before it joins the league of the world’s greatest in the realm of transparency.
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