Kolkata: Was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose living incognito as K K Bhandari in 1963 in Shalumari Ashram in north Bengal? A reading of one of the files on Netaji, declassified on May 27, would seem to suggest that the topmost levels of the government was discussing this man in 1963. While one of the declassified files refers repeatedly to the contents of this Netaji-as-Bhandari file, the latter file itself is not there.
It all began with a letter sent to the Prime Minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) by Ramani Ranjan Das, secretary of the Shalumari Ashram “in connection with Subhas Chandra Bose” in 1963. Immediately, a reference was made by K Ram, principal private secretary to the PM, to the director of Intelligence Bureau B N Mallik in a top secret memo on May 23, 1963. On June 12, Malik replied in a top secret note (No III(51)/63(6) about K K Bhandari.
Again, on September 7 the same year, the Prime Minister’s Office made a top secret reference on the matter of K K Bhandari. A reminder followed, on November 11. The Intelligence Bureau sent out a top secret reply on November 16.
Shalumari Baba not Bose, said Mukherjee commission
While the contents of these top secret exchanges on K K Bhandari of Shalumari Ashram remain secret, what they may pertain to is averred from the discussions in the PMO 37 years later in 2000.
Under pressure from the Justice Mukherjee Commission set up in 1999 to hand over copies of relevant files, officials of the Prime Minister’s Office discussed whether the memos should be downgraded from top secret to secret and made available to the commission. In a note on July 5, 2000, the Under Secretary (NGO) writes: “As discussed with Director (A) where Under Secretary (Political) was also present, we may ask IB to concur with the downgradation of the two letters dated 12/6/1963 and 16/11/1963 sent to Director IB by Shri K Ram, PPS to PM about Shri K K Bhandari (believed to be Shri Subhas Chandra Bose).”
The appearance of Shalumari Baba had sparked nationwide rumours at the time that Subhas Bose had reappeared. The Mukherjee Commission stated categorically that he was not Netaji. But now it would seem that although the baba was not Netaji, the latter could have been living as K K Bhandari in the ashram.