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‘Sarkari historians ignored the INA’

‘Professional historians should be consulted before destroying files.’

NAVTAN KUMAR  18th Apr 2015

Kapil Kumar

rofessor Kapil Kumar, director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Freedom Struggle Studies (IGCFSS) and chairperson, Faculty of History, School of Social Sciences, IGNOU, was probably one of the first historians to have demanded the Netaji files to be declassified and made accessible to historians to study India's freedom movement. He says that there are many "inconsistencies" in the existing narration on the freedom struggle and that the classification of files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and many other revolutionaries and events is a major hindrance to write the history of the period. He talked to NAVTAN KUMAR. Excerpts:

Q: What are the inconsistencies in the history that we have been told on India's freedom movement?

A: There are many unanswered questions that make the history of our freedom movement inconsistent and written from the point of view of politicians. The history that has been written until now has been done in the absence of records that are marked as classified documents even after 68 years of independence. Many questions remain unanswered. For example, was there any secret treaty at the time of transfer of power in 1947 that we have to hand over information on war criminals to either the British or the US government? There are many CID reports and personal files of the 1946 Royal Naval Mutiny that remain classified. We want all the files of "every leader" and all events to be opened. The sarkari historians have projected a one sided view of the national movement. As if it was only the Congress that fought for and got India independence. Do we teach our younger generation about how many soldiers of the Indian National Army died for freedom? How much did the Indian Diaspora contribute in this regard? How many textbooks have these contributions? The British had realised that they would have to leave India much before 1947 as the exodus from the British Indian Army to Netaji's INA and the naval mutiny in 1946 demonstrated that they were losing control over the organs through which they ruled India, not to say the Quit India Movement.

Q: Did any other disappearances similar to Subhas Bose's take place?

A: Yes, the disappearance of Nana Saheb, the great hero of the 1857 uprising. He suddenly "disappeared" after that. However, in Bose's case, it is the government of independent India that has concealed the files and facts. Image 2nd

Q: Are there more files about others?

A: There are many files dating back to even the 1920s that have not been transferred to the National Archives. For example, the file related to the arrest of Baba Ramchandra, who led the Awadh peasants' movement in 1921. Many files are kept hidden in state CID records, as the files in West Bengal on Bose.

Q. Why has Government of India been hiding certain documents related to the freedom movement?

A: The leaders, after Independence, protected and patronised some people and realised that there could be some negative aspects which they did not want to come to light. But I hope the present government will leave history to professional historians who apply the historians' craft of decoding the official version and language of the documents. Bhagat Singh was termed as a terrorist by the British government, but has any historian ever said that he was a terrorist? For the sake of history, please trust the historians.

Q: Should there be any changes in the existing system of classification of files?

A: Each and every file is a historical document. At present, it's the politicians and bureaucrats who decide which files should be destroyed or declassified or retained. They don't have a historian's perspective. Professional historians must be included in the committee to decide upon what treatment is to be given to a particular file. Politics should not come in the way of taking such decisions. Even if a file is destroyed, why cannot the government keep a scanned copy of it before doing so or microfilm it?

Q: What is your take on the plane crash theory about Netaji?

A: I take it as a Nehruvian theory. As a researcher, I can say that he never died in a plane crash. It's a cover-up.

Q: Have you approached the NDA government for making the files accessible to scholars?

A. I have written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in this regard. I welcome the government's move of reviewing the Official Secrets Act. However, I will suggest that there should be a committee to decide about the records and have professional historians in it. I don't mind having people from the intelligence and legal fraternity in that committee, but the real value can be assessed by historians. Also, both the government and historians should acknowledge the hard work being done by activist and author Anuj Dhar on the Netaji issue and the nation needs to compliment him.

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