PUNE, Aug.17. “It was a strange sight at taihoku airport near Taiwan on the morning of Aug.18, 1945. Hot steam emanated from the body of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Clad in tight woolen riding breeches, tight belt, his body was blistered by hot oil from the plane that had crashed minutes ago. Strewn around Netaji were jewels, ornaments, gold and pearls donated by Indians for the independence struggle, which he was carrying with him on his way to Japan.”
“Netaji struggled throughout the day and finally passed away at 10.30 p.m. on Aug.18, 1945 and was cremated by the Japanese at Taiwan itself.”
“Mr P.N.Oak’s spirited voice, even at the ripe old age of 81 years, cracks while recollecting Netaji’s end. Even though Mr. Oak was not present at the airport when the plane carrying Netaji and other high-ranking Japanese military officials crashed near taihoku airport, Mr. Oak recounts the scene very vividly based on a detailed account given to him by Colonel Habibur Rehman who was Netaji when he expired.
According to information provided by Habibur Rehman, the plane carrying Netaji crashed off Taiwan after losing one of the propellers, soon after take off.
The Japanese took Netaji and Rehman to a nearby hospital. Initially, Netaji was sure that he would survive but later on as the evening progressed, he often lost consciousness. Later in the night, he told Rehman in Hindi that the time for his departure had come but requested him to let Indians know that he (Netaji) fought for Indian freedom until his last breath.
“The rumours that Netaji is alive and that he has become a hermit are all false. Rehman briefed me in detail about the last moments of Netaji. I do not know why people insist that Netaji is still alive,” says Mr. Oak, who leads a peaceful retired life, writing books in suburban Pune. Mr. Oak served as the lieutenant ADC and private secretary to General Jagannath Bhonsle who was appointed the chief-of-staff of the INA by Netaji. Initially a recruit of the British Army, Mr. Oak joined the Ordnance Department of the British Indian Army in Pune but within eight months was transferred to Singapore. But as luck would have it, three months later in February 1942, the Japanese defeated the British forces in Singapore.
The 60,000-odd Indian Army was then regrouped under the Indian National Army which was commanded by Netaji who formed his Azad Hind Government and acted in various capacities as the Prime Minister, foreign Minister, War Minister, etc,.., of his self styled Government. “Netaji arrived in Singapore in June 1943 after negotiating with the then Japanese premier, Hideki Tojo in Tokyo. On Oct. 21, he addressed a meeting in Singapore, went on radio that night, and declared that his Azad Hind Government was at war with the British Government. Ras Bihari Bose who as earlier the supreme of the INA garlanded Netaji,” recalls Mr. Oak.
Mr. Oak, who in the meantime was working as a director and commentator at the Free India Radio which had daily broadcasts from Saigon, had joined the Bose-led INA as a co-worker. Mr. Oak says that the idea behind forming the INA by Netaji was not as much as to liberate India but to awaken the Indians.
“Netaji was man of god. He always expressed his desire to become a hermit. That was his ultimate dream. But he was acutely aware of being born in an enslaved country. Netaji was in a dilemma, on whether to renounce the world and become a hermit or to fight on. That is why he used to regularly read the Gita and compare himself to Arjun. Based on the advise given by Lord Krishna to Arjun, Netaji decided to fight on. He had made up his mind that he would become a hermit after India became independent,” says Mr. Oak.
Keeping in mind the liberation of India, the INA comprising more than 60,000 soldiers and with the help of local support marched from their base in Singapore, passed Bangkok, Rangoon and were nearing the Imphal border when the news of Japanese surrendering to the Americans filtered in.
“Netaji in his final speech reminded al of us that Japanese had surrendered and not the Indians, who were fighting for freedom. He urged all Indians wherever they were to keep on fighting. Since he wanted to meet Stalin Russia after meeting the Japanese premier in Tokyo, he left for Singapore which was the main Japanese base,” recalls Mr. Oak.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna