While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Japan after 8 years and though he will engage with all Quad leaders in his individual capacity and collectively for the summit, he will skip for the second time the Renko ji temple which, according to several INC governments, houses the ashes of Subhas Chandra Bose. Whereas the Modi government has been giving a lot of importance to Netaji and even placed his hologram in India Gate to mark his 125th birth anniversary in January this year, it may be recalled that it was under the pressure of the group called Mission Netaji led by researchers Anuj Dhar, Chandrachur Ghose, Sreejith Panickar and others that Modi, as well as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, declassified Netaji-related files in the possession of their respective governments. And Mission Netaji challenges with proof the air crash theory. They hold that no aur crash took place anywhere in the world on 18 August 1945 and that the ashes in Renkoji Temple are those of a Japanese soldier called Ichiro Okura.
The Modi government, sources said, is torn between the claims of Mission Netaji at one end and that of Bose kin at the other, with the latter suddenly changing their mind about the fate of the freedom fighter. Since Dhar and Ghose came up with the book Conundrum, where they claimed a certain Gumnami Baba was Netaji in disguise, who settled in Faizabad after escaping from — or being let out of — probably Russian custody, the grand-nephews and grand-nieces, who had supported Dhar & Co during the declassification drive, rubbishing the air crash theory, turned around and began toeing the ancien regime‘s version. Amidst this tussle, the Modi government has not so far decided to push further to unravel the mystery around Netaji’s fate.
Meanwhile, every year on 18 August, a whole lot of BJP ministers pay tribute to Netaji on his ‘death anniversary’ and get badly trolled on social media where users ask them whether they are certain the freedom fighter died that day, and then the embarrassed ministers delete their tweets.
Nevertheless, when the hologram of Netaji was showcased in January this year, the prime minister said its inauguration “will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him” on Twitter.
“When Prime Minister Modi visited Japan in 2014, a political group called Netaji Subash Kranti Manch urged him not to visit the temple as they said it would send wrong signals of his government on Netaji. Even though the Indian Embassy in Tokyo had suggested that Prime Minister Modi visit the temple, he prefered to skip it,” said a political expert.
First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had visited Renkoji Temple in 1957; first President Rajendra Prasad did so in 1958; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did in 1969 and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Chandra Kumar Bose, one of the grand nephews of Netaji, had urged the government to bring back the ashes from Renkoji and conduct a DNA test to prove that it was him. They are looking at closure of this case.
Anita Bose Pfaff, the alleged daughter of Netaji, also wanted to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek a DNA test of the ashes interred in Renkoji since she believes he died in a plane crash in August 1945. Anita Bose Pfaff (born in 1942) is an Austrian economist and believed by many to be the only child of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Emilie Schenkl. While there is compelling evidence to suggest Bose and Schenkl married, a section of fans of Netaji who studiously read up all speeches and writings of the freedom fighter doubt the marriage.
Most interestingly, as an emissary of the UPA government, Pranab Mukherjee, who would go on to become the president of the country at a time coinciding with the Modi era, had gone to meet and persuade Emilie Schenkl to accept that the ashes kept at Renkoji Temple were her husband’s. Schenkl reportedly refused to believe Mukherjee.
In 2019, Hiroshi Hirabayashi, the president of the Japan India Association in Tokyo and former Ambassador of Japan to India asked why successive governments in India had failed to take back the ashes of the “hero” back home. His question came in the run-up to the 2019 general elections when India’s political parties were accusing one another of having let down the nation, including ignoring Netaji.
“One of the reasons that Prime Minister Modi has kept away from Renkoji is that the Mukherjee Commission appointed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government had concluded that the ashes in Renkoji were not Netaji’s. Prime Minister Modi wants to refrain from getting embroiled in any debate,” the expert said.
“If you look at Prime Minister Modi’s diplomatic stand of skipping Renkoji makes sense. With so much to fight, contest and establish, he naturally wouldn’t want to stir a hornet’s nest which will entangle him in a controversy,” the expert added.