Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Declassification of any numbers of Netaji files will not help us condemn the wrongful immersion of his ashes as Gandhiji’s by Tusar Gandhi, when a Bengali manager of the State Bank of India at Cuttack tampered with the Urn and created a climate of confusion that made the judiciary issue such a direction in 1996.
Whosoever knew Netaji intimately, had known three things:
(1) He had taken birth in Cuttack of Orissa;
(2) Cuttack, the City of the Barabati Forte, had injected valor into his veins, as he had spent his first sixteen years, acquiring a character that was never to change;
(3) Despite modern outlook, he was a Hindu where body after death is consigned to fire and the ashes collected after funeral returns to the birthplace for immersion.
Therefore, after his cremation, a portion of his funeral ashes was preserved in the Rankoji temple in Japan and another portion was delivered to Chief Minister of Orissa, his birthplace, in hope of its respectful disposal.
The great Gandhian Nabakrushna Chowdhury was then the Chief Minister. The urn containing Netaji’s ashes was given to him in November, 1950. It was highly sensitive a matter. People in general were considering the central leadership responsible for the debacle Netaji was subjected to and were deeply disturbed over the news of his death. Neither Netaji’s family nor Government of India had confirmed his death. To tell the people that his ashes had arrived was to invite a totally uncontrollable disturbance. Hence Sri Chowdhury thought it prudent to keep the urn containing Netaji’s ashes temporarily in the safe custody of the Imperial Bank of India, which eventually became the State Bank of India. And, he had handed over the urn, as circumstantial evidences convince us, personally to the manager of the Bank on 20 November 1950, where, it was safely kept till the Bengali manager of SBI, Treasury Branch, Cuttack tampered with the records and created the misguiding commotion in 1996 through another Bengali photojournalist. It was not that the Bank manager had not known the Cuttack based regular journalists; but he relied upon a Bengali photojournalist to spread the news that Gandhiji’s ashes were left abandoned in an urn in the locker of the SBI.
I had interviewed the said manager and his faltering answers had convinced me that he was telling deliberate lies.
I had discussed the issue and warned that the ashes should not be disposed off as that of Gandhiji till it was decided that the same did not belong to Netaji.
I had given enough reasons in support of my argument that the ashes, if at all the urn contained that, were of Netaji, and could never be of Gandhiji. I had insisted that the same be determined forensically before any further steps were taken.
Published in the most advanced daily of the State ‘Sambad’ on 18 April 1996, it had reached massive numbers of readers in the general public and who’s who in political, executive and judicial administration. Neither the people nor the State in its above three branches bothered. I was not a litigant to prefer any case in the Court. And, the blunt-heads whom Netaji cannot be accepted to have died, enjoyed the ugliest turn the urn had to take, as Sri Tusar Gandhi was handed over the urn for immersion wherever he deemed proper.
When a Cuttack-based publisher ‘Bharata Bharati’ produced a 740 page mega-compilation of my column ‘Singhavalokana’ in 2010, this discussion captioned GANDHARBA PRAYANA, CHITABHASMA: GANDHIJI O NETAJI occupied the first position in the said book. Most of the men who matter have obtained the book and the topic has a calling position before their eyes. Nobody has countered my argument; but none of them has dared to approach the truth. It is unfathomable for me to know, as a people, what have we become.
In the circumstances, I deem it proper to post the published article here for my visitors who belong to Orissa and speak, read and understand Oriya, specifically as it was written 19 years ago. Those who were in High Schools then, must have become 35 years or so old by now. Let them visit/revisit what I believe to be the truth in order to accept or reject it in quest for truth.