The After Life of
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
 The Ayodhya Tale
Dedicated to: Santh Samrat of Sitapur
    Author: Dr. Alokesh Bagchi
    Series Editor: Nikhil Das

Chapter Four : A Pledge is Made

Had the Mahant of Khairabad, living at a stone’s throw from the Lal Kothi, known that it was not the first sojourn of the man, he would have thrown a fit.

During the first few months of 1962, the man and his three companions had sojourned at the Shankar Niwas in Darshan Nagar village, not surprisingly and furthermore, in an isolated palatial building belonging to the illustrious Maharaja of Ayodhya.

These times were not without any excitement for the anonymous characters in the high drama. At Shankar Niwas, for instance, the man had a close encounter with his neighbours - the world around him. One morning, the villagers climbed the high trees around the Shankar Niwas to catch a Glimpse of the person. But strangely for a man, who had ostensibly renounced this world, the security system was bullet proof. One of the security staff wielding an automatic weapon sprang from nowhere and threatened to kill the intruders and said he would not hesitate to fire. Like chattering monkeys, the villagers scammed down the trees and fled.

It was more than a coincidence that in 1964, he sojourned for nine years at the Shraistha Kothi belonging again to the royal scion of Basti. For an outsider, a man who had never cared to cultivate the external world, his contact system and security network seemed to be functioning like a well-greased machine. His under-cover links appeared to be incredible in this eastern region of Uttar Pradesh.

So the strategically located, Shraistha Kothi, belonging to the Raja of Basti was the next abode. Something of the stony, motionless quality of these lonely sojourns seemed to have intricately woven itself into the personality of this man. Verbal mandates through the curtains, is what they received. Yet, those who met him from behind the cinnamon curtain were later literally crushed by his resonant voice. The eyes of the man peered into the innermost recesses of the soul of those who were behind the curtains. There was a total unanimity that the person on the other side of the curtain could see everything in their heart.

His extraordinary deep voice, would send a wave of thundering vibrations all around the area, giving the impression to all who heard him, that the man had perceived pages that belonged to a foggy past, they all had forgotten in the tumult of the rush. All, whether it was the rustic few, or the materialistic doctors around him, all felt a sense of exhalation and lightness before his hidden presence. The feelings, strangely, were unamnious. We did not have to prompt any one of the few characters who were in the outer or inner perimeter of the man, to come to this conclusion, the only conclusion they had come to before and yet not revealing his identity.

What was striking to men and women who observed his activities, that there was no question of revaluation of the man, who on the surface was of little or no use to the political and economic functions of his environment. Neither was he a burden to the society. On the contrary, all those who managed to come close to him, either out of devotion or sympathy, were enriched by their encounter.

Saraswati Devi Shukla, living with Baba from the early days, since Lucknow days received a big residence in front of the District Hospital. The son of Saraswati Devi was always asking for money from him.

Lastly, according to a letter found from the Ram Bhawan, Raj Kumar had asked for Rs.5000.00, which Shukla said, would be strictly treated as a loan to start some business. There was an oil crusher in addition to a shop. Raj Kumar gives a negative answer, when asked if he had seen Netaji’s photograph.

During the entire course of his exile, owing to most extraordinary circumstances, the man if he really needed society, it was only out of compulsions dictated by exigencies of time. As far as in these trying times are concerned, the man was officially dead? So it seemed, such was the pattern and the strategy devised around him.

Next comes a lawyer in the picture - Mr. Durga Prasad Pandey. It was due to a string of coincidences that Durga Prasad was attracted to the goings-on in and around the abandoned Shraistha Kothi.

Invariably, around January 22-23rd each year cars came by night, people coming from Calcutta with delicious Bengali sweets for the man on his birthday, which fell on January 23. Later it was proved that one of the nocturnal visitors of the Kothi was Dr. Pabitra Mohan Roy - one of the top officials of the Secret Services of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz). He was closely linked to the Axis information channels of World War II.

Mr. Durga Prasad Pandey was once again intrigued by the strange happenings around his sequestered structure. But the Shraistha Kothi was under constant observations, not for bringing any harm to the man, as in Shankar Niwas, but with the discreet purpose of unmasking the true identity of the occupant living in utmost secrecy.

Events conspired to convince Pandey that the man indeed was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who was being compelled to live in such pitiable conditions for reasons his legal could not fathom. How could a lawyer of a remote town of Uttar Pradesh unravel the web of international intrigue and controversy surrounding a man, who had presumably died in an air crash in Formosa (Taihaku) on 18th August 1945?

The shroud attracted the lawyer. He wanted to find out for himself. But how? The one and only way was to communicate with the man himself. Summoning all his courage, he wrote on February 1967 to the man, with the traditional Jai Hind. This letter was found amongst the vast array of items left behind at the Ram Bhawan at Faizabad while preparing Inventory of Gumnami Baba.

Durga Prasad Pandey wrote:

You have been an ex-ICS of profound scholarship and far reaching command over English marked with an enormously beautiful handwriting. January 23rd was celebrated as your Birth Day here, the most auspicious Day, the day of the country, when the immortal word of Jai Hind resounded through and through all the flora and fauna on the Indian soil…. I pledge to keep this secret as long as I am in this world. My pleasure is thy pleasure.

This letter although cleverly couched hinted at the fact that the lawyer had, by now, come to know all about the man. Pandey said that he had personally observed that on 15th of August and 23rd of January, a discreet ceremony was held at Shraistha Kothi, a national flag fluttering in the breeze. Was it a kind of threat, a warning to reveal all? Only the man could have replied.

With what fleet footed swiftness of conviction he stalked his query, was again demonstrated eleven days later, when the man did not reply from his abode at the Shraistha Kothi.

The Second letter of the Pandey, dated February 21st 1967 was also recovered and included in the List of Inventory (to be published here later). It reads as follows:

You are the wealth of our Nation, so we should be allowed provision for preserving and maintaining your health, where we will share our wealth against the tyranny and mighty destructive forces of age, time and tide.

The lawyer was in a position to strike a deal and be allowed to share a secret rather than blow the man’s cover. And he succeeded. Mr. Durga Prasad Pandey said. I was committed not to speak a word about ‘Swamiji’ as my relation with him was like a guru and disciple’. Pandey disclosed that important figures and distinguished personalities and leaders of the country were very much in the know of the existence of Netaji in this part of the country but had remained mum.

The most important relevation of the Pandey was that wherever the man lived he entrusted his life and security in the hands of only one man at a time, taking the final and calculated risk whether he was killed or revealed to the world. From Pandey’s revelations it was clear that Netaji trusted the Purohit of Ayodhya, Panda Ram Keshore Mishra, whose house was negotiated later by Pandey himself.

There are startling disclosure in the version of the Basti lawyer which clearly indicate that the man was not just a recluse, but an important political personality in the pages of Indian history, a history written more by foreigners than natives of the soil, a history that has undergone radical changes and corrections but now required a total overhaul.

Pandey revealed that Netaji had come from Nepal and that he played a role in getting him to move into the house of Purohit of Ayodhya. It was also getting exceedingly clear that the fair lady from Bengal stopped from seeing him, as by then she passed away at Calcutta, but not having left any vital evidence – letters she had written to the man under the name of Lila Roy.

At Basti Netaji got himself into trouble, as at the Shankar Niwas in Ayodhya. For one thing, yet another sleuth, the Station House Officer of the Kotwali police station, wanted to burst the mystery of the Gumnami Baba. The breeze of rumors steadily increased that the Gumnami Baba was none other than Netaji. After all everything transpired to deepen the mystery. Everything that happened only increased the shroud in public minds. Heavily curtained cars of all makes, local and imported, city sahibs in three piece suits, fat wallets … everybody seemed to be asking for the Gumnami Baba, who apart from his meditation, smoked only the finest cigarettes and got the best medical care in the vicinity. Then the lady helper of the man, who was with him, since the Lucknow sojourn, got involved with some Forward Bloc activists who came dangerously close to unmasking the true identity of the Netaji. Some characters are susceptible to commit follies and so was this lady!

The mystery deepened once again, for the policeman, when he insisted in getting an audience with the Gumnami Baba, was summarily transferred. It was found that food packets of finest quality were procured for ‘Swamiji’ from Delhi and the cigarettes came from Delhi too. Some prominent persons used to come in fine cars in the late hours of the night at intervals of one or two months and the cars disappeared at the dawn the next day.

End of Chapter four

To be continued next Sunday ...

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