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 Seven : The Last Journey
The lonely sunny structure of granite was a veritable tomb. The man’s intelligence wing had presented all the details of the surroundings of Lucknow Kothi. Hurried instructions were given to seal off the two outer doors by bricks. The building was of paramount importance, a pyramid. The Grass and the surrounding outgrowth, the luscious green, permitted to survive on their own thrived undisturbed. By night he came in to tomb, the stony structure that still stands for all to see.
It was Mr. Ram Bhadra Pathak, general secretary of the City Congress (I) Committee for last 10 years, who happened to come within the outer perimeter of the man for he happened to live very close to the Lucknow Kothi. We spoke with him:
Q: What did you know about the man who lived in Lucknow Kothi and lived behind a curtain ?
A: I knew that a Swamiji of this description was living in the Kothi. I also heard that he did not like entertaining any visitors. I tried only once or twice, half – heartedly though since I did not give much credence to the theory about him being Subhas Babu. It was more so because so many inquiry commissions were setup and nothing serious could be established about the existence of Netaji.
Q: Did any saint of this description in your memory ever stay in Ayodhya?
A: No, not to my knowledge.
Q; Did you ever see any other saint of Ayodhya of visiting him?
A: No, he lived in perfect isolation. But it often came to our knowledge that he had some regular visitors specially from Bengal.
From Lucknow Kothi the man moved by a matador ( utility Van ) at dead of night. For security reasons, you may recall, he left the Ram Bhawan Faizabad, some time back in 1983.
Once again, the move was executed with precision, the man symbolically choosing a resting place before finally being laid to rest near the most hallowed in the country, where Lord Rama had taken Jal Samadhi . Once again, all precautionary measures were taken before moving to Ram Bhawan after a full month of preparation. The exposed portion of the courtyard, was secured from prying eyes.
Incapacitated and physically immobilised after the fall at Lucknow Kothi, the man now fully depended on his portage. Dr and Mrs. R. P. Mishra and his family - Mrs. Mishra was dubbed by the man as “Kamlalaya”. Beside the doctor were his two sons and, of course, their two sisters.
It was clear at that stage that Dr. Mishra’s family was in command of the situation and for all intents and purposes, the doctor’s of Faizabad was “Mr. Control” to an extent that even the daily necessities, including food and medicines, were being provided by the Mishra family.
The other family which was already in close touch with the man, having access to him was that of Dr. Banargee. They came nearer the man by virtue of the fact that they too resided in the same town and also because of the information left by Dr. T. C. Banerjee, who was privy to his secrets. Others of the inner circle including the Purohit of Ayodhya became occasional visitors since they were based in Ayodhya away from Faizabad. But the man missed this simple Purohit sorely at times. He took extreme risk of security by dictating a letter to the daughter of R. P. Mishra on June 19th, 1985 to be sent to he Purohit inviting him to Ram Bhawan to take part in the forthcoming “auspicious occasion”. The Purohit fully understood the words contained in the brief message.
The Purohit reached The Ram Bhawan, well in time, with his wife whom the man lovingly referred to as “Yashoda Maiya”
Nevertheless, the Purohit got a special treat on this date, which came as a surprise to the man’s other immediate contacts present there. As usual, the Bengali visitors from Calcutta came. They had brought with them huge garlands of red roses specially from Calcutta and the ceremonies were on in full ecstasy.
Among the many greetings received by him was one from Pabitra - Mr. Pabitra Mohan Roy – and the most significant was from Jagjit Dasgupta. In a letter, Mr. Jagjit Dasgupta paid glowing tributes to this Great Son of the soil on his 87th Birthday. Dasgupta writes that he had heard from his mamababu (maternal uncle) that he (the man) had injured his knees seriously by an accidental fall. “I hope you are on the path of recovery”. Mr. Dasgupta quoted a poem of Tagore.
At the end of the poem, he addressed the man as The Greatest Son of The Motherland. He went on to say that he prayed that this sacred soil continued to have the presence of this brave son for long.
Since his arrival in Faizabad it was Dr. Mishra who looked after his health with closer scrutiny than ever before. But despite his best of care, the health of the man continued to deteriorate. The story goes on thus, that he continued to deteriorate steadily, and on the fateful day, he breathed his last at 9.45 pm, leaving a plethora of questions that were never answered. Only Dr. Banerjee’s family was informed of the swift and sudden seriousness of his condition during the day and his ultimate end. Dr. Banerjee remained in the room until 11.30 pm, ministering unto the last breath came. These details were later found to be incorrect! This was another camouflage to evade public curiosity – something he was so experienced in having done it on many previous occasions. Those who have delved into Netaji’s life, they would know that this ploy was not new to him. It was also used by Rash Behari Bose while he was in Japan.
Dr. Mishra was now in command, according to all accounts. He asked the family members of Dr Banerjee to leave the place, since he wanted to perform certain religious rites and take care of things. Until morning Dr Mishra remained in the room that had precious documents and materials.
Nothing happened the next day, i.e. 17th September 1985, only that Dr. Mishra floated a story to Dr Banerjee and others in the drama. That people from Calcutta were expected any moment. But among the chosen few, Teertha Purohit of Ayodhya, Ram Keshore Panda was not informed until late in the mornig of September 18th. Hearing the news Purohit rushed to Faizabad and reached Ram Bhawan to witness the goings on there.
It was around 3.00 pm, on September 18th 1985, 3 days after, that a Matador (van) appeared at Ram Bhawan. Here we concentrate further on the Purohit’s recollections of the events.
Q- When did you get the news of his passing away?
A- It was around 11.30, in the forenoon of September 18th, when Mr. I. N. Singh came and told me, that if I wanted to have the last darshan of Swamiji, I should go and see him. He said—“ that the cremation would take place around 2.00pm that day… At this stage, I enquired as to who had sent him for me? He replied that a day earlier, he had come to know about the news from Anupam – son of Dr. Mishra. And it was just on his own that he was conveying this piece of information, for he knew that I was regularly in touch with Swamiji. Again I wanted to know why he held over the news for such a long time? Mr. Singh replied that he could not get any time to come and inform me. However, I quickly collected my family members and we rushed to the Ram Bhawan, reaching there place at 12.30 p.m.
Q- What did you see as you got there?
A- We saw a body on an ice slab and Dr. Mishra’s daughter sitting beside and spraying some scented material over the body at regular intervals. People were coming in and leaving.
Q- Who were the people ?
A- They comprised mainly of the family members of Dr Banerjee, Dr. Mishra, Mr. Krishna Gopal Srivastava and Maa Jagdambe (Mrs.Saraswati Devi Shukla) and her son Raj Kumar. The body was draped in a piece of cloth. It appeared to be a bit swollen.
Q- But how could you make it out, when the body was fully covered?
A- From the appearence and the people over there also said that it had remained in shape for a day, but then some signs of decay emerged.
Q-Were you sure that it was the body of Swamiji, whom you had served for as many as 12 years ?
A- I was not allowed to uncover the body, to have a last darshan.
Q- What happened then?
A- I mingled with the people over there. There was a talk about Wireless-Message sent to Calcutta and that “His Men” were expected any moment. Surprisingly, it all turned out to be a hoax!
Q- Who told you, that such a ‘message’ was relayed to Calcutta ?
A- Dr. Bannerjee and Dr. Roy.
Q- Did they tell you, who actually had sent the message?
A- They said that it was Dr. R. P.Mishra, who had sent it. Besides, they said, a telegram too was sent to Calcutta. They also said that a high official had received it at the other end and that ‘his men’ were on their way to Faizabad. Some how it seemed incomprehensible.
Q- Did you inquire about the last rites to be performed?
A- Yes!, they told me that Dr Mishra was looking after all such arrangements and that these were to be performed at Guptar Ghat.
Q- Did you ask, why such an unlikely place – Guptar Ghat - was chosen for the cremation of the man?
A- Of course, I had suggested that the body be taken to Ayodhya as Swamiji too had deep love for the place. But they insisted upon taking the body to ‘Guptar Ghat’.
Q- At that time, who was in command? Was it Dr. Mishra or Dr. Banerjee?
A- Dr. Mishra was in full control; of the situation!
Q- Tell us how was the body taken to Guptar Ghat from Ram Bhawan, Faizabad; and secondly, what was the sequence of developments?
A- Dr. Mishra lifted the body and placed it on the ‘Tithi’ in the courtyard around 1.30 p.m. and then moved to a Matador. We were standing on the road, when Dr. Mishra suddenly ordered, as soon as the van arrived from the the compound that we should come and take our seats in the vehicle.
Q- Did you not request Dr. Mishra again to permit you to see his face ?
A- Since, I had never seen him, the thought of having his Darshan was constantly haunting my mind. As we were approaching Guptar Ghat, I again requested Mahatmaji—(Mahatma Sharan) to uncover it a bit. But as Dr. Mishra’s son Anupam was sitting nearby; he turned down my request.
Q- What happened next?
A- As the cremation place came closer, Anupam, alighted in order to guide the driver to the exact spot. At this juncture, I was almost raging for having been denied. I nearly ordered Raj Kumar to open Swamiji’s face. He did a bit and I could see his face swollen.
Q- On the basis of what you saw of for a few moments, can you describe the salient features, the probable age and other such things?
A- His complication had turned pale, his forehead bald and the rest covered by white hair. I guessed he must have been around 90 years.
Panda ram Kishore continued with deep sorrow and pain as if expressing his doubts about contact with the brokers of power:
"As we reached the spot, the pyre was almost ready. Strangely no other related rites were performed. So unusually great was the hurry, that the body was not given even the last bath as the Hindu rituals demand. Dr. Mishra seemed so flustered and panicky that at a point he shouted angrily at Raj Kumar and pushed him aside, as the latter was trying to perform an otherwise essential rite of ‘Sankalpa’.
Q- Then who lit the pyre?
A- All ten or eleven of us, each being disciple of Swamiji.
Q- At what time ?
A- It was sharp 4.30 p.m. It was dizzying, but the pyre looked unaffected.
Q-Was Dr. Banerjee only a spectator as the pyre was burning and the body being consigned to flames?
A- By now, the people had been distributed into huddled groups—each consisting of two or three people. They were in whispers, only the tones were hushed. I could not comprehend, what they were talking about as I was struck with immense grief. The only thing I said was – What an irony! We are only 13 here to see him off on his last journey whereas there should have been at least 13 million mourners!
To be continued next Sunday ...
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