In response to a query filed under the RTI Act by author and activist Anuj Dhar, the intelligence bureau of the home ministry has said it was exempt from disclosing information and that there was no ground to reveal files relating to snooping on Bose family members. Earlier this year, Dhar had accessed several files that had correspondence, revealing that Bose family members were snooped upon between 1948 and 1968. The only option left before Dhar was to move the central information commission (CIC) for the release of files, but it could take two years for CIC to consider the application.
Last December, Dhar chanced upon two files at the National Archives that indicated that Netaji’s family had been spied on. The first one was on Netaji’s nephew, Amiya Nath Bose, who was kept under watch during his Tokyo visit in the 50s, and the second one was on the late Sisir Bose, also a nephew, who was trailed in Chennai in April, 1958. Sisir Bose was among several members of the family who were apparently stalked by the Nehru government and the successive Congress governments.
While Dhar is contemplating an application to the CIC, it may not be fruitful as the panel apparently takes inordinately long to respond. “We seem to have hit a dead end. I may file an appeal with the CIC, but given the usual two-year wait that such applications take, it will be a very long time before the commission hears the matter. In effect, it means the snooping case has been buried for now,” Dhar said. But the chief information commission refuted the two-year claim. Saying if the case has merit, it would be taken up and a judgment delivered, chief information commissioner Vijay Sharma said, “It won’t take two years. We treat each case on its merit.”
Dhar contested the IB‘s argument, claiming the exemption clause did not hold for allegations of corruption and human rights violation. “But the IB evidently doesn’t consider snooping as violation of human rights,” said Dhar, author of ‘India’s Biggest Cover-Up‘, a book on Netaji’s disappearance. Echoing him, former CIC commissioner O P Kejriwal said, “The CIC should disclose the files for they amount to human rights violation. We need to build up public opinion and keep up the pressure.” But he pointed out that work was slow at the CIC owing to manpower shortage. “Multiple key posts are vacant,” he added.
The original snooping files are with the West Bengal government, while the National Archives have copies of them. “These files are among the 41 lying with the Kolkata Police’s special branch. It is unfortunate that despite several RTI applications, the state has not responded,” said Dhar.
Documents accessed by Dhar show that Nehru, in a letter dated November 26, 1957, to then foreign secretary Subimal Dutt, sought to know what his nephew, Amiya was doing in Tokyo. In response, India’s ambassador to Tokyo reported back, assuring New Delhi that Amiya had not “indulged in any undesirable activities”.
It’s time to order a judicial probe into the spying, said Chandra Bose, Netaji’s grand-nephew who led the campaign for declassification of Netaji files. “It is sad citizens of an independent country were spied on and in some cases, the information passed on to foreign governments. All these were done under the instructions of Nehru, which calls for an enquiry. We can’t be sure if we are still being snooped upon,” said Bose.
According to Dhar, the state has more files with snooping documents. “They have facts collected till 1985. The snooping files are more significant for they show a government hand in it,” he said.