Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept his word of starting the declassification process of the secret Netaji files on January 23, 2016. In the first lot, 100 files have come out. There is an assurance by the central government that it will release 25 files every following month.
We at “Mission Netaji” have been getting a lot of queries as to what should follow. We propose a four-step process to complete the declassification. This is considering the fact that declassification should help us achieve closure.
Step 1: Declassification of known files
This category includes secret files which are in the possession of our government. The process has just started and it might take several more months to complete it. The delay is good and bad at the same time. Good, because it gives us time to analyse the files, and bad, because the process might take longer than expected to complete.
Step 2: Declassification of unknown files
This category includes intelligence records. We do not have any systematic process for the declassification of intelligence files. Our internal and external agencies, namely the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) have in their possession many files about Netaji’s disappearance. Although we were told unofficially during the meeting with the prime minister on October 14, 2015 that “all” Netaji files would be released, there is still no official word on the release of intelligence files.
3. Declassification of files in foreign countries
We have already approached seven countries, including Italy, Germany, Japan, UK, USA, Russia, and Austria for the declassification of the files they hold about Netaji. It may seem a bit infra dig to do this at this time. It is only ethical to first release all secret files we have about Netaji before another country starts releasing the files they hold. This warrants the government to expedite the declassication process of the first two categories of files listed above.
4. Formation of a special investigation team
The declassified files will run into more than 100,000 pages. It is important to order the files chronologically and study them in the right context. This is not possible without the help of a multi-disciplinary special investigation team that comprises of experts such as researchers, historians, political analysts, foreign officers, judges, and intelligence officials. This team must have special powers to summon any person or record and to exempt the current and the former officials from the oath of secrecy. The team should be provided with all technical assistance by the government. If found credible, it should also have the power to recommend to the government to accept the report of the Justice Mukherjee Commisssion of Inquiry (JMCI).
We know that Mamata Banerjee released 64 files and additional cabinet records amounting to more than 13,000 pages last year. Except for more details about the surveillance conducted on Netaji’s family members and some hints about Netaji’s escaping the plane crash, nothing substantial emerged from those files. It is not because they did not contain anything. It was the absence of an expert team to study the files that rendered the declassification ineffective. If the central government files are not studied contextually, the declassification process will not help a bit in decoding the Netaji mystery.