Declassified documents show that the US Central Intelligence Agency was told in 1964 that Indian freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose survived an air crash in 1945, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
The Hindustan Times said that in 1964 the CIA was "talking of the possibility" of Bose's return to India, although he was believed to have died in Taiwan in the crash while flying to Japan.
The report follows a 15-day probe into one of India's most enduring sagas - the mystery death of Bose, an ardent nationalist immortalised by his war cry "Jai Hind."
Bose's death, although then officially confirmed by Japan, has remained an enigma despite at least three inquiries by the Indian government.
Many of his admirers believe he might be alive. If true, he would be 105 years old.
"Even at the US secretary of state level, no one believed that Bose had died in the air crash," the Hindustan Times said. "Documents show that the secret service was not convinced of the veracity of the official Japanese version."
Quoting extensively from declassified CIA documents, it said even 11 months after the August 1945 crash, the agency said there was no information to confirm that Bose had indeed died.
The CIA, then called the Office of Strategic Service, was on Bose's tail since his daring escape from house arrest in Calcutta in 1941 during the British Raj, the daily said.
It said that in May 1946 - just before India's Independence - a CIA agent wrote to the US secretary of state saying he had been told that "should (Bose) return to the country, trouble would result which would be extremely difficult to quell."
In February 1964, the agency interviewed a former agent of the British Counter Intelligence Corps, whose name is censored in the declassified documents and who suggested Bose could have been alive in 1964.
"There now exists a strong possibility that Bose is leading a religious group undermining the current (Jawaharlal) Nehru government," the CIA had said. Nehru, India's first prime minister, who had differed with Bose, died in May 1964.
The British agent suggested his story "be presented to the proper persons in the agency for evaluation and to alert those concerned of the previously mentioned possibility (Bose leading the group)."
The Hindustan Times launched a probe into Bose's mystery death last month saying declassified research papers and files in Russia suggest that Bose was alive in 1946, a year after his reported death.
Bose, born January 23, 1897, became an electrifying presence on the Indian political scene by the 1930s. He took on Mahatma Gandhi, who was passionately devoted to non-violence unlike the militant Bose, who saw nothing wrong in seeking any help from anyone to end the British Raj.
Under pressure over his differences with Gandhi, Bose quit the Congress party and founded the centre-left Forward Bloc. Jailed by the British, he escaped from Calcutta and went to Germany, where he enlisted Hitler's help to take on the British during the Second World War.
With German help, Bose sailed in a submarine to Singapore, where he founded the now famed Indian National Army, which comprised of Indian soldiers who had surrendered to Japan in Southeast Asia.
The INA marched into British India, but was routed in Manipur and retreated amid heavy losses.
Two days after Japan announced on August 15, 1945, that it was surrendering, Bose took a plane from Saigon. Five days later, Radio Tokyo announced that Bose had died in an air crash in Taiwan, then known as Formosa, on August 18.
But many argued he might have faked the accident in order to escape the British and team up with Stalin to carry on the fight against the Raj.
Although at least three probes ordered by the Indian government between 1956 and 1999 concluded that Bose, popularly called Netaji, did die in the plane crash, many Indians refused to believe he perished that day.
Indo-Asian News Service
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