Ever since Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose went missing in 1945, his disappearance has been the theme of many plausible theories.
But now a book says that a retired Pakistan army [ Images ] brigadier claimed he saw Netaji's charred body after a plane carrying them crashed over China.
The 'extraordinary eyewitness account' of Brigadier Habib-ur-Rehman, who also claims he was a close aide of Netaji, has been written in detail by Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shaharyar Khan in his new book Cricket: A Bridge of Peace.
Khan, a former Pakistan foreign secretary and manager of the Pakistan team's tour to India [ Images ] in 1999, recalled Rehman's account after reading a story in a newspaper in Kolkata [ Images ]. The story quoted the Subhash Chandra Bose Society, which believed Bose was alive and asked for information about his whereabouts.
Khan claimed he met Rehman when they were part of a four-member delegation, headed by Rehman, that visited Chinese border town of Kashgar in Muslim-majority Sinkiang Province in 1967 to establish overland trade exchange through the Karakoram highway.
During the meeting, Rehman 'provided the eyewitness account of Netaji's death', he added.
"Brig Habib Rehman told us that he had been a leading member of the Indian National Army, established by Netaji, and had been court-martialled on his return to India. On serving out his sentence, he had rejoined the Pakistan army, from which he had retired and was serving as Resident of Northern Areas [during the visit to China].
"Brig Habib recounted that in 1945 Bose had selected him as one of his aides and he was therefore required to accompany his leader on journeys," Khan wrote.
Rehman said he had accompanied Netaji on the fateful air journey from Saigon to Tokyo in 1945. "They had boarded the aircraft at Saigon and after a refuelling stop, when the plane was flying over Northern Taiwan, one of the engines began to sputter.
"The plane rapidly lost height, but the pilot managed to bring it down on a clearing where it crashed into heavy undergrowth. The occupants were severely injured, some dying instantly, others escaping with injuries. Habib himself had been thrown clear as the plane plunged into a thicket because he was sitting near the tail of the aircraft," Khan wrote.
"Though bruised and groggy, Habib found he could still move and he ran immediately towards the burning aircraft to see if he could rescue his leader and others who may have survived. When he reached, he saw the charred body of Bose lying beside the aircraft. Bose had seemingly died because ...his suit had caught fire and burnt his body beyond recognition," Khan wrote in his book.
Khan wrote that he along with other members of the Pakistani delegation were a 'privy to an extraordinary eyewitness account of a truly historic occurrence that is still shrouded in mystery. I repeat only what I heard on that night in Kashgar'.