The mystery surrounding the death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose remains a global topic of debate to this day. But one of the most crucial yet concealed topics in the story has been the whereabouts of the enormous INA treasure which was collected under the leadership of Bose from Indians across South East Asia to fight the Allied powers which included the British. OpIndia has unearthed that Nehru had agreed to distribute part of that fund to Pakistan. Here are the details of what could possibly have been the first scam under the Nehru-Gandhi Congress in Independent India.
On 2nd May 1953, eight years after Netaji’s death, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a resolution urging the Nehru government to probe the matter of the funds which belonged to Netaji and his Azad Hind Fauj. “This Assembly is of the opinion that the Central Government be requested to take steps to investigate regarding the funds reported to be left by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Government.” The resolution had the support of the West Bengal government led by Bidhan Chandra Roy.
Five months later, on 18th October 1953, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the Bengal CM in response to the resolution saying that a further investigation is neither needed nor possible. The contents of his letter are as follows:
“My dear Chief Minister,
My attention has recently been drawn to a resolution passed by the West Bengal Legislature on May 2nd to the following effect:
‘This Assembly is of the opinion that the Central Government be requested to take steps to investigate regarding the funds reported to be left by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Government.’
As a matter of fact, we have taken many steps to investigate this matter during the last few years. The investigation was started by me personally when I visited Malaya early in 1946. Since then many other steps have been taken both in Malaya and in Tokyo. I enclose a note giving such information as we possess on this subject.
I do not think any further investigation is needed or is possible.“
Enclosed with Nehru’s letter were details on the whereabouts of the financial assets of Netaji, INA, and associated organisations. Following the end of the last war in the Far East in World War 2, a significant amount of gold, jewellery, and other valuables which were seized from the officials and individuals connected with the INA and Indian Independence League (IIL) were held in Singapore by the Custodian of Enemy Property.
According to the notes shared by Nehru with the West Bengal CM, “Pakistan had claimed a part of the said assets and it was agreed that the same should be divided between India and Pakistan in the ratio of 2:1.” Read The full content of the note attached with the correspondence as follows:
“Indian National Army and Indian Independence League Funds:
Soon after the termination of the last war in the far east, some quantity of gold, jewellery, and other valuables, was seized from the officials and others connected with the INA and IIL in the South East Asia countries. These are at present held in Singapore by the Custodian of Enemy Property.
According to the information furnished by the government of Singapore in 1950, these assets were valued at straits dollars 147,163.00 as follows:
a) Gold and jewellery: $40,243.00
b) Currency notes of the face value of $57,803.53 but valued in 1950 at: $106,920.00
Intimation has recently been received from our representative in Malaya that the Piastra has been revalued and that some of the currencies will not fetch anything. It is therefore difficult to assess the exact value of these assets.
“There were protracted negotiations with Pakistan, as she claimed a part of these assets. In the end, it was agreed that the assets should be divided between India and Pakistan in the ratio of 2:1. We asked out representative in Malaya on the 27th of April and also Mr. Ramani who was associated with this matter from the very beginning to take further action and to obtain the release of the assets from the Singapore government. Mr. Blythe the official administering the colony, said in May 1953 that the matter would have to go before the legislative council as the custodian of enemy property had no right to hand over any amount to any person or body. He also wished to write to the secretary of state for the colonies regarding Pakistan’s share. The amount will accrue to India will be amalgamated with the IRC funds, as soon as it is obtained from the government of Singapore,” the documents read.
Declassified documents show that on 30th June 1950, Nehru noted a certain amount of gold that was deposited in the Indian Overseas Bank Ltd by an Indian merchant named Hardial Singh in Singapore.
Nehru noted, “Later, I was told that Indian merchant Mr Hardial Singh of Singapore, had some gold belonging to the INA or the old ‘Azad’ Hind Government. I suggested that this sum be handed over to the Trust I had created. There was some difficulty and then I spoke to Lord Mountbatten who was Supreme Commander for South East Asia then. He agreed not only about this sum but about other sums also of a like nature that might be recovered.”
The note shows the active role that Mountbatten played till the last day of the British Raj in deciding the financial matters for Nehru. The same is cause for suspicion as to whether Nehru was still in consultation with the British over the handling of INA and IIL funds and Netaji’s treasure.
Contents of a letter by diplomat VMM Nair, in which the then PM’s note was attached, show that the Nehru government decided on the accumulation and transfer and use of the INA/IIL funds keeping in mind “Pakistan’s share”. A part of that letter is as follows:
“Our Representative has now informed us that the Indian Overseas Bank is prepared to deliver the gold to him on the production of a letter of authority from the PM. The question at issue is whether we should accept this offer because it appears from a letter that we received as early as November 1946 from the Indian office, in London, that this gold has been included in the list of INA/IIL funds held by the Custodian of Enemy property in Singapore. Our office in Singapore has also stated that the deposit in the bank in the name of PM was made under intimation to the Custodian. Therefore, even assuming that the bank is now prepared to give the gold to us, the Singapore government might, if they come to know of it, object. Further, since it has been decided that the assets of the INA/IIL funds should be divided between India and Pakistan in the ratio of 2:1, Pakistan might claim a part of this gold in which case it might lead to embarrassment if we were to take charge of it in its entirety now.”
The situation which was enabled by Nehru’s 2:1 INA/IIL fund-sharing plan with Pakistan seemed to have put the entire government machinery at work regarding “Pakistan’s share”. Meanwhile, Nehru had declared that the matter of the gold, “which was in a sense given to me and deposited by me in the bank in 1946” – be treated as a matter separate from that of the “other INA funds”.
A day later, on 12th November 1953, Nehru replied to diplomat VMM Nair’s correspondence asking about the value of the gold received from Hardial Singh.
The value of the gold was estimated at Rs 37,956.
The documents available on netajipapers.gov.in show a letter by Nehru immediately after the above letter on the gold estimate. Nehru’s letter is, however, dated 12th January 1955. In this correspondence, he reiterates that he has no objection to the amount being used in consultation with Pakistan. It is not clear whether Nehru was referring to the above-mentioned amount but the documents available point to the same. Here is the content of Nehru’s letter:
“This is a trivial matter which has already taken up a good deal of our time. The sum involved is small and we have no objection at all to its being used in consultation with Pakistan or, in the alternative, for Pakistan’s share, if any, to be handed over to them for such use as they may like to put it to.
It is perfectly true that we have accepted the position that gold forms part of the old INA and IIL. There is nothing tacit about it. It is quite implicit. I need not go into the past history of this matter as I have noted this before.
I think that our Representative in Malaya might discuss this matter directly with the Custodian or with his boss and tell them that our sole interest in this money is that it should be properly utilised. That is why some kind of a trust fund was created for educational scholarships. We are perfectly prepared to associate Pakistan with it or to give Pakistan’s share to it. There need be no difficulty about these matters. I have no objection to the assurance being given in writing by the bank as desired by the Custodian.”
When the British left, India’s GDP was at an abysmal low, the agrarian crisis had broken the country’s backbone, poverty and famine was rampant, and the economy was in the doldrums thanks to Nehru’s socialism. Every rupee, or much less at the time, would have saved a life. But Jawaharlal Nehru had no qualms about proposing that the funds of India’s very own movement of freedom fighters, the INA – not be built at the behest of the Raj for a change – should go to Pakistan, a country formed by splitting the Indian land and on the blood of Indians.