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The Bose Files: The Logic Of Some Popular Theories

29/04/2015 8:31 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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In the spirit of the prasanga -- which means "topic" and is also the ancient Sanskrit term for the logical tactic known as reductio ad absurdum -- let us concede that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose died on 18 August, 1945. That means it has been so long since he died that he may even have been reincarnated and died all over again. In these 70 years that he's been dead, several files pertaining to him have somehow accumulated with the Government of India, which has deemed it fit to classify these documents ultra-mega-super-duper-secret, seemingly for all eternity. Even the titles of most of the files are classified. As per reports (see here for example), there are more than 70,000 pages in these files about Bose. That's enough information about a dead man to fill 150 good-sized biographies. An average of 250 words a page makes the files twice the size of the complete works of Shakespeare. A commentator of note recently wrote that the files at best contain "opinions" and stray reports of "sightings". To him let us quote another notable commentator: "Are you serious?"

"[L]et us concede that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose died on 18 August, 1945. That means it has been so long since he died that he may even have been reincarnated and died all over again."

For our second concession, let us concede that Stalin killed Bose. Imagine the moment. Imagine you're Stalin. You've got Bose. Maybe you have him under arrest. Maybe you have him as a guest. But you have him. You've got Bose. You probably like him. At the very least you like him more than you do Nehru. Bose probably likes you too. At the very least he likes you better than he likes Truman and Attlee and Churchill and the Queen, and given the choice, would gladly align himself and India with you and the Union. Hell, maybe it was Bose who gave you the idea in the first place, to use the old ad baculum fallacy to make Nehru fall in line. What's an ad baculum fallacy, you ask? It's when a threat masquerades as an argument, Stalin. Heh, funny you should ask.

Then you get a call or a letter or something from Nehru, that bourgeois agent of imperialism who you despise. In this communiqué, he essentially says: "Dear Josef, please kill Bose. If you kill Bose, I'll buy your stuff and have a pro-Russian foreign policy tilt. Best regards."

Now remember, you're Stalin. You must have some brains to have gotten where you have. You know you don't have to kill Bose to sell Nehru stuff. You know keeping Bose safe and Nehru on tenterhooks will do just as well. You know Bose alive is a bigger chip in the great game than Bose dead. Knowing all this, would you still kill Bose?

From what we know of you, Stalin, you wouldn't. And we pray to all the gods and goddesses that you didn't.

"Now remember, you're Stalin. You must have some brains to have gotten where you have. You know you don't have to kill Bose to sell Nehru stuff."

Thirdly, and finally, let us concede that the various governments of India thus far, and this government in particular, told the truth when they allegedly said that making the contents of the Netaji files public will jeopardise relations with friendly nations. Of course, there are a limited number of friendly nations with whom relations could conceivably be jeopardised in this matter. The USSR doesn't even exist. Sure, we'd get mighty angry at "the Russians" and fulminate for a bit but then we'd understand how Putin shouldn't pay for the sins of Stalin and come to terms with the fact that we can't make "the Russians" pay, even if we wanted to.

They're bigger than us, see. Ditto for China, if you were thinking China.

As for Great Britain, let's face it, it isn't half as great as it once was, largely at our expense, so we're always mighty angry at them and rightly so. If it turned out the Brits had a hand in it, we'd get angrier but then again, all we could do in retaliation would be to break the windows at the British Council; at most we could break diplomatic ties, presuming we can break diplomatic ties with Great Britain, what with the Transfer of Power and the Commonwealth and Ambedkar saying he was "a hack" who was made to draft the Constitution "much against" his will and that he'd be "the first person to burn it" and all...

"Surely we can afford to take our puny offenses and visit minor consequences upon a friendly nation, in reaction to the truth about our Netaji?"

Who's left? Germany? Japan? A temporary diplomatic chill and some public outcry at home peppered with stray, misguided violence against tourists etc is all that would result from public knowledge of their involvement in the plot against Netaji more than half a century ago. Surely we can afford to take our puny offenses and visit minor consequences upon a friendly nation, in reaction to the truth about our Netaji?

Like Barack says: Yes we can. That we haven't, in all this time, implies that it is more a matter of being unable to afford the not-so-minor consequences, visited upon us, in reaction to the truth about our Netaji, by a majorly offended friendly nation.

Which one? Who knows, but we'll say this much: Who needs enemies when we've got friends like these?

In conclusion, here's Moore's Paradox, so named by Wittgenstein, framed in Gumnami Baba terms:

The statement: "Gumnami Baba was Netaji but I do not believe that he was Netaji," as well as the proposition "I believe Gumnami Baba was Netaji but he was not Netaji," can be true, logically consistent, and not contradictory in any obvious sense. The claims sure sound absurd. Problem is, no one in the whole wide philosophical world has been able to say why.

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