Like his disappearance, the controversy over Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's marriage still baffles All India Forward Bloc, the party he founded in 1939 after his resignation from the Indian
The world believes ‘Yes, the great revolutionary had secretly married his Austrian stenographer Emilie Schenkl’, but not his own party.
Talking to TSI on Bose's marriage issue, nonagenarian politician Ashok Ghosh, the general secretary of the party’s Bengal unit, who is regarded even by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as ‘fatherly character’ of Bengal politics, straightway discarded any question of Netaji’s marriage.
“We don’t believe this. This is a wrong campaign. Netaji himself discarded it while he was addressing rally to inspire Indian National Army cadets in Japan. He told them, ‘I have no children and you are my children’. Prof. Sugata Bose has written something rubbish in his book that Netaji was married. There is no question to trust that.”
Prof. Sugata Bose, the Gardiner Professor of History at Harvard University and the Chief of the Mentor Group for Presidency University, is the son of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephew and eminent paediatrician Sisir Bose, who helped Netaji on his great escape on 19 January, 1941 from India to Austria via Afghanistan, Russia and Germany.
Sugata’s mother was a Congress MLA and later Trinamool Congress’s member in Lok Sabha.
In Netaji’s biographical narrative, “His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire”, Sugata accepts that Netaji married his English-knowing Austrian stenographer Emilie Schenkl.
Ghosh or his party’s All India general Secretary and Rajya Sabha member Debadrata Biswas may not believe, But Emilie’s only daughter Anita Bose-Pfaff has something to say.
During a visit to India few years’ back, Anita Bose-Pfuff gone on record saying, “I was only four weeks old when he saw me last. I was born in 1942 and he left Germany by submarine for Southeast Asia in early 1943. So he saw me when I was very little.”
She went a little further to state how Subhas Bose met Emilie, “It was in 1934 when my father was in Vienna to seek medical treatment (Subhas had been in jail in Mandalay of Myanmar because of his struggle for India's independence).”
She added, “He was sick and getting quite weak and was released on condition that he would leave the country to get medical treatment. Vienna at that time was quite a famous centre for medicine. So he came there during the period when he had his treatment.”
“At the same time he was working on a book. He looked for a secretary to type his manuscripts and approached an Indian student to ask if he knew a lady who might do this for him. The student was running a discussion course in which my mother was a member. So he recommended her and this is how they met.”
Prof. Sugata Bose mentioned that they soon fell in love and married in December 1937 in Bad Gastein according to Hindu rituals to avoid Nazi Conjugal Laws.
But Forward Bloc leaders describe this as a ‘concocted story’ having no proof. But the party is not in a position to ask for DNA test as a foreigner can not be forced for paternity test.
So, eight like-minded persons filed a Public Interest Litigation in High Court in 2005 contesting Netaji’s marriage to Schenkl.
Their contention was that the English translation of a letter which Netaji wrote to his elder brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, is forged because Netaji wrote to his brother in English only. The letter is part of the seventh volume of the Collected Works of Netaji brought out by the Netaji Research Bureau, Kolkata.
The PIL is still pending but petitioners claim that the ‘Original letter’ is missing but ‘must exist somewhere’.
But a bunch of gold bangles added new turn to the whole story. These bangles are believed to be of Netaji’s mother Prabhabati Devi. She kept those for her youngest son Subhash’s wife as maternal blessings believed in Hindus. But as Subhash escaped from home and never came back, she handed those to her daughter-in-law and Sarat Bose’s wife Bibhabati Devi with a request that if Subhash marries someone, those bangles should be given to his bride as her bridal blessings.
Speaking to a senior journalist in Kolkata in 1984, PK Ghosh, a professor of chemistry at the University College of Science and Technology, Calcutta and who did his doctoral dissertation at Cambridge University in England, said, “During those days (around 1948), Sarat Chandra Bose and Bibhabati Devi along with his children met Bengali students in London. And that was when I saw Bibhabati wearing some gold bangles.”
Ghosh further added, “One day, Saratbabu told us that they planned to go to Vienna alone. This decision heightened our curiosity. But when the Bose family returned to the UK, the bangles were not there. We didn’t raise the issue because it was rather sensitive. But it clearly meant that they knew, or had come to know just then, that Emilie Schenkl was, indeed, Netaji’s wife.”
In an email reply, a copy of which is with TSI, to senior journalist, Sankar Roy, who carried on the search on the subject and managed to get email address of Bose's daughter, Anita Bose-Pfuff wrote “My uncle and aunt, Sarat Chandra and Bibhabati Bose did come to Vienna in 1948 with their children to meet me and my mother. My aunt gave my mother a set of eight gold bangles, which my mother wore thereafter.”
Though the Forward Bloc leaders may claim Bose’s political legacy, but the family legacy belongs to Bose’s family.
Anita, who was born in 1942, is married to Professor Martin Pfaff, an ex-Parliament
(Bundestag) member from Green Party (SPD) and has three children-Peter Arun, Thomas Krishna and Maya Carina.
Peter Arun visited Kolkata two days back.