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NEW DELHI: The central government on Friday handed over the first batch of 33 files related to Netaji to the National Archives of India, setting the stage for their declassification beginning on January 23, 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his meeting with the extended family of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on October 14 had assured that the files labeled classified so far will be made public.
Principal secretary in the PMO Nripendra Misra, on Friday officially handed over the first set of files related to Netaji to the Director General, National Archives of India Serya Guha. Emphasizing that history cannot be created by those who forget their own history, the Prime Minister had categorically stated that his government did not believe in constraining or strangulating history in any way, and was committed to opening up information on Netaji to the people of India. According to an RTI reply, the PMO had said there were a total of 58 files related to Netaji in its custody. Recently the government told Rajya Sabha that there were 134 classified files which are being examined for the purpose of declassification.
In a written reply, minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said, “Government is examining all the files in its custody for the purpose of declassifying the same. “As per available records on date, Ministry of Home Affairs is in possession of 12 files. Among these 12 files, three files are classified and nine files are unclassified,” the minister said. He said as per available record, as on date, the Prime Minister’s Office is in possession of 58 files.
Prime Minister had assured Netaji’s family that all possible effort towards the same would be made, from the declassification of Netaji files to taking up the matter with other nations.
The Centre last April had also set up a committee headed by the cabinet secretary to review the Official Secrets Act in the light of increasing demands for declassification of the files on Netaji. Early this year, it had emerged that the Intelligence Bureau had spied on Bose’s family for over 20 years starting under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government. In past, the government had stonewalled all queries related to these files, saying their declassification will hamper India’s relations with some foreign countries.
Most democracies in the world declassify secret documents after 25 to 30 years. But in India the Official Secrets Act an archaic law perpetuated by the government hampers access to government material even for research purposes. In the US, declassification is automatic after 25 years – with nine exceptions – while in the UK, all classified files are reviewed after 30 years to ascertain whether they still need to be kept under wraps. India amended the 1925 Act in 1967, but instead of making it liberal, made it it even more stringent.