Celebrated Indian author Nirad C Chaudhuri was eccentric to the core, and this trait he loved to flaunt till his death at the age of 101. But could this self-proclaimed Anglophile Bengali bhadralok be a spy of the Imperial rulers in India that spelled the doom of another great bong, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose?
Back in 2013, Netaji’s grand nephew Chandra Kumar blew up a storm when he accused Nirad Chaudhury of having been a spy of British India and been instrumental in getting Sarat Chandra Bose, the elder brother of Netaji, arrested.
It so happened that Chaudhuri had worked as an assistant to Sarat Chandra Bose, who was a barrister. Bengal in the 1930s was boiling with nationalism. Netaji’s house around this time served as the hub for all revolutionaries, who were fighting to free India from the grips of Imperial rule.
The freedom fighters would aggregate at Bose’s residence in disguises to evade from the clutch of the British police. Chaudhuri, being a part of Sarat Chandra’s office, was privy to all these activities that was happening covertly. But notwithstanding their impossible-to-tell disguises, the revolutionaries would have police chasing and arresting them.
Apparently, Netaji sensed something was not quite right, and tried to convince his elder brother to sack his stealthy assistant, Nirad Chaudhury. A good section of Netaji’s family believes that Chaudhuri was not only responsible for the arrest of Sarat Bose, but he also gave away a lot of information about the leader’s activities, which eventually led to his controversial death in a plane crash.
Their belief is founded on the historical fact that Nirad Chaudhuri left the employment of Sarat Chandra Bose just a day before his boss was arrested and joined All India Radio as a broadcaster.
The timing is definitely doubtful, and the later bestowing of special favours by the British government made the connection even more tangible. Chaudhuri received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1990 and an honorary CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992.
It was a widely known fact that Nehru and Bose didn’t see eye to eye in political matters. The great grand nephew of Netaji believes the author served Jawaharlal Nehru, who ensured the popular leader was removed from his path.
Bose’s family claim that the CBI has classified files on the author. Chandra Kumar explains, “After independence, the CBI had investigated the role of Chaudhuri, but for some reason kept the report secret.” Chandra Kumar’s father’s attempt to gain more insight on the author was put down in 1967, when then CBI chief DP Kohli refused to declassify the files, stating this could endanger the life of the author.
The matter grew fishier because the PMO in 2013 denied permission to declassify the files on Chaudhuri on the grounds that it could affect relations with foreign countries.
Detractors say it is doubtful that the CBI chief would actually care for the safety of Nirad Chaudhuri, who had become a permanent resident of England. But then, may be the CBI knows much more than what the Bose’s family wants to know about the author.
Personally, Nirad C Chaudhury was eccentricity personified. The man was so smitten by the Western culture that he measured everything on those terms.
Seventy-eight years after India gained Independence; Westernised lifestyle has become the way of urban Indian life. But that was not the case in the 1950s. Chaudhuri was not hesitant to show his love for the English ways when the country was fighting the Queen’s imperial rule.
Chadhuri’s first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951), drew him flak from nationalists. A young India was brimming with pro-nationalist sentiments and Chaudhuri’s book made a stark contrast, where in satirical style, he wrote about longing for the Imperial rule.
Chaudhuri’s book was excoriated, and he lost his job as a broadcaster in All India Radio. The nationalist scoffed at him for being the “last British imperialist” and the last of the “brown sahibs”.
The man was so fascinated by everything Western that on his wedding night, he asked of his new wife Amiya to spell Beethoven. He was totally delighted when his wife spelled the word correctly. And now that is definitely eccentric for a man whose heart was for India, but his mind couldn’t leave England.
May be spied, may be not, but it was his is tilt towards the colonial masters what made him susceptible to the spying rumours.
Source: Outlook magazine