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Calcutta feared a Japanese attack, says Netaji file

The files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose declassified by the West Bengal government reveal that Kolkata (Calcutta earlier) was gripped by panic, triggered by fears of a Japanese attack at the height of World War II.

These fears got further fuelled by media reports which suggested that the attack was imminent. One of the 64 declassified files is titled “War Rumours”, which refer to the exodus of people from the city fearing it would be bombed by the Japanese.

Several newspapers reported that the municipal corporation made an announcement to the city’s residents that women and children need to be evacuated.

Intelligence gathered in 1942 cited rumours that the Japanese had dropped pamphlets over certain parts of the city’s suburbs appealing to the citizens to evacuate and revealing Japan’s plans of slipping in Indian agents. “It is being disseminated that Japanese are treating Indians very kindly and even helping them with money. They ask the Indians if they are “Gandhi-man’ “Bose-man” or ‘pro- British.’ Those who claim to be members of the “Bose-group’ or Gandhi-group were paid money,” an intelligence note said.

The decision of an American bank in Kolkata to move to Bombay triggered wild speculation that the U.S. had asked its citizens to leave the city.

While radio broadcasts of speeches of Rash Behari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose were transcribed in English and kept in secret files even postcards sent by ordinary people referring to the war were duly scanned by the British intelligence.

The establishment seemed to be wary of people listening to radio broadcasts from Tokyo, Berlin and Rome. People listening to them and passing on information to others were deemed “very dangerous.”

The ‘Scavengers Union’ demanded an increase in wages and free accommodation as a “large number of sweepers had already left the city and many would go away in the near future.”

Bhaskar Chakrabarty, Professor of History, University of Calcutta told The Hindu that the early 1940s were turbulent times in Bengal.

Bombs were indeed dropped on certain parts of the city such as Hathibagan, but they did not do much damage.

One of the bombs dropped by the Japanese is on display at the Police Museum, where the recently declassified Netaji files have been housed.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 6:42:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/calcutta-feared-a-japanese-attack-says-netaji-file/article7686236.ece

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