“It was a practice to apply vermillion on pictures during every Republic Day or Independence Day, but he would stop us from doing it on Netaji’s picture,” recalled Santharam, caretaker of the Laldhari Ashram near Humnabad town next to the Kalaburagi-Bidar highway.
Though there had always been intense speculation among locals that the Baba was Netaji himself, a recent discovery of the Baba’s possessions that he had stored in a trunk has excited people in ashram.
“Until January 2016, we were not sure whether Baba was really Subhas Chandra Bose even though at various occasions Baba had hinted the same. There was a trunk that belonged to Baba and nobody had touched it as he would ask us to keep away from his things,” said Santharam. Baba died in 2001.
Weopon found in the trunk
“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi declassified the Bose files, I opened the trunk. I found things like a military uniform, caps and jackets, Japanese make wristwatch that was released during the World-War I, foreign currency and a 1932-model compass and binocular of French make,” says Santharam. He claims the Baba had a bullet wound on his chest.
Uniform similar to Subhas Bose’s
The discovery has excited the ashram dwellers so much that Member of Parliament from Osmanabad Ravindra Gaikwad has written to the Prime Minister asking to permit a DNA test.
Santharam says he has in his possession samples of Baba’s teeth and hair and feels a DNA test would establish Baba’s true identity.
This isn’t however the first time that someone has been presumed to be Subhas Chandra Bose. A Gumnami Baba in Faizabad was touted to be Netaji, but DNA tests later disproved it. Rare photographs of Bose’s family had been recovered from the Baba’s suitcase.
Santharam’s father Atumal found Baba, who was dressed like a Sardarji, in a bus stand in Solahpur in 1971.
However, Santharam claimed that Baba never disclosed personal information as he claimed there was a threat to his life.
“My father said that he started a conversation with Baba over Guru Grant Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism. He told my father that he had nowhere to go and hence my father brought him to the ashram. Baba stayed with us like a family member till my father’s death in 1985. We took care of him as I had promised my father. However, Baba moved out and lived in a house next to ours in Solahpur,” said Santharam.
He dress up in military uniform and sometimes even wear a saree
Santharam, who is also a cloth merchant in Umarga town in Maharashtra, claimed that after Baba moved out, he said he wanted to build an ashram that resembled the parliament building.
“We showed him many designs. But he took out a Rs 50 note and pointed at the building behind it- the Parliament house. So we had it built that way. It was all funded by Baba who never told us where he got the money from,” Santharam said.
Baba interacting with people during a function
“Patriotism was something that was evident in Baba, he would also behave like someone with a military background, stern and strict. He would not pray or worship any God, instead showed utmost respect to the tri-colour flag. He told us that he has been to many countries, including Germany,” said Santharam,.
“When Baba died of kidney failure in 2001 in Umarga town, the doctors said that he must be over a 100 years”, says Santharam.