The flood is abating. Last month, when 64 classified files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose were thrown open for public viewing, the response was unprecedented. Close to 120 people thumped up the narrow staircase of the Kolkata Police Museum to try to get a sense of what exactly they contained. The number has dipped to around 50-60 people per day, but the authorities do not seem to be complaining

Dip in enthusiasm

“Initially those who came were just curious onlookers,” said Rajib Gangopadhyay, the Assistant Commissioner of the museum. “They would come just on a mere whim. But now the real enthusiasts are coming. There may be fewer people coming now, but they are properly studying the documents. Some even come more than once.”

It is noticeably quieter in the lush environs of the museum. Situated on one of the busiest roads in Central Kolkata, the museum, by itself, is quite interesting. Artefacts  are strewn all over – there guns used by revolutionaries during the freedom struggle as well as a Japanese bomb dropped on Kolkata during the Second World War.

Even the archive is suddenly the focus of inordinate attention, old rhythms have not changed. "The stairs are in front of you, can’t you see?" the security guard snapped, when woken up from a snooze by an inquiry for directions.

The files

After signing at half a dozen places, visitors are taken upstairs to the room where the files are kept. “No touching the glass,” warned one of the other guards, taking off his earphones for a second. Inside, there is not much to see – a collection of files kept in a glass box with “Confidential” written on them. There are notes about the contents on the front cover. “Check the number of the file you want to examine and go to the next room to see it on the computer,” instructed the person who is in charge of the files.

After another round of signing, visitors are ushered into the computer room. The fact that the files are almost half-a-century old becomes evident. A lot of the contents are illegible and plenty of the ink has faded. Some portions are impossible to read. Suddenly, a shout rung out: “Aste aste computer byabohar korun! (Use the computers slowly!)", admonished the curator. He believed that the mouse was being man-handled.

On the first day that the files were declassified, DVDs containing the contents of the declassified files were handed out to some press members and family members of the Bose family. But, according to assistant commissioner Gangopadhyay, “that was solely the prerogative of the state. Kolkata Police had no hand in that.” When asked about whether there would be any effort to transcribe the files so that their contents could be read more easily, he replied, “We have not got any complaints regarding the same, but if anyone who examines the files sends us a complaint, we will try and talk to the government to ensure it is solved.”

Despite Mamata Banerjee's promise of digitisation, the files are not available online. Anyone who wants to examine them needs to visit the Kolkata Police Museum themselves. All are welcome, it seems, just as long, as they handle the computer mouse gently.