Homi Bhabha was a nuclear physicist, founding director, and professor of physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He was the founding director of two institutions – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Trombay Atomic Energy Establishment – and is regarded as the ‘father of the Indian nuclear programme’.
His death is what remains a mystery. He died in a plane crash, but there exist theories that his death wasn’t simply the result of a plane crash; there was more to it.
On 24 January 1966, Homi Bhabha was flying to Vienna to attend a meeting when Air India’s Boeing 707 crashed into Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps. Just a few months back in October 1965, Bhabha had announced over AIR that if he got the go-ahead then India had the capability to make a nuclear bomb in 18 months.
The latest in this matter is that the American Intelligence Agency CIA could have been involved in the plane crash. On July 11, 2008, an alleged conversation between a journalist Gregory Douglas and a CIA officer Robert T Crowley, which was reproduced by a news media TBRNews.org suggested that the US intelligence agency had a role in the crash.
The CIA officer was quoted saying: “We had trouble, you know, with India back in the 60’s when they got uppity and started work on an atomic bomb…the thing is, they were getting into bed with the Russians.”
He even talked about Homi Bhabha: “…that one was dangerous, believe me. He had an unfortunate accident. He was flying to Vienna to stir up more trouble when his Boeing 707 had a bomb go off in the cargo hold…”
Bhabha was apparently convinced that if India had to become a major force in the world then it had to launch a nuclear programme focussing on areas like power, agriculture and medicine. But it is also believed that he had a hidden agenda, that of developing an atomic bomb to defend the country.
People and governments can go to any lengths to defend their interests. During those decades, India was very close to Russia and the US backed Pakistan and China to counter the growing threat of a India-Russia nexus. In such a situation, India developing nuclear weapons was definitely a matter of grave concern for the US.
Even though Homi Bhabha died in the crash, his dream of India developing an atomic bomb was fulfilled when India tested its first atomic bomb code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’ at Pokhran on May 18, 1974. In a nation where certain politicians award themselves the ‘Bharat Ratna’, it is a matter of shame for us that Homi Bhabha, a true servant of the nation, hasn’t received this recognition.