Sat Prakash Suri and Dr. Gurdev Singh
Dr. Shayama Prasad Mukherjee was born in a Bengali Hindu family in Calcutta on 6th July,1901 and his father Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee was a prominent legal luminary of his times who commanded respect among his colleagues. He rendered valuable services to the University of Calcutta as its Vice Chancellor while his mother Jogmaya Devi was a highly learned lady who wielded profound impact over Shyama Prasad’s nourishment and upbringing.
Shyama Prasad started his political journey in 1929 when he entered the Bengal Legislative Council as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University but had to resign next year when Congress decided to boycott the legislature. He contested the election as an independent candidate and was declared successful. He served Bengal Province as its Finance Minister during 1941-42.
He emerged as a spokesperson for Hindus and their interests. He shortly joined Hindu Mahasabha and in 1944 Prasad was appointed its President.
Mukherjee derided the communal mindset, separatist tendencies and divisive agenda of Mohd. Ali Jinnah who wanted to safeguard the rights of Muslims and was demanding a separate Muslim State, Pakistan.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee told a Hindu rally on 11 Feb 1941 that if Muslims wanted to live in Pakistan, they should pack their bag and baggage and leave India. Mukherjee was a strong opponent of partition but following the communal riots of 1946-47 unleashed by H.S.Suhrawardy by declaring it a Direct Action Day at Noakhli in East Bengal, forced Mukherjee to think other way and he strongly disfavoured Hindus continuing to live in a Muslim dominated state that too under a despotic government controlled by the Muslim League.
Mukherjee supported the partition of Bengal in 1946 but without its Hindu majority areas in a Muslim dominated East Pakistan. He also opposed a failed bid for a United Bengal in 1947.
Mukherjee wanted the Hindu Mahasabha not to be limited alone to Hindus but wished it as a political body for the services of masses. When Mahatma Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse and his group, the Hindu Mahasabha was blamed for the heinous act and its downfall was imminent. Mukherjee condemned the killing of Gandhi ji by mentally deranged group of persons.
Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru inducted him in the Interim Central Government as a Industry and Supply Minister as he was widely respected by the members of the Indian National Congress and especially by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who had integrated the 565 princely states into fourteen states in one master stroke.
Mukherjee resigned from the Cabinet on 6 April 1950 on the issue of the 1950 Delhi-Pact with Pakistani Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan. He firmly opposed Nehru’s invitation to the Pakistani counterpart and their joint pact to establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both countries. Mukherjee wanted to hold Pakistan directly responsible for the terrible influx of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan who were under the siege of religious suppression and violence aided by the state. Mukherjee condemned Nehru’s appeasement policy and thus for his daring act, he was hailed by the masses of West Bengal.
Mukherjee laid the foundation of Bharatiya Jan Sangh on 21 October 1951 after consultations with Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In 1952, India’s maiden general elections were held after independence, Bharatiya Jan Sangh won three seats in the national elections including his own. He formed National Democratic Party within the Parliament with 3 MP members and 10 members of Rajya Sabha which was not recognized by the Speaker as an opposition party.
Mukherjee opposed special status to Jammu and Kashmir:
To voice his opposition on Kashmir he did not endorse the arrangement reached between Pt. Nehru and Sheikh Abdulla and termed the Article 370 as Balkanisation of India and condemned the three nation theory of Sheikh Abdullah. Bharatiya Jan Sangh alongwith Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya Parishad supported the massive agitation launched by the Jammu Praja Parishad to do away the pernicious constitutional provision “Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan aur do nishan nahi challenge.”
He stoutly opposed the Union government’s decision to grant Jammu and Kashmir a special status with its own flag, Prime Minister and its own constitution. According to this article, no one including the Indian President could enter into the state without a proper permit.
Mukherjee wanted to visit Jammu and Kashmir but because of the restrictions of the prevailing permit system, he was not allowed. When he forced his entry at Lakhanpur, Mukherjee was arrested on 11 May 1953. Permit system was revoked owing to his consistent efforts. He died as a detenu on 23 June 1953 in Kashmir Central Jail under mysterious conditions who wanted equal status be accorded to each region of Jammu and Ladakh as well.
Mukherjee was kept in a dilapidated house in Srinagar where he suffered from dry pleurisy and coronary troubles. When taken to hospital one and a half months after his arrest, he was administered penicillin despite being informed that he was allergic to penicillin. He died on 23 June 1953.
His death in custody even today remains a mystery across the country and demands for enquiry were raised including a request from his mother, Yogmaya Devi to Jawahar Lal Nehru.
Pt. Nehru informed her that after ascertaining facts, there was no mystery behind Dr Mukherjee death. Jogmaya Devi did not accept Nehru’s reply and requested to set up an impartial enquiry commission. Pt. Nehru ignored her request. Mukhrjee’s death remains a matter of some controversy.
Mukherjee’s martyrdom forced the G.M.Sadiq’s Government after a decade in 1963 to change the nomenclature of Sadar-e-Riaysat to Governor and designation of Prime Minister to that of Chief Minister through an amendment in the State’s Constitution.
Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was “an icon of courage for the masses of the nation who feel he has been denied his due because of the domination of the official machinery by Nehruvians and left-leaning intellectuals. Over the years Mukherjee has been painted as a communalist leader but in reality he was a great visionary and a progressive thinker who had forward looking views on a range of issues from education to woman’s rights to foreign relations and peace-time use of nuclear energy.
Mukherjee focused on the importance of building strong cultural and political relations with neighbouring countries especially with China. In one of his speech he said, “Indians have lived peacefully side by side with her neighbouring people and races for millenniums together. When Indian nationals visited foreign lands, they carried with them not arms but message of peace and good will”.
Sat Prakash Suri and Dr. Gurdev Singh