Dr.Syama ( Shyama) Prasad Mukherjee – Lion of Bengal

syama prasad

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee

Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, alternately known as Dr.Syama  Prasad Mookherjee, founder President of Bharatiya Jan Sangh was born in Calcutta on July 06,1901. Dr.Mukherjee the illustrious son of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, “the Tiger of Bengal” and Smt.Jogmaya Debiwas a statesman who fought not only against foreign rulers but also Indian detractors. He courageously evolved a different approach based on positive nationalism in opposition to the wavering and timid mindset of Nehruvian leadership. He was the first political martyr of independent India who fell defending its integrity and sovereignty. His demise at Srinagar while being a captive of Sheikh Abdullah for forty days is an agonizing saga. His death will continue to be a blot on ‘almighty’ Nehruvian establishment that failed to protect the life of first leader of Opposition in Parliament. But more galling was the long rope given to shrewd separatists ready to bleed nationalist forces.

Syama Prasad personified nationalism and his untimely loss was a great blow to this political school. In Parliament and out of it, he was a perfect antithesis to Nehru and Nehruvianism; and arguably the prospective Prime Minister of India. Though Jan Sangh, his political legacy, continued to increase its vote share and seats in successive elections, his death left the path for Congress monopoly wide open. It also signaled the demise of his ideology in his home province West Bengal- which his Herculean efforts had saved from being incorporated into East Pakistan or Sarat Bose-Suhrawardi scheme of United Sovereign Bengal. It is ironical that ungrateful Marxists treat him as persona non-grata in West Bengal while they stand on the soil he had redeemed from going to Pakistan, the graveyard of Marxism. “To be great’, said Emerson ‘is to be misunderstood’. Stigmatized as communal and hawkish, Syama Prasad was no exception. But the issues he addressed through his life and his death are something independent India still has to contend with. Time has vindicated the merit in him and time shall reveal the peril of ignoring him.

Dr. Mukherjee was the greatest fighter for united India and a crusader against the communal politics of Muslim League. One should not forget that he played a crucial role in bringing down the Muslim League ministry in Bengal and forming a coalition Government of non-communal Muslim and Hindus. He became the opposition leader when Krishak  Praja Party – Muslim League coalition was in power 1937-41 and joined the Progressive Coalition Ministry headed by A K Fazl-ul-Haq as a Finance Minister. He was a member of the first National cabinet led by the first Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru.It was due to his strenuous efforts and untiring labour that the Hindu majority part of Bengal remained with the rest of India, and thus the State of West Bengal came into existence.

There was a tacit understanding between Dr.Mukherjee and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel in solving the crisis in Hyderabad. It was his suggestion that as the Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru was busy dealing with Jammu and Kashmir the Home MinisterSardar Patel should deal with Hyderabad.On April 8,1950 he resigned from the Cabinet as a protest against Nehru Liaqat Ali pact. There was an acute disagreement between the two leaders regarding the effectiveness of this agreement in finding a solution to the minority problem in both countries.

Explaining the reasons for his resignation Dr. Mukherjee in a statement in Parliament said that his differences were fundamental and,”It is not fair or honourable for me to continue as a member of the cabinet whose policy I cannot approve.”After coming out from the Congress he formed Peoples Party of India in Bengal. He had the first meeting with Shri Guruji at Calcutta RSS office and after that meeting he decided to work through Jan Sangh. Dr.Mukherjee  was formally elected as Jana Sangha President at Kanpur session in 1952.It was the same year when the BJS contested the first General Elections.BJS had limited success and it had only three members including Dr.Mukherjee in the first Lok Sabha. He induced a number of small parties and independent members to join him to form the National Democratic Party of which he became the leader. Once Nehru had said in Parliament,” I will crush Jana Sangha.” Pat came the answer from Dr.Mukherjee,” I will crush this crushing mentality.”

Speech by Dr.Syama Prasad in 1940 at Banaras Hindu University

” If I have understood the history of my country aright, a pacifism that refuses to take up arms against injustice and makes one a passive spectator of oppression and aggression, does not represent the real teaching of India.  Let us not forget that valour was greatly esteemed by the sages and free rulers of India in olden times. When valour languished, the entire polity weakened. When the sword and the book of knowledge kept together, justice, equity and liberty ruled the affairs of the state. We want to see the reappearance of the ancient spirit of valour tempered with a spiritual wisdom consistent with our genius and present needs, which alone can recover civilization out of the chaotic condition of the modern age.

We live in an age when the need of ‘parakrama‘, ceaseless exertion, courage and valour, in all spheres of activity affecting the public weal, is more imperative than ever. The menace of invasion from without is within the bounds of possibility. Disruptive forces are at work within the country itself. A nation can only save itself by its own energy. But energy and strength hardly come to a people that does not enjoy the blessings of unity and freedom. Unity need not imply uniformity is not to be encouraged. India is traditionally a land of village republics, and local autonomy has had many noble champions whose patriotism and public spirit are beyond question. But accentuation of differences can not make for strength. A divided India was always a prey to the foreign invader from the days of Alexander and Mahmud of Ghazni to those of Vasco da Gama, Dupleix and Clive. There is much disharmony and disunity in India today. Communal differences have taken such an acute turn that fanatic claims for the vivisection of our Motherland are widely asserted, backed by tacit encouragement of the powers that rule the destinies of India today. ”

Syama Prasad Mukherjee passed away in Srinagar(J&K) on wee hours of June 23rd, 1953. That marked the end of his 52-years of vigorous life, last forty days ofwhich were spent in imprisonment in a cottage near Srinagar’s Nishat Bag. The shabby treatment, both humanand medical, meted out to Syama Prasad resulted in hisillness and death. The make over exercise of Sheikh Abdullah was at best a cover up that smacks of conspiratorial agenda. A bit of poetic justice caught up with Sheik Abdullah who was dismissed Sadar-i-Riyasaton recommendation of his own cabinet colleagues later that year and placed under imprisonment at a Gulmarg guest house.

Syama Prasad Mukherjee , in his second public visit to the state, entered J&K on May 9, 1953. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee went to the border with Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee to see him off. Before entering into Kashmir Dr. Mukherjee told Atalji to pass on his message to the entire country.He openly violated the system of taking permit to enter the state, a must in those days. By transgressing the permit system he wanted to demonstrate that J&K is an integral part of India – and itis the fundamental right of an Indian to travel across its length and breadth unhindered by law. His objective was to bring the Indian Constitution to the state of J&K that had in principle acceded to Indian Union on October26, 1947 but in practice being ruled as a sovereign republic by its iniquitous ‘Prime Minister’ Sheikh Abdullah. Ironically Sheikh Abdullah did so with resources from India and connivance of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He exploited Article 370 of Indian Constitution that gave J&K an elitist privileged status.According to Article 370, apart from Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications, Indian Parliament would need the concurrence of J&K Assembly to frame laws regards to items in Union and Concurrent List. It was intended to be a temporary provision till the Constituent Assembly of J&K ratified the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on October 26, 1947. But the vested interest of powers that be has ensured the perpetuity of Article 370 till date.The Kashmiri establishment is fond of describing it as the ‘article of faith’ whereas in reality it as an ‘article of exploitation’for extracting privileges from New Delhi but evading accountability. Article 370, prevented a free flow of Indian Constitution in J&K turning it into a glasshouse.

Dr. Mukherjee decided to enter Jammu and Kashmir without permit. When Dr. Mukherjee was about to leave for Kashmir Shri Guruji sent a message to him that his life was in danger but it could not be communicated as he had already left. It seems there was a conspiracy as the authorities were aware that Dr.Mukherjee was going to cross border but he was not stopped at the border in spite of travelling without a permit.

Since Syama Prasad’s untimely demise in 1953,various other provisions of Indian Constitution has been extended to J&K. Briefly they include Customs and Central Exercise, Civil Aviation, Posts and Telegraph(1954); All India Services like IAS and IPS and functions of CAG (1958), Census (1959), Central Labour Laws(1964), Direct elections of Lok Sabha (1966), Jurisdiction of Indian Supreme Court (1968) etc. Dual citizenship that existed then exists even now. But in those days when Symaprasad shone as the first Leader of Opposition in Indian Parliament, an Indian needed a special permit by J&K government to set foot in the state. J&K not only had a separate constitution and judiciary; but Sheikh Abdullah through Delhi Agreement (July 24, 1952) signed with Jawaharlal Nehru made flying a separate Kashmiri flag alongside Indian tri-colour. Having an independent Constitution, an independent flag, and a ‘Prime Minister’ for J&K made a mockery of India’s sovereignty and integrity. (It was only through an amendment in Kashmir Constitution w.e.f May 30, 1965 that denominations of ‘Prime Minister’ and ‘Sadar-i-Riyasat became ‘Chief Minister’ and ‘Governor’ respectively).

Though Article 370 ensured a privileged statusfor J&K, its benefit was not forwarded to all its inhabitants.It ensured hegemony of Kashmiri Muslims who aredominant majority amongst Kashmiris but statistical minority vis-a-vis Dogras of Jammu and Ladhaki Buddhists. Dogras and Laddhakis have little stake Article370 and would be happy to see it go any time. Nor it hasproved to be in the interest of Kashmiri Pundits who are now living in refugee camps of Delhi and Jammu. Article370 meant to protect ‘Kashmiriyat’ have done preciouslittle to protect or preserve them.

Thus there was one powerful roadblock to Sheikh Abdullah’s secessionist and autocratic policies. They were the patriotic Dogras who wanted free flow of IndianConstitution into J&K or else being placed outside’Sheikhdom’. From Maharaja Gulab Singh to Hari Singh,it was a Dogra dynasty that had ruled J&K for a full century. Dogras also produce brave soldiers for Indian Army. Deeply shocked by Sheikh Abdullah’s policies hurting Dogras and beguiling rest of India they had organized themselves in a mass organization Praja Parishad. Led by a 70-year old energetic and sincere leader Pandit Prem Nath Dogra they carried on popular agitation within democratic norms. They gave a stirring call-

Ek Desh Me Do Vidhan/Ek Desh Men Do Nishan/Ek Desh Men Do Pradhan/Nahin Chalenge, Nahin Chalenge”– (Two Constitutions, two Flags and two headof states in one country, won’t be tolerated).

The Sheikh Abdullah with complicity, nay active indulgence of Nehru, was hell bent on crushing this mass movement.It was at this juncture that Syama Prasad Mukherjee’s way crossed with that of Praja Parishad’s patriotic movement.

A meeting with Pt. Dogra in May, 1952 at New Delhi’s Western Court proved to be a momentous eventin life of Syama Prasad. Syama Prasad had his grounding in Bengal politics before moving on to national politics while Kashmir crisis in the making could hardly have escaped his political interest. But this Lion of Bengal,after meeting Pandit Dogra, made cause of Kashmir almost his personal. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was under the foreign ministry and the prime minister himself was taking care of this ministry. Mukherjee had correspondence with Nehru but Nehru dubbed this agitation as ‘Communal Movement’. Nehru bungled with J&K with confidence of a native. He put his entire stake in Sheikh Abdullah, who was his childhood friend, only to be disillusioned later. Syama Prasad metaphorically clashed sword with Nehru at the floor of Parliament over his policies encouraging separatism in Kashmir.

“Iwould like to know” Syama Prasad asked during a Lok Sabha debate, “are Kashmiris Indian first and Kashmiris next or they are Kashmiris first and Indian next or they are Kashmiris first, second and third and not Indian at all? That is a very important point which we have to settle.”

Nehru government’s public posturing over Praja Parishad’s movement was one of complete indifference.It wanted to inform Indian public opinion that it was a movement by lunatic fringe. Nehru had even refused anaudience to Prem Nath Dogra. The Praja Parishad decided to hold its convention of its workers at Jammu on August 9 and 10, 1952. It extended invitation to all Members of Parliament to see for themselves the immense groundswell in favour of Parishad. Syama Prasad’s first public tour of J&K was in that connection.

Syama Prasad left Delhi for Jammu on August 8 night by Kashmir Mail along with U.M. Trivedi, BabuNarain Singh, both MPs and Balraj Madhok.In Jammu he addressed a crowd of hundred thousand people. Hestressed on the need for adhering to Satyagraha by the Praja Parishad. A more drastic method could be resortedto if Satyagraha had no impact on Sheikh Abdullah.Some might have discounted it as pacifism but otherappreciated as his political saneness. But he promised tostand by them always and mobilize public opinion allover India in support of Praja Parishad’s cause. Less thana year later he came back to keep his words even if it meant to lay down his life.

Syama Prasad, immediately on his return toDelhi, conferred with Nehru. He tried to convince him that Praja Parishad was a popular mass movement andcould not be discounted as a fringe activity. But Nehrutook no heed of his words and continued to underminethe nationalistic movement of Jammu in collusion withSheikh Abdullah.

Sheikh Abdullah, per Delhi Agreement (also calledJuly Agreement) signed on July 24, 1952 with Nehru,had extracted further privileges. It included fluttering aseparate flag for Kashmir, which was National Conference flag remodeled. A major showdownhappened when Sheikh Abdullah tried to hoist this flag at State Secretariat at Jammu, J&K winter capital. PanditPrem Nath Dogra declared no other flag but Indian tricolour should flutter in Jammu. Sheikh Abdullah,bolstered by obliging Nehru’s CRPF deployment, let losea reign of terror. It is strange that when a Leader of Opposition was upholding his nationalistic Dharma, aPrime Minister was undermining it.

Syama Prasad’s next visit, also his last bow, came in May 1953 as snow began to melt in the Valley. In previous six months nearly 2500 satyagrahis had been arrested by Sheikh Abdullah government whereas 30 had been killed. From Ambala he sent a telegram to Sheikh Abdullah-”I am proceeding to Jammu. My object of going there is to study the situation myself and to explore the possibilities of creating condition leading to peaceful settlement. I will like to see you also if possible”.He received Sheikh Abdullah’s reply through a telegram at Phagwara-“Thanks your telegram. I am afraid your proposed visit to the State at the present juncture in opportune and will not serve any useful purpose.”

From Phagwara he motored to Jallandhar where he said in a Press Conference-” India had taken the issue of J&K to UNO for stopping Pakistani aggression and forgetting her armies out of the State and not to settle when plebiscite was to be held there. Pt. Nehru should have protested against this deflection from the main issue and should have withdrawn from UNO if it had failed to accept this”.

He got an intimation of his forthcoming arrest in Jallandhar itself when an elderly person who identified himself as Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur decided not to allow him to reach Pathankot. “I am expecting instructions from my Government as to where you should be put under arrest”. The Deputy Commissioner accompanied Syama Prasad to Pathankot via Amritsar.But at Pathankot the same person surprised him by telling that the government had allowed him to proceed without permit. While no restriction was put on his companions,it was advisable that their number was less. One wish Syama Prasad had realized what a conspiracy it was to push him into the state where the protecting hand of Supreme Court was not available. He left Pathankot in a jeep amidst uproarious victory chants.

He was cleared at Madhopur Check Post of theRavi Bridge at 4 pm but as his jeep reached at the centreof the bridge he found road blocked by Kashmir Police.An Order of Chief Secretary dated May 10, 1953 banned his entry into the state and he was arrested by the superintendent of police Kathua. He was taken to Srinagarvia. Lakhanpur.

A small cottage converted into a sub-jail on a mountain slope near Nishat Bag served as last abode for following five weeks. It was about eight miles away from the city and with no arrangement for medical facilities. The nearest telephone was hundred yards away in a water substation. Syama Prasad had high blood-pressure which meant high altitude not withstanding its scenic beauty proved harmful to him. His health began to deteriorate fast as he began to lose his appetite. He was not even allowed the facility of walking outside bungalow even though the doctor Colonel Chopra had recommended it. None of his friends or relatives were allowed to interview him while in jail.

He developed a pain in chest and high temperature on night of June 19. On June 20 he was administered Streptomycin by Dr. Ali Mohammed much against wishes of Syama Prasad who protested that his family physician had forbidden Streptomycin for him On 22nd night and early hours of 23rd June came the end of the great son of the soil.What happened in State Nursing home remains shrouded in mystery? Barrister U.M. Trivedi met him in the evening confident that he would be set at liberty the next day as a result of habeas corpus filed in Srinagar Supreme Court. Health of Syama Prasad who was weak but cheerful when Barrister Trivedi left at 7.30 pm deteriorated that night. He was said to have passed away at 3.45 am on June 23rd. The version of Sheikh Abdullah government at his death was more of a cover up exercise aimed at hiding its criminality.

The conspiracy for Dr. Mukherjee’s death deepens because no enquiry into his death was set up. The reason was very obvious because the enquiry would have brought out only two things either Dr. Mukherjee died due to medical negligence or was deliberately killed.….

Source : Dr.Syama Prasad Mukherjee- The Man & His Mission.

Important Link : http://drsyamaprasadmookerjee.org/default.html

Also read – 1953: A Kashmir story

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