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  Dr Mookerjee, A fearless Hindu nationalist  
 

 

By: V Sundaram
April 05, 2006
V
iews expressed here are authorís own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (1901-1953) was a great scholar, an ardent Hindu nationalist and an outspoken Parliamentarian. He was born on 6 July, 1901 in a Brahmin family with a very high social standing in Bengal. From his parents Sri Asutosh Mukerjee and Jogmaya Devi, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee inherited a splendid saga of erudite scholarship and fervent nationalism. Both of them inspired him to live a pure, dedicated, selfless, totally fearless and manly life. His father who was perhaps the most distinguished Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University gave him the following message early in his life: "To have lived long does not necessarily imply the gathering of much wisdom and experience. A man who has pedalled 25,000 miles on a stationary bi-cycle has not circled the globe. He has only garnered weariness". No wonder Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee packed into his short life of 52 years unsurpassed exertions and unremitting toil of several lives.

Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had a brilliant academic record in Calcutta University, taking his Honours Degree in English and securing the first position in the first class from the Presidency College in 1921. He also took his M A degree in Indian vernaculars. In 1924 he took his B L degree from Calcutta University again topping the list. He went to England to pursue further legal studies and was called to the Bar in 1927 from Lincoln"s Inn. Though he was fully qualified for it, he never practiced law as a profession. He became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1934 at the age of 33 and continued in that position till 1938. Calcutta University conferred on him D Litt and Benares Hindu University honoured him with LLD in 1938.

Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee"s political career was marked by his deathless commitment to his ideals of burning patriotism and selfless service. His political career began in 1929 when he became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council.

He was elected as a Congress candidate from the university constituency. He acted as a watchdog for the Calcutta University in the Council. But in response to the Congress call for boycott of Council, he resigned, but later re-entered it as an independent member for the sake of the university when he was re-elected in 1937. As a firm believer in Hindutva and Sanatana Dharma, he became president of All India Hindu Mahasabha in 1939. That did not come in the way of his becoming the Finance Minister of Bengal in 1941 in the hectic days of the II World War. Even while remaining in the government, he actively opposed the British government when the leading Congress leaders were arrested after the Quit India Resolution was passed in Bombay on 9 August, 1942. When his views on the patriotism of the Congress leaders went unheeded, he resigned from the Ministry as a protest against the British policy of oppression and suppression of civil liberties in India.

The great Bengal famine of 1943, generally referred to as Panchasher Manvantar by the Bengalis (the famine of fifty, ie the Bengal year 1350), was a great calamity. During the period 1943-46, 38 lakhs of people died as a result of the famine and the epidemic diseases that accompanied it. When this issue came up for debate in the Bengal Legislative Assembly, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee indicted both the Food Minister of Bengal H S Suharawardy and his business friend Ispahani in these words: "IN THE NAME OF THE STARVING MILLIONS OF BENGAL I CONDEMN YOU. ON BEHALF OF THE HELPLESS FAMILIES OF RURAL BENGAL WHO HAVE LOST THEIR BREADWINNERS, CHAMPIONS AND PROTECTORS I CONDEMN YOU. BENGAL HAS NOT SEEN GREATER ACTS OF OFFICIAL CRIME IN ITS LONG HISTORY".

Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee covered himself with glory by his Himalayan relief efforts during the deathly days of Bengal famine. Government of Bengal appointed an apex relief organisation called Relief Coordination Committee with Badridas Goenka as president and Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee as vice-president. Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee saw to it that 5000 relief kitchens were opened in Bengal for catering to the needs of famine-stricken people. He rose above narrow party alignments and in the process emerged as the most shining symbol of Bengali protest against the arrogance of British imperial authorities and the misdeeds of the Bengal government.

Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was initially a strong opponent of the partition of India. But following the communal riots of 1946 organised by H S Suharawardy, Prime Minister of Bengal, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee strongly advocated against Hindus living in a Muslim- dominated State government controlled by the Muslim League. He supported the partition of Bengal in 1946 in order to prevent the inclusion of the Hindu majority areas in a Muslim-dominated East Pakistan.

On the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru inducted Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in the interim Central government in New Delhi as a Minister for Industry and Supply. He came to be widely respected by many Indians and also by members of the Indian National Congress and Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

But on the issue of Nehru"s 1949 Delhi Pact with Pakistan Prime Minister Liyakat Ali Khan, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee resigned from the Central Cabinet on 6 April, 1950. He was firmly against Nehru"s invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister and their pact to establish Minority Commissions and guarantee minority rights in both countries. He wanted Nehru to hold Pakistan directly responsible for the terrible influx of millions of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan, who had left the State fearing religious suppression and violence aided by the State. Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee described Nehru"s action as "abject Muslim appeasement", and was hailed as a great hero by the people of West Bengal.

On 21 October, 1951, after a long and detailed discussion with Sri Guruji Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Leader of the RSS, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee founded "Bharatiya Jan Sangh" (Indian People"s Union) at Delhi and became its first president. Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, with his legal background, also strongly advocated a Uniform Civil Code for both Hindus and Muslims. He wanted a ban on cow slaughter. He pointed out the paramount political necessity of ending the special status of Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir in the larger interest of India"s integrity and national unity. Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee defined the contours of the Hindutva agenda which later became the wider political expression of India"s Hindu majority in the 1990s. Deen Dayal Upadyaya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and several other latter-day BJP stalwarts were inspired by the personality and example of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.

In the 1952 general elections to the Parliament of India, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and the BJS won 3 seats. When he was proceeding to Kashmir in 1953 in order to go on a hunger strike on reaching there to protest against the law prohibiting any Indian citizen from settling in that State (which was in their own country) and the need to carry I D cards, he was arrested on 11 May, 1953 while crossing the Jammu & Kashmir-India border. Although the I D card rule was revoked on account of his efforts, he died as a political detenu on 23 May, 1953. Even before he had set out from Delhi, Sri Guruji Golwalkar had advised him not to go to Jammu & Kashmir and warned him about the possibility of his not returning back alive from Kashmir. Sri Guruji had also sent a letter to the same effect through a special messenger which failed to reach him on time. According to many well-informed people, he was politically assassinated with the full political blessings of Sheik Abdullah and Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru.

At a time when all the Congress leaders including Pundit Nehru found themselves in the mire of triple "secular" synchronisation, conceptual confusion, political incompetence and human failure to deal with the Muslim problem in India, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee spoke these prophetic words in his last speech in Parliament on 15 November, 1952:

"I remember I saw a number of Congress leaders and especially Gandhiji and some of us begged of him to appreciate the real point of view whether it will be possible for the minorities to live in Pakistan, in view of the circumstances under which that new country was taking its birth. AND WE SUGGESTED A PLANNED EXCHANGE OF POPULATION AND PROPERTY AT GOVERNMENTAL LEVEL AS PART OF THE PARTITION SCHEME. He was not willing to accept it because their view point was that what they were agreeing to was not a communal division of India, but a territorial division of India".

Today we are having not only a communal division but also a territorial division of votebank politics in every State in India today. In 1947 we were dealing with only one reasonable and responsible statesman like Jinnah. Today we are constrained to deal with hundreds of self-proclaimed "Jinnahs" not knowing what they want and not allowing anybody else also to understand what they want. If only our countrymen had listened to the advice of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee at that time, there would have been no problem whatsoever between Hindus and Muslims either in Pakistan or in India after 1947.

V Sundaram

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