The name of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee does not require any introduction. The Hindu nationalist leader from Bengal was president of Hindu Mahasabha for a few years, and then served in the Constituent Assembly of Bharat and also in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru as Minister of Industry and Supply. He resigned in opposition to the Delhi Pact of 1950 between Nehru and Liaqat Ali.
He founded Bhartiya Jana Sangh in 1951, the predecessor of current Bhartiya Janata Party. He has been ignored in our history books and despite being a tall leader who affected the destiny of Bharat in a profound manner, people know little about him.
Early life and work
Syama Prasad Mookerjee as born to Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee, that great educationist who was called ‘Tiger of Bengal‘ due to his nationalist ideology, on 6th July, 1901. His father was Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta university for a long time and promoted talents such as S. Radhakrishnan and C V Raman.
Syama Prasad went to England to study law in 1926. After returning, he started his work as a politician and academician. He was elected to Bengal Provincial Assembly in 1929 on Congress ticket, resigned next year as Congress decided to boycott assemblies, and then was elected as an independent.
In 1934, at the age of 33, he became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University. After he left his office in 1938, he was conferred D. Litt by Calcutta University. He was again elected to Provincial Assembly in elections of 1937 as an independent and joined Hindu Mahasabha in 1939.
Although, he joined govt of Fazlul Haque in 1941, his statements against the conduct of the govt. ensured that his movements were restricted. He resigned in 1942 against the repressive policies of British govt against Quit India movement. In 1946, he was again elected as an independent to Provincial Assembly and was also elected as a member of Constituent Assembly under Cabinet Mission plan.
The year 1946 was very important for the future of Bharat. Muslim league had demanded partition of Bharat in 1940 itself, in its famous Pakistan Resolution in Lahore. Jinnah gave the call for direct action and on 16th of August, 1946 riots started in Calcutta, followed by riots in Noakhli, Bihar, UP etc. that killed thousands and practically ended any hopes of a united Bharat. It is to be noted that at that time Bengal was a Muslim majority province and more than 53% of its population was Muslim, mostly concentrated in eastern part of the province. Hindus were only 41% in the state.
The riots were engineered by the then Premier of Bengal, Hussain Suhrawardy, and leaders like Sheikh Mujibur Rehman were leading the Muslim mobs on the streets. Indeed, Pakistan was already functioning in parts of Bharat and Hindus were being killed daily, Hindu women being raped and Hindu property being destroyed.
Muslim League had hoped that whole of Bengal would be included in Pakistan and was working for that. They hatched a plan, and were successful in deceiving leaders like Sarat Chandra Bose in joining them, to demand a Sovereign United Bengal. The power was to be shared by Hindus and Muslims in a arrangement in which Muslims had 16 seats and Hindus 14 seats in a constituent assembly. It was to have a Hindu Home Minister and a Muslim Prime Minister for the time being.
Clearly, it was a dangerous plan. Once realized, Muslims could have used their majority to declare themselves as part of Pakistan. It was opposed by almost all Hindus of Bengal. Syama Prasad Mookerjee led the movement to partition Bengal, and founded a ‘Bengal Partition League’ at the end of 1946. Having witnessed the recent carnage by goons of Muslim League, all the Hindu leaders and public of Bengal backed the partition and supported the demand for West Bengal to be included in Bharat. Even Bengal Provincial Congress, and the Communists supported it.
It was through his efforts that all the Scheduled Caste leaders, except Jogendra Nath Mandal, supported partition of Bengal. We are well aware what happened to Jogendra Nath Mandal and how he returned a disgraced man from Pakistan.
Finally, through his tireless efforts and after ascertaining views of Hindu legislators of West Bengal, British were persuaded to partition Bengal. However, many Hindu majority areas were included in Pakistan, specially Khulna and Chittagong.
Sadly, over the years, Hindus from Pakistan and then Bangladesh have been forced to migrate to Bharat. According to a 2016 report in Dhaka Tribune, Prof Barakat of Dhaka University says that 1.13 crore Hindus fled from Bangladesh to Bharat in the period 1971-2013. He maintains that by 2050, no Hindus would be left in Bangladesh. This points to the farsightedness of Dr. Mookerjee.
Unfortunately, the issue of illegal migration of Bangladeshi Muslims in Bharat has been ignored for far too long and now that they have become a vote bank, various political parties are opposing the proposed exercise of pan-Bharat NRC.
The agitation for integration of Jammu and Kashmir
After independence, Syama Prasad Mookerjee worked in the government for some time and resigned in 1950 from the cabinet. He formed Bhartiya Jan Sangh in 1951. He opposed the inclusion of Article 370 in the constitution and fought against it in Parliament and outside it. The article provided for a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir, and also allowed a separate flag. The head of the province was called Prime Minister. Whereas Jawahar Lal Nehru helped Sheikh Abdullah consolidate his hold with these steps, Dr. Mookerjee understood the implication of these steps and the grave danger these posed to the unity and integrity of Bharat.
He gave the slogan “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi chalenge” (Two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two flags in a country is unacceptable). Jana Sangh along with Hindu Mahasabha and Jammu Praja Parishad started a Satyagrah against this. In the meanwhile, Sheikh Abdullah passed a law saying that Bharatiya citizens visiting Kashmir shall have to carry an ID card at all times.
Syama Prasad Mookerjee crossed illegally into Jammu and Kashmir against this law and was arrested on 11th of May, 1953. He was administered a wrong medicine, despite him telling the doctor that the medicine did not suit him. As a result, he died on 23rd June, 1953. Despite many requests, his death was never investigated. Many commentators have indicated towards a conspiracy to murder him.
In a few months, the foresight of Dr. Mookerjee was again validated. Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed and arrested in Kashmir Conspiracy Case, in August 1953. He was accused of conspiring with Pakistan to overthrow the govt and merge Kashmir into Pakistan. Indeed, the continuing insurgency in Kashmir and the separatism is the legacy of Article 370.
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was a man of great foresight. His efforts ensured that West Bengal became part of Bharat. He saw the Kashmir issue before anyone else and paid with his life for his beliefs. The removal of Art. 370 on August 5, 2019 was a fitting tribute to Dr. Mookerjee.
Now that the illegal Bangladeshi migration has changed the demography of border districts of Bengal and Assam, and crimes against Hindus have increased, National Register of Citizens seems to be the only way to protect the Hindus of Bengal. It would be another fitting tribute to the great visionary.
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