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Dr. Mookerjee: An Indelible Legacy

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-Ananth Seth

23rd of June is an unforgettable day in the history of Independent India. Sixty-Six years back, on this day in 1953, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, whose sacrifice ensured that Kashmir remains part of India just like other states of the Union, fell to the machinations of the people at the helm then.

Dr. Mookerjee ji was a Minister in Nehru’s cabinet. He was a prominent political figure who also served as a Minister in the undivided Bengal. He was the founder of Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the pre-cursor to Bhartiya Janta Party – the entity which has given Indian Polity the second pole.

Dr. Mookerjee was against giving any special treatment to Kashmir, which either directly or indirectly supported the separatist proclivities of Sheikh Abdulla, the then ‘Prime Minister’ of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Dr. Mookerjee was arrested in Kathua (Kashmir) on 11th of May 1963 by Sheikh Abdulla, for opposing the then prevailing requirement of ‘Permit’ to enter J&K. His detention was without trial and he eventually ‘died’ during that detention.

The public support which Mookerjee was receiving for his nationalistic stance on Kashmir – which he himself had articulated as “Ek Desh May Do Vidhaan, Do Pradhan Aur Do Nishaan, Nahee Chalengey” (one nation cannot have two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two Flags) – had unnerved Nehru, who was unabashedly pandering to Sheikh Abdullah’s subtle separatist inclinations.

It is pertinent to mention here that Mookerjee was arrested in J&K and not in Punjab because Kashmir was then not under the jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India. Arresting Mookerjee in Kashmir meant that Supreme Court cannot order his release.

Dr. Mookerjee’s death is clouded under political mystery. Congress had opposed a resolution, moved in West Bengal Legislative Assembly in November 1953 for an Enquiry into the circumstances of his death during his detention by Sheikh Abdulla. Amendments that would have the effect of diluting that resolution were sought and achieved by Congress. The unwillingness of the then Government, led by Nehru, to constitute an inquiry into the matter to delve into the real cause behind Mookerjee’s death (despite repeated requests from Jogmaya Devi, Mookerjee’s mother) points towards a possible existence of a political conspiracy in the entire scenario.

Even former PM Vajpayee had alleged that Mookerjee was killed as a part of a conspiracy. Tathagata Roy in his book ‘The Life and Times of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’ mentions about his personal interview with Balraj Madhok, on 28-08-2008 in Delhi. As per Madhok, when Dr. Mookerjee made his plans to visit J&K public, noted freedom fighter Sucheta Kripalani told him that he should not go to Jammu & Kashmir because she feared that Nehru will not let Dr. Mookerjee come back. To this, Mookerjee responded by saying that he doesn’t have a personal animosity with Nehru. He added that he is fighting for a cause and why Pt. Nehru shall have a sense of personal hostility towards him? Sucheta Kripalani responded to these sincere and upright feelings of Dr. Mookerjee by saying that she knows Nehru better than him. She apprised him that Nehru considers him his prime competitor and he may try to eliminate him from the field by going to any possible extent. Even when Nehru was in Srinagar on 24th of May 1953, purportedly for  holiday, he had neither the inclination nor the courtesy to meet Dr. Mookerjee and find out in what conditions he was being kept. The interview of the eldest daughter of Dr. Mookerjee, given to Tathagat Roy in April 2010, also reveals some disturbing aspects concerning Dr. Mookerjee’s death.

The sceptics and the cynics might argue that in the absence of any conclusive evidence, no aspersions should be cast against anyone. We counter that scepticism by quoting this famous maxim: ‘Absence of Evidence is Never Evidence of Absence!’

The Press, the Academia and the Intelligentsia of our country have been silent on this issue all these years. Dr. Mookerjee’s name and contributions are conspicuous by their absence from and in our national discourse. It is high time the truth is searched for, found out and revealed. Nevertheless, the legacy of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee shall sustain forever.

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