Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee

Mookerjee was born on July 6, 1901 in Calcutta.. His father was Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, a well
respected advocate in Bengal, who became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta,

Mookerjee  graduated in English securing first position in first class in 1921 and also did MA in 1923
and BL in 1924. He became a fellow of the Senate in 1923. He left for England in 1926 to study in Lincoln’s
Inn and became a barrister in 1927. At the age of 32, he became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Calcutta (1934), and held the office till 1938.

Political career

He was elected as member of the Legislative Council of Bengal, as a Indian National Congress
candidate representing Calcutta University but resigned next year when Congress decided to boycott
the legislature. Subsequently, he contested the election as an independent candidate and got
elected. He was the Finance minister of Bengal Province during 1941-42.

He emerged as a spokesman for Nationalism and shortly joined Hindu Mahasabha and in 1944, he
became the President. Mookerjee was not anti-Muslim, but a Hindu political leader who felt the need to
counteract the communalist and separatist Muslim League of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who were
demanding either exaggerated Muslim rights or a Muslim state of Pakistan.

Mookerjee adopted causes to unite Hindu voices, and protect Hindus against what he believed to
be the communal propaganda and the divisive agenda of the Muslim League. To Mookerjee, the Muslims
were a minority and thus could not in any reasonable system be given a status superior to the majority
Hindu masses. Mookerjee and his future followers would always cite inherent Hindu practices of
tolerance and communal respect as the reason for a healthy, prosperous and safe Muslim population in the
country in the first place.

He wanted the Hindu Mahasabha not to be restricted to Hindus alone or work as apolitical
body for the service of masses.


He was inducted into the  Interim Central Government as a Minister for Industry and Supply.
But on issue of the 1949 Delhi Pact with Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, Mookerjee
resigned from the Cabinet on April 6, 1950. Mookerjee was firmly against Nehru’s invitation to the
Pakistani PM, and their joint pact to establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both
countries. He wanted 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.

Mookerjee considered Nehru’s actions as appeasement, and was hailed as a hero by the people of West Bengal.

With support from Guruji, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh, Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (IndianPeople’s Union) on October 21, 1951
at Delhi and became its first President.

The party criticized favoritism to India’s Muslims by the Nehru administration.  The BJS also favored a uniform civil code for both Hindus and Muslims, want to ban cow slaughter and end the special
status of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. The BJS founded the Hindutva agenda which became the
wider political expression of India’s nationalism. In the 1952 general elections to the Parliament of India,
Mookerjee and the BJS won 3 seats. Mookerjee went to visit Kashmir in 1953, and went on
hunger strike to protest the law prohibiting Indian citizens from settling in a state in their own country and the need to carry ID cards, and was arrested on 11th May while crossing border. Although the ID card rule was
revoked owing to his efforts, he died as detenu on June 23, 1953 under mysterious circumstances.
His death in custody raised wide suspicion across the country and demands for independent enquiry,
including earnest requests from his mother, Jogmaya Devi to the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal
Nehru. Unfortunately no enquiry commission was set up and his death remains a mystery.

Source: Article in Kamal Sandesh, BJP Magazine, June 16-30, 2013

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