SP Mookerjee who saved W. Bengal and Kashmir for India

By Dr Dibakar Kundu

Kolkata: The Indian army could send the intruders away but Nehru, misguided by Mountbatten, sent the case to the United Nations to keep it as a permanent problem. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, too, did not want it. I.G. Patel wrote: "Pundit Nehru, then, on the advice of Lord Mountbatten, entrusted the question of Kashmir to the UNO."

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee's thinking, intelligence, futurist thought, firmness, realistic knowledge and above all patriotism had made him an extraordinary national leader.

He called upon the youth of India to take the fullest advantage of the military training, which the government felt necessary to offer primarily in the advancement of its own interest. In his words, in the modern age, freedom cannot be maintained by any nation even for a single day unless there is an adequate armed strength available at its disposal.

The British had kept India unarmed and untrained, because they could not trust Indians. Dr. S.P. Mookerjee said that a highly specialised training in modern warfare cannot be obtained by India's solitary efforts. And yet we need this training not in British interest but for our own sake and for the sake of our future stability.

"We demand the right to defend our country, the right to arm ourselves just as free citizens of every free country are being allowed today in other parts of the world."

He stressed that nation must first be physically strong and adequately armed before it can proclaim and defend moral doctrines. That nation is truly great which has force and strength at its disposal but never abuses them for the advancement of self-interest or self-aggrandisement.

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee spoke of undivided India. But when he came to know that partition was imminent, he divided Bengal to create West Bengal. He told Jinnah: "You have divided India but I have divided Bengal." Suhrawardy tried to confuse Sarat Bose, Gandhiji, Sardar Patel and many other senior leaders with his plan of 'undivided Bengal'. But Syama Prasad could make out that the plan of Suhrawardy was terrible. Firstly, it would remain undivided but later it would be joined with Pakistan through Muslim majority in the election. Obviously Suhrawardy wanted to create independent Bengal. But Syama Prasad opposed this proposal with subtlety. He created a strong movement taking Dr. Jadunath Majumder and many other scholars and intellectuals. The Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, Phanibhushan Chakraborty thus commented: "…it was then that Syama Prasad Mookerjee interviewed and harnessed all the mighty powers he possessed to an organised and determined opposition to that plan and he forced a partition within a partition…"

The turmoil that shook the state of Kashmir in October 1947 was unprecedented. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir appealed to India for inclusion in the republic, but that appeal was ignored initially by Nehru, who dethroned him to empower his friend Sheikh Abdullah. Nehru delayed the march of the Indian army to Srinagar, so much so that Pakistanis were almost at the gates of Srinagar, and the extraordinary heroism of the Indian army somehow saved the situation. Nehru unnecessarily referred the Kashmir case to the United Nations. Nehru agreed to ceasefire at a time when Pakistanis were on the run, thereby gifting one-third of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan. Even today the Kashmir issue has not been solved properly. But Nehru did not pay any attention to the precautionary words uttered by Syama Prasad. Dr. Syama Prasad felt it very well from the beginning that the weak stance taken by Nehru on this particular issue had created a grave crisis. Firstly the Indian army could send the intruders away but Nehru, misguided by Mountbatten, sent the case to the United Nations to keep it as a permanent problem. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, too, did not want it. I. G. Patel wrote: "Pundit Nehru, then, on the advice of Lord Mountbatten, entrusted the question of Kashmir to the UNO."

On the Kashmir issue, Syama Prasad pointed out that we should withdraw the Kashmir case from the UNO and try to settle the matter through our own efforts. The dispute still continues about the one-third territory of Kashmir which is in occupation of the enemy. On August 7, 1952, in the Lok Sabha, Dr. Mookerjee raised the question that "Kashmir is a part of India and we say it. It is so, a part of India today in the occupation of the enemy and we are peace-lovers, no doubt. But peace-lovers to what extent? That we will even allow a portion of our territory to be occupied by the enemy? Is there any possibility of our getting back this territory?" And he gave the answer that "we shall not get it through the efforts of the United Nations; we shall not get it through peaceful methods by negotiations with Pakistan. That means we lose it unless we use force" [Lok Sabha Speech 1952].

Nehru gave a special and separate status to Kashmir. There was no governor there but only 'sadr-i-riasat'. The chief of the cabinet there was known as the prime minister, unlike the chief minister of other states. It had its own constitution, separate ganaparishad, and many safeguards. A permit was necessary to enter into Kashmir. Durga Das Basu wrote: "The state of Jammu and Kashmir holds a peculiar position under the Constitution of India." It was given a special place through Art. 370. Dr. Syama Prasad protested against it strongly. His logic was that if Kashmir was regarded as an Indian province, there could not be any rule of permit and if the rule existed, it should not be regarded as a state within India.

At that time, hoisting tricolour in Kashmir was a crime, and for Abdullah this holy work was illegal. Some patriotic youth opposed the hoisting of the red flag of the National Conference in a sports and prize distribution programme in Prince of Wales College (now, Gandhi Memorial College). Naturally violence against these brave hearts began, and the deputy prime minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed called for a seventy-two hour curfew to arrest supporters of the Praja Parishad. Pt. Premnath Dogra and others were imprisoned overnight in Srinagar and active repression was carried out. In the meantime, Shyamlal Sharma, executive body member Dhanwantar Singh, Chaturram Dogra, Shyamnathji (advocate) and many others escaped from Kashmir to meet Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in Delhi, where the latter criticised the government quite harshly. He also vehemently protested against the anti-national policy of Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah got surprised which resulted in a fast which the students were forced to do. Dr. Mookerjee tried his best to settle the matter. The real scenario of Jammu and Kashmir was clear to the members of the Parliament. Still different laws were made for the state where the national flag was not the tricolour but the red flag of the National Conference and the only slogan was that of the party: 'sadr-i-riasat'. The king was thrown out of the state.

Really, this terrible condition was prevailing in the state which was becoming another nation through the handiwork and reign of Sheikh Abdullah. The whole nation was anxious about the state which the Praja Parishad claimed to announce as part of independent India with the acceptance of the tricolour as its flag, the President of India as its president, the Supreme Court as its highest judicial body, and Hindi as its working language. They also insisted on the abolition of the Art. 370 under which permanence had been denied to the state.

But Abdullah was not an idle administrator; rather he ordered lathi-charge and gunshots wherever and whenever disruptions took place. Nusir fell prey to the claim of the Praja Parishad. Thousands of men and women were imprisoned. Syama Prasad tried to make the things clear to Abdullah and Nehru. But both of them were too obstinate to admit the reality.

Syama Prasad took an oath leading the way for the Jan Sangh in the annual general meeting in Kanpur to free Kashmir with active co-operation from Pt. Premnath Dogra with the slogan, 'one law, one chief, one flag'. Sheikh Abdullah, being the sultan of Kashmir, was not prepared to take the challenge from Syama Prasad, and even Nehru was so indulged in a fatal friendship with Abdullah that he still paid no heed to Syama Prasad's precautionary words. The result was that Syama Prasad was arrested as soon as he stepped into Kashmir and kept under judicial observation in Srinagar. It cannot be asserted whether this was pre-planned as this national tragedy was shrouded in mystery, which was not properly investigated even after an appeal was made by Syama Prasad's mother to Nehru.

Suddenly the curtain came down on the courageous leader Syama Prasad. But Nehru could not keep Abdullah's tricky characteristics a secret; within a month and a half of Syama Prasad's demise, Abdullah was arrested and sent to prison. However, Pt. Nehru had to concede, though not quite clearly, the proposals made by the Kashmir assembly for inclusion in the Republic of India and avoidance of plebiscite. But unfortunately Syama Prasad could not witness even bits and parts of this success. Truly, Syama Prasad fought for unity among the people of India with a life-long dedication of his own self for the service of the mass. He sacrificed himself to the cause of mother India; but none could condone the negligence (if not conspiracy) of Abdullah's government leading to Syama Prasad's death.

In his words: "We believe that imitating other nations India will not prosper. We should need to take good values from other nations but it should also be observed that no race of India has attained greatness by merely aping the others. If we make India into a united whole, the people of India should believe in the Indian tradition and ideals, think Indian civilization and culture as the origin of inspiration. This is applicable both to the Hindus and the non-Hindus of India. The people of India should be Indians mingling all religious and beliefs. Even when there is the religious difference, it is possible. There should be a cultural unity to make an organised united race. No difference of opinion should be there in terms of ideals and future aims of the national civilization which is certainly a continuation of ancient pride in our tradition and culture."

(The writer teaches in Vishwa Bharati University, Kolkata)



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