Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (1901–1953) was the son of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee (1864–1924), renowned as ‘Banglar Bagh’ or the ‘Tiger of Bengal’. Ashutosh Mukherjee was a great educationist who had helped found many educational institutions like the Bengal Technical Institute, College of Science, University College of Law, and the Calcutta Mathematical Society, and had served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta during 1906–1914.

Following in his father’s illustrious footsteps, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta at the age of 33 in 1934, and remained in that post till 1938. He was an eloquent speaker.

He was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1929, and again in 1937. Disenchanted with the Congress, he joined the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939, along with NC Chatterjee. He was sworn in as Finance Minister of Bengal in 1941. He was elected as the first Indian President of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1943. He was the Minister for Industry and Supply in Nehru’s cabinet after independence, and joined the Congress. His performance was outstanding: Chittaranjan Locomotive Factory, Hindustan Aircraft Factory, and Sindri Fertilizer Works started under his leadership.

But for his joint efforts, there would have been no Bengal in India—the whole of it would have gone to Pakistan: he ensured the partition of Bengal in 1947.

He deplored Nehru’s handling of the East Bengal refugee problem and the Kashmir issue, and had serious differences with him. He opposed the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950 (Blunder#48), and in protest resigned from the cabinet, and left the Congress. He co-founded the Bhartiya Jan Sangh on 21 October 1951, and became its first President.

On Kashmir, Dr Mukherjee wrote forthrightly to Nehru on various occasion in 1953:
“One common feature of your speeches has been and is the abundance of abuses and vituperation which you have poured forth on those who differ from you. You have ascribed us all sorts of base motives and have even dubbed us as betrayers of the country’s interests. I have no desire to emulate you in this respect… [On communalism] This is most unfair charge and unconsciously you have been recently indulging in such attacks only to hide the weakness of your case. Our approach to the [Kashmir] problem is actuated by highest national and patriotic considerations… You will forgive me if I fail to appreciate your repeated reference to possible international complications as a result of Jammu movement. No one today will claim that your handling of the Kashmir problem has enhanced our international prestige or has won us wide international support or sympathy. On the other hand, your policy in this behalf has added to complications both at home and abroad…”

He opposed Article 370 related to J&K (Dr Ambedkar, Sardar Patel and others too had expressed their disapproval of it), and opposed the decision to grant Kashmir a special status with its own flag and Prime Minister, and according to which, no one, including the President of India, could enter into Kashmir without the permission of Kashmir’s Prime Minister! He coined a slogan: “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur do Nishan nahi challenge” (A single country can’t have two constitutions, two prime ministers, and two national emblems).

Wrote historian Makkhan Lal: “Strange as it may sound, the peoples’ demand for complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with Indian Union and for one Constitution, one Flag and one Prime Minister should have been judged as ‘treason to the country’. Those who violated each and every agreement, who behaved treacherously and who made a mockery of Indian Constitution should have been called a ‘nationalist’! Only Jawaharlal Nehru could have done it.”

In protest, Dr Mukherjee tried to enter Kashmir on 11 May 1953, but was arrested at the border, and was lodged in a run-down, dilapidated structure by the then PM(!!) of J&K Sheikh Abdullah! Reportedly, all this was in the knowledge of Nehru.

Atal Behari Vajpayee, ex-PM, had accompanied (as a journalist) Dr Mukherjee up to the point he was arrested. He alleged in 2004: “When Mukherjee decided to violate the permit rule by entering J&K without a permit, we thought the Punjab government would arrest him and prevent him from proceeding further. However, that did not happen… Later, we came to know that the J&K government and Nehru government had entered into a conspiracy, as per which it was decided that Mukherjee would be allowed to enter J&K but not be allowed to leave…”

Vajpayee alleged the then Nehru government feared that if Mukherjee was not allowed to enter J&K, questions would be raised on integration of the state with the country, which had several drawbacks, and therefore “the J&K government was told that he should not be allowed to come back”.

Even the British had not treated the Congress freedom fighters, especially the Gandhian leadership, in such an abject manner (Blunder#13) as the Free-India treated Dr Mukherjee. Dr Mukherjee was held in detention for 42 days without bringing any charges or holding a trial. During that period dignitaries like Dr Radhakrishnan, Maulana Azad and Nehru visited Srinagar, but none bothered to meet Dr Mukherjee. Maulana Azad and Nehru were in Srinagar during 16-21 May 1953. So much for Nehru being considerate, cultured and humane!

Dr Mukherjee was already not in good health, and such deliberately inhuman treatment exacerbated his dry pleurisy and coronary (heart) troubles. So callous and cruel was the attitude of the J&K government and Sheikh Abdullah (and Nehru must have been fully aware of the goings on) that Dr Mukherjee was taken to a hospital full month and a half after his arrest! And, so careless and improper was the treatment that he was administered penicillin, even though he had informed the doctor-in-charge of his allergy to penicillin. Couldn’t Nehru have flown-in heart-specialists, or shifted him to New Delhi! Poor Dr Mukherjee, he succumbed to the ill- treatment on 23 June 1953.

Such a major death, and that too in government custody, and yet no Enquiry Commission was set up, despite demands. Nehru stated dismissively that he had made enquiries, and was satisfied there was no wrong-doing. Was he a detective? Such an immature comment from a PM! And, if there was no wrong-doing, he could have let an Enquiry Commission establish it. An enquiry into Dr Mukherjee’s death was demanded by stalwarts like Bengal CM BC Roy, MR Jayakar, PD Tandon, MV Kamath, H Kunjru, Sucheta Kripalani, NC Chatterjee, and Atulya Ghosh; and also by Ms Jogmaya Devi, mother of Dr Mookerjee, but Nehru obstinately turned a deaf ear. Several prominent personalities protested Nehru not conducting an enquiry, but Nehru was unmoved.

Disgusted, Ms Jogmaya Devi, mother of Dr Mookerjee, finally wrote to Nehru:
“It is futile to address to you further. You are afraid to face facts. I hold the Kashmir government responsible for the death of my son. I accuse your government of complicity in the matter. You may let loose your mighty resources to carry on a desperate propaganda, but truth is sure to find its way out and one day you will have to answer this to the people of India and to God in Heaven.”

It was not democracy, it was an autocracy under Nehru. There have been numerous major instances during the Nehruvian era where cases that could adversely affect Nehru’s image or that of his government were either not taken cognizance of, or not booked, or enquiries were not conducted.

And, if so done under public pressure, the same were subsequently scuttled. And, where they could not be scuttled, their reports were suppressed, or kept classified, like the Henderson-Brooks/Bhagat Report on the 1962 India- China War debacle. Such things are impossible in the current media age. Had even 5% of the current media existed then, Nehru would have stood exposed much earlier in his term.

Significantly, within three months of Dr Mukherjee’s martyrdom, Nehru had eggs all over his face: Sheikh Abdullah had to be unseated and locked in jail!

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