Dr. Mookerjee and Kashmir – Essay of Prof. Bal Raj Madhok

 Dr. Mookerjee and Kashmir –  Essay of Prof. Bal Raj Madhok

Source: “Eminent Parliamentarians Monograph Series – Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee” – Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, 1990

Prof. Bal Raj Madhok, a former Member of Parliament, was a close associate of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Hailing from Skardu, he was instrumental in launching the Jammu Praja Parishad in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir for representing the interests of Jammu Hindus. Later on, he became closely associated with Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and eventually rose to become the president of Mookerjee’s Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He led Jana Sangh to a historical performance in the general elections of 1967 against the strong regime of Indira Gandhi at the centre. The essay authored by him on Dr. Mookerjee in the “Eminent Parliamentarians Monograph Series” is as follows:

“Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee (July 6, 1901-June 23, 1953) was one of the greatest scholars, statesmen and parliamentarians of India. He played a very important role in our national life at a crucial period of our history and left an indelible mark on Indian politics and polity.

Dr. Mookerjee began his public career as Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1934. He was the youngest Vice-Chancellor of that university which then covered the whole of Assam, Bengal and Orissa. He was the architect of the coalition of Nationalist Party and Krishak Praja Party of Fazl-ul-Haq, which ousted Muslim League from power in 1940 and gave the united Bengal a spell of nationalist government. He resigned in 1942, from the Fazl-ul-Haq ministry, in which he was Finance Minister, to take up cudgels against Lord Linlithgow, the then Governor General of India who had let loose a reign of terror in the wake of Quit India movement. Since all the top Congress leaders had been put in prisons, it fell on Dr. Mookerjee to act as the spokesmen of nationalist India in those difficult days. His services to the suffering humanity of Bengal in the man-made famine of 1943 brought him on the national stage and endeared him to the whole country.

Dr. Mookerjee then took over the leadership of Hindu Mahasabha and put forward the case for united India before the Cabinet Mission with convincing facts and logic. But the ground slipped under his feet when he was told by Lord Pethic Lawrence that the Congress had already accepted the partition of the country, in principle, through its Poona Resolution, which concluded with the ominous declaration that the Congress will not “coerce any unwilling part to remain in India”.

According to the original scheme of partition, the whole of Punjab and Bengal were to be given to Pakistan. Dr. Mookerjee then bent his energies to save the Hindu majority parts of Punjab and Bengal. He could legitimately claim that while “Jinnah partitioned India, I partitioned Pakistan”.

He was elected to the Constituent Assembly of. India in 1946 and was inducted to the first National Government formed on 15 August 1947, as Minister of Industry and Commerce. His role as a Minister in the formative years of free India is well-known. It was he who laid the foundation of the Industrial Policy of India.

The most glorious phase in the life of Dr. Mookerjee began on 8 April, 1950, when he resigned from the Cabinet on the issue of policy towards Pakistan. He was the first Cabinet Minister of free India to kick the chair on a matter of policy. He, thus, acted in the best traditions of Parliamentary democracy and set an example for others to emulate.

After resigning from the Government, he set about forming a nationalist and rightist alternative to the ruling Congress party, which was being converted into a leftist party by Pandit Nehru after the demise of Sardar Patel. 8hartiya Jan Sangh, his greatest gift to the country, came into existence on 21 October 1951, under his leadership, as the result of his own efforts.

Dr. Mookerjee was elected to the First Lok Sabha as a Jan Sangh candidate from South Calcutta. Within a month of his election, he united the Jan Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad, Gana Tantra Parishad and some independent members of the Lok Sabha, on the basis of a common programme, to form a National Democratic Party (NDP). This was the first attempt at the polarisation of political forces in the country on ideological basis. As a result of coming into existence of the NDP, which at that time was the largest party in the opposition, Dr. Mookerjee made his mark as an effective leader of Opposition and a potential alternative to Pandit Nehru.

Being an intellectual giant that he was, with vast administrative experience and grasp of parliamentary nuances, he began to be feared by the then treasury benches. He had a specific point of view on all national and international issues. But the issues on which he concentrated most were those pertaining to the integration of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India, the rate of Hindus left behind in Pakistan and the plight of Hindu refugees from across the border.

Dr. Mookerjee took up Kashmir issue first and after tackling it, had planned to take up the issue of Hindus of East Bengal. The providence, however, willed otherwise.

He devoted the last fifteen months of his life mainly to the task of integration with India of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah’s separatist policies and the resentment they created among the people of Jammu and Ladakh in particular and all nationalists in general, impelled him to give priority to Kashmir. His approach to Kashmir issue and efforts that he made for a national and rational solution need to be recalled because the situation in Kashmir today has become even more explosive then it was In 1952.

It was the Kashmir issue which first brought me in touch with Dr. Mookerjee in 1948 after my externment from Jammu and Kashmir State by the Abdullah government tor my role as the General Secretary of the Jammu & KaIhrNr Praia Parishad which was committed to the full integration of the State with India, with autonomy for Jammu and Ladakh.

I got a sympathetic response from Sardar Patea who told me: “Balraj, you are trying to convince a convinced man. But I can do nothing because Pandit Nehru has kept Kashmir under his direct charge”. Dr. Mookerjee was the only Cabinet Minister who evinced keen interest in the developing situation in Kashmir and the popular feeling in Jammu. After his resignation from the Cabinet, he visited Jammu and Srinagar for an on-the-spot study of the situation. He met Sheikh Abdullah, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra and the common people. His experience convinced him about the dangerous implications of Abdullah’s policies for the unity of the country and democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Ladakh. He, therefore, decided to take up the matter in a big way, both inside and outside the Parliament.

Dr. Mookerjee made a powerful plea for rethinking about Kashmir in his speech delivered in the Lok Sabha on 26 Jun3 1952. He began his historic speech with an appeal to Prime Minister Nehru “to have some patience with those who differ from his policy in relation to Kashmir. It is no use our throwing stones at each other. It is no use our calling each other communalist and reactionary. He should realise that on certain points there are fundamental differences between his approach and what we consider to be the national approach regarding this problem”.

Dr. Mookerjee dwelt at length on article 370 of the Constitution in his speeches. He traced the history of integration of the States, how they all had acceded to the three subjects–defence, foreign affairs and communications–in the first instance, and how Sardar Patel had persuaded the princes to accept the federal structure in which all the units would be on par, in all matters and subjects. He then quoted at length from the speech of N. Gopalaswami Ayyanagar before the Constituent Assembly when he moved the motion for the insertion of article 370 in the Constitution and asked: “How is Kashmir going to be integrated with India? Is Kashmir going to be a republic within a republic? Are we thinking of another sovereign Parliament within the four comers of India, barring this sovereign Parliament?” He warned: “If you just want to play with the winds and say we are helpless and let Sheikh Abdullah do what he likes, then Kashmir would be lost. I say this with great deliberation that Kashmir would be lost“.

Dr. Mookerjee then referred to the white paper of the Government in regard to the Indian States and quoted, as to what Sardar Patel had said about the basis, the background and the necessity of fully integrating aIl the acceding States, with no special rights, and asked: “Are not the people of Jammu and Kashmir entitled to the fundamental rights that we have given to the people of India minus Jammu ana Kashmir? Who made Sheikh Abdullah the King of Kings in Kashmir? It is because Indian troops went there. Did we do it for creating a·sovereign republic within a sovereign republic? There is no scope for varied constitutional patterns and disparities between one federating unit and another”, he added.

He concluded .his historic speech with a constructive suggestion which is as relevant today as it was in 1952. The suggestion was: “Prime Minister must fully assert that we do not want this kind of Kashmiri nationalism. We do not want this sovereign ‘Kashmir idea. If you start doing it in Kashmir, others also will demand it” As a via media, he ” suggested: “If Sheikh Abdullah insists upon a limited accession by Kashmir, then at any rate, let us devise a scheme by which the people of Jammu and Ladakh may have the full liberty whether they will or will not integrate fully“.

The Jammu and Kashmir Praja Parishad launched a peaceful satyagraha in support of its demand for full integration of the State with India and grant of autonomy for its three regions—Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Its leadership looked towards Dr. Mookerjee for guidance and support.

Before taking any decision, he tried to persuade Prime Minister Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah to consider the demands of Praja Parishad, sympathetically. Dr. Mookerjee exchanged a number of letters with both of them between 9 January and 23 February, 1953. This correspondence, which was later published in a book form, is the most authentic record of Dr. Mookerjee’s sustained efforts to find a realistic, nationalistic and lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.

The crux of the stand taken by Dr. Mookerjee is to be found in his letter to Pandit Nehru written on 3 February 1953. He wrote that ‘the issue of accession of State of Jammu & Kashmir to India should not be allowed to hang fire. A final decision about this State vis-a-vis the rest of India. and of Jammu and Ladakh regions vis-a-vis Kashmir valley, must be taken at the earliest’.

Instead of giving a straight reply, Pandit Nehru condemned the Praja Parishad and its approach as communal and destructive. He pointed out the international complications that it might create. This impelled Dr. Mookerjee to write another letter on 8 February, in which he touched upon the demand of Praja Parishad that the entire State should be governed by the same Constitution that applies to the rest of India and asked:

“Is there anything communal or reactionary or anti-national about it? If India’s Constitution is good enough for the rest of India, why should it not be acceptable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir…. It is amazing how the ·move for separatism pursued by Sheikh Abdullah and his colleagues is being applauded by you as national and patriotic and the genuine desire on the part of Praja Parishad to secure the fundamental unity and integrity of India and to be governed as common Indian citizens is being dubbed as treacherous”

Refuting the charge of communalism levelled against him, Dr. Mookerjee appealed to Pandit Nehru:

Think in your cool moments how in your life history, your failure to stand against Muslim communalism in India has resulted in disastrous consequences. Perhaps you and others followed a policy of concession and appeasement with the highest motive but in ultimate and, the country came to be partitioned against your own repeated declarations to the contrary. At that time, a factor of very great importance which worked against us was the existence of an alien power which wanted to function on the policy of divide and rule. If today we want to be cautious and avoid the tragic follies of the past. we do so in the highest interests of the country and not for any narrow communal ends or for any sectarian interests“.

With regard to Pandit Nehru’s repeated references to possible international complications as a result of the movement for the full integration of the State, Dr. Mookerjee wrote to him in the same letter:

No one today could claim that your handling of the Kashmir problem has enhanced our international prestige or has won for us wide international support and sympathy. On the other hand, your policy in this behalf has added to complications both at home and abroad. Statesmanship requires that you. should re-examine the whole matter dispassionately and instead of being haunted by false internationalism, firmly create conditions for
national solidarity based on a fair adjustment of different viewpoints and interests. If you succeed in this, it will give you greater strength and prestige even in international dealings

He concluded this letter with the following moving words:

While we disagree on some vital matters, we are children of the same mother and with little good-will and tolerance on both sides, we should have been able to avoid a serious cleavage“.

When all his efforts to persuade Pandit Nehru to adopt a realistic policy failed, Dr. Mookerjee decided to visit Jammu to demonstrate his solidarity with the patriotic people who were undergoing great sufferings for the cause of national unity. He left Delhi for Jammu in mid-May, soon after the Budget Session of Parliament was over. He was arrested by the Kashmir police as he crossed half-way the Madhopur bridge on the Ravi. He was arrested on the soil of Jammu, with a view to keep him out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. He was then taken to Srinagar and kept in detention in a small cottage, ten miles away from there. Barrister U.M. Trivedi, his colleague in the Lok Sabha, moved a habeas corpus petition in the Kashmir High Court at Srinagar. Justice Kilm heard the case on 23 June. Judgement was to be delivered the next day. Trivedi was confident that the petition would be accepted and Dr. Mookerjee would be set at liberty. By that time, Dr. Mookerjee had been shifted to the State Hospital in Srinagar. Trivedi went straight to the hospital from the court and was with Dr. Mookerjee till 7 p.m. He found him in good health and high spirits. After Trivedi returned to this hotel, some injection was given to Dr. Mookerjee by one Dr. Ali Jan. It had a disastrous effect. Dr. Mookerjee expired around 11 p.m. Demand for a judicial enquiry into his mysterious death was forcefully raised in Parliament by leaders of all political parties, including the Congress. But Pandit Nehru refused to accept the demand. As a result, the truth about his death never came out officially. I, however, made detailed enquiries at Srinagar about the circumstances of his death. It led me to the conclusion that it was a ‘medical murder’ and not a natural death. I have dealt with this whole affair in detail in my biography on Dr. Mookerjee “Portrait of a Martyr”.

The highest tribute that a nation can pay to Dr. Mookerjee at this juncture when separatist and secessionist forces are on the rampage in Kashmir and a real threat to the national unity has emerged, is to pay heed to what Dr. Mookerjee had suggested for the integration of Kashmir with the rest of India and for tackling related issues.

Dr. Mookerjee was the first martyr in the cause of national unity after freedom of truncated India. He died so that Kashmir could be fully integrated with the rest of India. Let his martyrdom not go in vain.”

Sandhya Krishnan

Sandhya Krishnan is a Chennai based finance professional who is extremely passionate about history and literature.

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