On July 6th 1901 Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangha was born in Kolkata (then Calcutta).
Dr. Mookerjee was born into a Bengali, Hindu family and his father Ashutosh Mukherjee was a well known and highly respected advocate in Bengal, who later went on to become the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. In his early years, Dr. Mookerjee was an introvert and an emotional person and, later in his life, was seriously affected by the untimely death of his wife.
Dr. Mookerjee obtained a degree in English from the University of Calcutta in 1921 securing a first position in his class. He later went on to do a Masters and a Bachelor of Law (BL) in 1924. Dr. Mookerjee enrolled as a member of the senate in 1923 and signed up as an advocate in the Calcutta High Court a year later in 1924. In 1926, Dr. Mookerjee left for England to study law at Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister in 1927. He was the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta at the age of 33 and was in office till 1938.
Dr. Mookerjee began his political career in 1929 when he joined the Bengal Legislative Council as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University. Dr. Mookerjee was elected as a member of the Legislative Council of Bengal, but he later resigned from his post when the Congress decided to boycott the legislature. Following this, he contested in the elections as an independent candidate and won. From 1941-1942, Dr. Mookerjee was the Finance Minister of the Bengal Province.
Dr. Mookerjee was the opposition leader when the Krishak Praja Party - a Muslim coalition was in power from 1937-1941. He then joined the coalition ministry headed by Fazul Haq as a Finance Minister, but resigned within an year.
Dr. Mookerjee joined the Hindu Mahasabha, eventually becoming its president in 1944. Following this, he became a passionate spokesman for Hindus and was of the opinion that they needed to oppose the All India Muslim League headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who were demanding equal rights for Muslims, or a separate Muslim state of Pakistan.
Dr. Mookerjee strongly believed that Hindus needed to be protected from communal propaganda and the alienating agenda of the Muslim League. He and his followers stated that it was because of Hindus being tolerant and respectful that Muslims enjoyed a prosperous and safe life in India.
Initially, Dr. Mookerjee was a strong opponent of Partition, but after witnessing the communal riots in 1947, he was not in favour of Hindus living in a Muslim majority area, controlled by the Muslim League.
In 1946, Dr. Mookerjee supported the cause of the partition of Bengal according to religious lines so as to avoid Hindu-majority areas falling into Muslim-dominated East Pakistan (which later became Bangladesh). He also opposed the idea of a united Bengal proposed by Sarat Bose (brother of Subhash Chandra Bose). Following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse in January 1948, the Hindu Mahasabha was blamed for it and became extremely unpopular.
After the Independence of India in 1947, Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India commissioned Mookerjee in the Interim Central Government as a Minister for Industry and Supply. Later Dr. Mookerjee resigned from the cabinet in April 1950 since he was against Nehru inviting then Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan to India regarding the 1950 Delhi Pact. Prime Ministers of both nations wanted to meet and establish a minority commission to safeguard the rights and interests of minorities in both countries. Dr. Mookerjee wanted Pakistan to be blamed for the arrival of Hindus from East Pakistan who fled their homes fearing violence and oppression at the hands of Muslims in East Pakistan.
Dr. Mookerjee and Pt. Nehru had contrasting opinions about the condition of Hindus in East Pakistan and Dr. Mookerjee wanted India to go to war against Pakistan, or, if not war, ask East Pakistan to give up one third of their territory to rehabilitate Hindu refugees who had fled to India from there. It was too late for Dr. Mookerjee’s demand to be met, since the Nehru-Liaqat pact had been signed.
On October 21st 1951, Dr. Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the BJS, in short, which is today the Bharatiya Janata Party) and became its first president. In 1952, the Jana Sangh (BJS) won 3 seats in Parliament in the 1952 elections. The BJS was close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in principle and was looked as the political arm of Hindu Nationalism. The BJS favoured a free market economy as opposed to socialist policies proposed by Pt. Nehru. The party also propagated a uniform civil code for both Hindus and Muslims, a ban on cow slaughter and an end of the special status given to the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee has left behind a strong legacy and is considered to be the founding father of Hindu nationalism in India.
Also On This Day:
1927 - Great Marathi writer Vyankatesh Dingambar Madgulkar is born.
1930 - Balmurlikrishna, famous singer, is born.
1986 - Babu Jagjivan Ram, valiant freedom fighter, passes away.