On July 6th 1901 Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangha was born in Kolkata (then Calcutta).
Dr. Mokherjee 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.Mokherjee was an introvert and an emotional person and later in his life was seriously affected by the untimely death of his wife.
Mookherjee 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. Mokherjee 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 Mookherjee left for England to study law at Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister in 1927. At the age of 33, he was the youngest Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta and was in office till 1938.
Dr.Mookherjee began his political career in 1929 when he joined the Bengal Legislative Council as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University. Mookherjee was elected as a member of the Legislative Council of Bengal as an Indian National Congress Candidate representing Calcutta University, but resigned from his post when the Congress decided to boycott the legislature. Following that he contested in the elections as an independent candidate and got elected. From 1941-1942 Mookherjee was the Finance Minister of Bengal Province.
Mookherjee 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 a year.
Mokherjee 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 separatist Muslim League headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who were demanding equal rights for Muslims, or a separate Muslim state of Pakistan.
Mookherjee strongly believed that Hindus needed to be protected from communal propaganda and the alienating agenda of the Muslim League. He and his followers quoted that it was because of Hindus being tolerant and respectful that Muslims enjoyed a prosperous and safe life in India. The Hindu Mahasabha soon changes their views when a mobs belonging to the Muslim League killed a large number of Hindus in East Bengal.
Initially Dr. Mookherjee 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 Mokherjee supported the partition of Bengal according to religious lines so to avoid Hindus 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 Mookherjee in the Interim Central Government as a Minister for Industry and Supply. Later Mookherjee resigned from the cabinet in April 1950 since he was agisnt 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. Mookherjee 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. Mookherjee and Nehru had contrasting opinions about the condition of Hindus in East Pakistan and Mookherjee wanted India to go to war against Pakistan, or of not war then ask East Pakistan to give up one third of their territory to rehabilitate Hindu refugees who’d fled to India from there. It was too late for Mokherjee’s demand to be met since the Nehru-Liaqat pact had been signed.
On October 21st 1951 Mookherji founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (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 principles and was looked at as the political arm of Hindu Nationalism. The BJS favoured a free market economy as opposed to socialist policies proposed by Nehru. The party also propagated a uniform civil code for both Hindus and Muslims, a ban on cow slaughter and end the special status given to Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mookherjee opposed the decision of the Indian National Congress when they decided to give Kashmir a special status with its own flag and Prime Minister. According to this new move, no one could enter Kashmir without the permission of the Prime Minister of Kashmir. Mookherjee opposed this strongly and went to Kashmir in 1953 to proceed on a hunger strike to protest against this decision. Upon crossing the border into Kashmir he was arrested and put under arrest in a derelict house. Since Mookherjee was suffering from various health issues at that time, including coronary troubles he was taken to a hospital for treatment. Despite the doctors being told Mookherjee was allergic to Penicillin; he was administer a dose of the same and died on June 23rd 1953. There are several conspiracy theories around his death, and there were rumours that he was poisoned upon the orders of Nehru and Sheikh Abdulla. No post mortem was conducted after his death and all requests for an inquiry into his death by Mookherjee’s family were ignored by Nehru. Later in 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee stated that Mookherjee’s death was a “Nehru Conspiracy”.Dr, Syama Prasad Mookherjee has left behind a strong legacy and is considered to be the founding father of Hindu nationalism in India.
Also on This Day:
1927: Vyankatesh Dingambar Madgulkar, great Marathi story writer and novelist, was born.
1930: Balmurlikrishna, famous singer, was born.
1986: Babu Jagjivan Ram, valiant freedom fighter, passed away