Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee : The Hindutva Icon Who Betrayed the Freedom Struggle of India
Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee (1901-1953) is a prominent Hindutva icon for the RSS/BJP camp. It was he who, on the advice of M.S. Golwalkar, founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) in 1951 and became the first president of the political arm of the RSS. He died in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on 23 June 1953, when he was under arrest. His death is mourned every year as 'End Article 370 Day' and 'Save Kashmir Day'.
This year too, meetings were organized to highlight the 'sacrifice' of Dr Mukherjee for Jammu and Kashmir. L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi addressed gatherings at Delhi and Madhopur, Punjab, respectively. Dr Mukherjee was lauded as a great nationalist and patriot. Advani in his blog (http://blog.lkadvani.in/blog-in-english/salutations-to-a-great-martyr ) on 23 June 2013, under the title SALUTATIONS TO A GREAT MARTYR, apart from giving details of Dr Mukherjee's founding of the BJS, the Kashmir campaign, his arrest at Madhopur and subsequent death at the state hospital in Srinagar, declared him to be 'a great leader' and a 'great patriot right from his birth'. He went on to add that 'We in the BJP owe our position in India's politics to the sacrifices and exertions of thousands who have preceded us, and above all to the vision and martyrdom of Dr. Mukherjee.'
On the same day, Narendra Modi wrote the following, which was reproduced in the blog of Advani:
"Today we remember the great Syama Prasad Mukherjee, a statesman, thinker and a patriot who devoted his life towards strengthening national integration. The founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, he left us on this day exactly 59 years back in 1953…Remembering him, Advaniji has penned a heart-touching blog today "SALUTATIONS TO A GREAT MARTYR!" which I would like to share with you."
The rhetoric of these two 'Iron Men' of the RSS/BJP camp needs to be cross- checked with the contemporary documents available. Perusal of these documents clearly shows that the claim that Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee was a 'great leader' and a 'great patriot right from his birth' is a farce. Dr Mukherjee did not participate in the Freedom Struggle launched to liberate India from British rule. If patriotism means being part of the Freedom Struggle and making sacrifices, Dr Mukherjee not only kept aloof from it but also betrayed it by siding with the British rulers and the Muslim League. He was a great votary of the partition of Bengal on the eve of India's independence.
In pre-Independence times he was a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, which was led by V.D. Savarkar. When in 1942 during the Quit India movement the British rulers were asked to quit India, they responded to this mass movement by unleashing a reign of terror. While hundreds of people died in police firings, the Hindu Mahasabha, with the Muslim League led by M.A. Jinnah, ran coalition governments in Sind, Bengal and NWFP. This is corroborated by the following words of 'Veer' Savarkar (from his presidential speech to the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942): – "In practical politics also the Mahasabha knows that we must advance through reasonable compromises. Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition Government. The case of Bengal is well known. Wild Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissiveness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and sociable as soon as they came in contact with the HM and the Coalition Government, under the premiership of Mr Fazlul Huq and the able lead of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities."
In Sind, the Hindu Mahasabha entered into an alliance with the Muslim League and formed the government after the great secular prime minister (at that time chief ministers were designated prime ministers) Allah Baksh was dismissed by the British Governor for his support to the Quit India Movement. He headed the Ittehad (unity) Party government. It was a mass based secular party consisting of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs which did not allow the Muslim League to enter Sind, a Muslim majority province. He was murdered by Muslim League goons in 1943. Later on a coalition government between the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha was formed in NWFP also.
In a more shocking development, the Hindu Mahasabha of Dr Mukherjee decided to help the British rulers in World War II. It was the time when Subhash Chandra Bose, known as Netaji, was organizing the INA (Azad Hind Fauj) in a military campaign to force the British out. The extent to which the Hindu Mahasabha was willing to help the British masters is clear from the following directive issued by Savarkar as President of the Mahasabha:
"So far as India's defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation, with the war effort of the Indian government in so far as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number as possible and by securing an entry into all ordnance, ammunition and war craft factories…. Again it must be noted that Japan's entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain's enemies. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government's war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute." [Cited in V.D. Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p. 460]
The Hindu Mahasabha was in direct contact with the then British Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief of the British armed forces for organizing resources, both human and material, for the British war effort. It organized armed forces recruitment camps. Savarkar even called upon all those Hindus who had offered to join British armed forces to "be perfectly amenable and obedient to the military discipline and order which may prevail there provided always that the latter do not deliberately aim to humiliate Hindu Honour." [Cited inA.S. Bhide (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President's Diary of his Propagandist Tours, Interviews from December 1937 to October1941, na, Bombay, 1940, p. xxviii]
It may not be out of place to say here that I posted a comment on Advani's blog referring to Dr Mukherjee's participation in a Muslim League government in Bengal, as narrated by Savarkar, on 23 June 2013 at 9.14 a.m., requesting his comments. In a short while it was removed. I reposted it at 10.43 but the same story was repeated. But my comment re-appeared on 26 June, again without any response. It is true that the blog belongs to theRSS/BJP leader, Advani, and that he has the absolute right to decide what appears on it. However, I feel that since he had made statements he should have responded to my query, 'Was Dr. Mukherjee a patriot for a democratic- secular India?' His silence suggests to me that he knows that bluff has its limitations.
It is not that I am unsympathetic. Even a master of sophistry cannot deal with the contradiction that the Hindu Mahasabha helped to run provinces for the British rulers precisely when a much larger number of Indians was asking the British to leave India. Even Advani cannot explain away the eagerness of Dr Mukherjee's mentor, Savarkar, to aid the British war effort when countless Indians so badly wanted 'the Jewel in the [British] Crown' to be their own land again that Subhash Bose even undertook military action. We should never forget that when the Hindu Mahasabha led by Savarkar and Dr Mukherjee was facilitating the colonial masters' war efforts, the freedom fighters were raising the slogan, "na ek bhai, na ek pai" (not a man, not a paisa for the War).
Finally, as a student of Indian politics and history, I request Advani to reveal the source of his information that Dr. Mukherjee was a 'great patriot right from his birth', about which no one else knows anything. I have been denied a response by Advani in his blog but am hopeful that this write-up will secure an explanation from the RSS patriarch to enrich the nation's memory about Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee.
[With thanks to Mr Mukul Dube for suggestions]
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