Independent India’s First Martyr for National Integration

Independent India’s First Martyr for National Integration

 

Today is 23rd June. Exactly sixty years ago, in 1953, on this day the country received from J & K State the heart-breaking news that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji was no more. 

I vividly remember how that night around 2.00 AM or so I got up from sleep when I heard the sound of someone wailing and weeping just outside our Jana Sangh office at Jaipur, and shouting  at  the top of his voice “Advani ji, they have killed our Dr. Mookerji !”. It was a local journalist who had got the news on his ticker and so, unable to restrain himself rushed to our office to share his sense of shock with me.

The news was a shock for millions. Earlier, during the year Dr. Syama Prasad’s newly launched party, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, had had its first All India Session at Kanpur. I had the privilege of being one of the delegates from Rajasthan who attended this session. It was here  that Dr. Mookerji had given to the thousands of delegates assembled at Phool Bagh this scintillating slogan - “Ek desh mein do pradhan, do nishan, do vidhan, nahin chalenge, nahin chalenge” (Ours is one country: we can’t have here two Presidents, two Flags, and two Constitutions.)

It was at Kanpur that the party resolved to launch its first nationwide movement – for the complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir State with India. Dr. Mookerji decided to lead the movement from the front – by personally defying the permit system introduced by Sheikh Abdullah. He also decided to go to different parts of the country to mobilize public opinion in support of the movement. In this pre-campaign rail tour of his, he asked Shri Vajpayee to accompany him.

I was at Kota, in Rajasthan, those days. When I learnt that Dr. Mookerji and Atalji were passing through Kota Junction, I met them at the station. I could never have imagined that that was destined to be the last time, I would be seeing this great founder of our party, Dr. Syama Prasad.

On May 8, 1953, Dr. Mookerji left Delhi for Punjab en route to Jammu. At Amritsar, a massive crowd of over 20,000 gave him a rousing reception. His journey from Amritsar to Pathankot, and thence to Madhopur also was like a victory procession. Madhopur is a small town some twelve kms. away from the army cantonment of Pathankot. Madhopur is situated on the banks of the Ravi, the river that separates Punjab from Jammu and Kashmir State. Dr. Mookerji accompanied by Atalji boarded a jeep to cross the bridge over the Ravi in order to enter Jammu-Kashmir. Midway on the bridge, the jeep was halted by a posse of J&K policemen and Dr. Mookerji was asked whether he had a permit with him. Dr. Mookerji replied in the negative, and said that under the Indian Constitution every Indian citizen had a right to travel to any part of the country. When the police arrested him, he said to Vajpayeeji: “Please go back and tell the people that I have entered Jammu and Kashmir State without a permit, though as a prisoner.”

 

 It is noteworthy that at Pathankot, senior police officials of Punjab had called on Dr. Syama Prasad and told him that they had instructions from the Punjab Government that even if Dr. Mookerji did not have a permit with him he may be allowed to go past Madhopur on to the bridge.

Evidently, this was a joint operation of the Union Government as well as the J&K State Government that Dr. Mookerji should be kept a prisoner in J&K State, and not in Punjab.

The upshot of this planned operation was a devastating calamity for the country. On June 23, 1953 the nation was shocked to learn that Dr. Mookerji, who had been kept in detention in a house at Srinagar had suddenly fallen ill, and after a brief illness had passed away ! 

Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Congress Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Mookerji’s venerable mother Smt Jogomaya Devi, and many many more eminent citizens from all parts of the country flooded the Prime Minister’s office with telegrams, letters etc. expressing not just their shock and anguish but urging that an immediate enquiry be ordered as to how the tragedy had happened. The nation’s anguish elicited no response.  The death of this titan remains a mystery till today. In other similar situations, a formal enquiry has almost invariably been instituted. But not in this case. One cannot say whether it was just criminal insensitivity, or actually a feeling of guilt !

 

However, the intense public indignation aroused by the passing away of Dr. Mookerji in suspicious circumstances triggered off a series of developments in the next few months which significantly promoted the process of national integration.

First and foremost, the permit system was abolished.

Until this time, neither the Supreme Court, nor the Election Commission, nor the Comptroller and Auditor General had any jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir State. The authority of these three constitutional bodies was extended to the State. Till then, the Chief Minister of the State was called the Prime Minister, and the Head of State the Sadar-e-Riyasat. In theory, thus, neither the President nor the Prime Minister of the Union had authority over the State.

Dr. Mookerji’s martyrdom brought about a change in this situation also. Sheikh Abdullah became Chief Minister, Sadar-e-Riyasat became Governor, and the President and P.M.’s formal authority got extended to Jammu and Kashmir State also.

In a way, of the three strands in the inspiring slogan, two pradhans became one, and though two nishans continue still, the National Tricolour started flying in the State in a superior position.

Besides, two Prime Ministers became one, two Apex Courts became one, two Election authorities became one, two principal Auditors became one – all because of Dr. Syama Prasad’s sacrifice.

 

 

The country eagerly awaits the day when Art. 370 would be repealed, and the two vidhans also would become one !

Latest News