Hindutva icon SP Mookerjee empowered Muslim League, did not protest Art 370
Dr Shamsul Islam
Former Faculty, Political Science, Delhi University
S P Mookerjee colluded with Muslim League to support British rule in crushing Quit India Movement
Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee (1901-1953) is a prominent Hindutva icon for the RSS/BJP brigade. It was he who, on the advice of M.S. Golwalkar, the second chief of RSS and its most prominent ideologue, in 1951 founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the predecessor to India’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and became the first president of the political arm of the RSS. Mookerjee 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’. Interestingly, despite this hype around Article 370 and Kashmir, the BJP ran a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir with People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a pro-separatist party that is a diehard supporter of Article 370 for over two years from 2016.
The Hindutva brigade is fond of declaring Mookerjee as great nationalist and patriot who laid down his life for the unity of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described Mookerjee as “a statesman, thinker and a patriot who devoted his life towards strengthening national integration”. The Hindutva rhetoric about Mookerjee’s patriotism needs to be cross-checked with the contemporary documents available even in RSS and Hindu Mahasabha archives. A perusal of these documents clearly shows the claim that Mookerjee was a “selfless patriot” as a lie. Mookerjee never participated in the anti-colonial freedom struggle. Not only did he keep aloof but he also betrayed it by collaborating with the British rulers and the Muslim League in order to crush and communally polarize the anti-British liberation movement.
Before Independence Mookerjee had been a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha that was led by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. When in 1942 the Indian National Congress gave a call to the British rulers to leave India immediately by launching the Quit India Movement (QIM), the government responded with a reign of terror. The Congress was banned, its provincial governments were dismissed, and the whole of India was turned into a jail. Thousands died in the repression unleashed by the armed forces of the British and native rulers.
The crime of many of those who were killed was that they had dared to carry or unfurl the Tricolor, the flag of the resistance. Hindu nationalist organizations, namely, Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, with the Muslim League (which since 1940 was ferociously demanding Partition) not only boycotted Quit India Movement but also decided to support the British government in its repressive campaign. The Hindu nationalists under the leadership of Savarkar even ran coalition governments with the Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Hindu Mahasabha president ‘Veer’ Savarkar chronicled this ganging up of Hindu Mahasabha with the Muslim League in his presidential speech to the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942 in the following words: “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 Hindu Mahasabha 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.”
[VD Savarkar, Samagar Savarkar Wangmaya (Collected Works of Savarkar), Hindu Mahasabha, Poona, 1963, pp. 479-480]
Later this coalition arrangement was extended to NWFP also.
Following the Hindu Mahasabha directive to co-operate with the British, the Hindutva icon, Dr. Mookerjee, shockingly assured the British masters of support through a letter dated July 26, 1942:
“Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being.”
[Mookherjee, Shyama Prasad, Leaves from a Dairy. Oxford University Press, p. 179]
As Deputy Chief Minister in the Fazlul Haq government of Bengal, Dr. Mookerjee wrote to Bengal governor with concrete suggestions for crushing the QIM. He wrote:
“The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. It should be possible for us, especially responsible Ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres it might be limited during the emergency. Indian have to trust the British, not for the sake for Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defense and freedom of the province itself. You, as Governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your Minister.”
[Cited in A G. Noorani’s The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labor, LeftWord Books, pp. 56–57]
R. C. Majumdar, who is regarded as a ‘Hindu’ historian by the Hindutva brigade, commenting on this letter wrote:
“Shyam Prasad ended the letter with a discussion of the mass movement organized by the Congress. He expressed the apprehension that the movement would create internal disorder and will endanger internal security during the war by exciting popular feeling and he opined that any government in power has to suppress it, but that according to him could not be done only by persecution…. In that letter he mentioned item wise the steps to be taken for dealing with the situation…”
[RC Majumdar, History of Modern Bengal. vol. 2, G. Bharadwaj & Co, Calcutta, p. 350]
The Hindu Mahasabha’s decision to betray Quit India Movement resonated with the RSS also. MS Golwalkar, the then chief of RSS, admitted:
“In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly. However, upheaval (uthal-puthal) in the minds of Sangh volunteers continued. Sangh is an organization of inactive persons, their talks are useless, not only outsiders but also many of our volunteers did talk like this. They were greatly disgusted too.”
[Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), vol. IV, Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd, p 40]
Nowhere in pre-Partition RSS literature have we found references to any work which RSS might have done ‘indirectly’ for Quit India Movement.
In a more shocking development, the Hindu Mahasabha of Dr Mookerjee 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 defense 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.”
[V.D. Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p. 460]
Mookerjee ratified Art. 370, Kashmir reference to UN
Another lie which RSS/BJP rulers brazenly spread is that this Hindutva icon opposed Nehru on Article 370 and referring Kashmir dispute to the UN. They claim that Mookerjee laid down his life for revocation of this Article at Srinagar, Kashmir on June 23, 1953. RSS/BJP has been mourning Mookerjee’s day of death every year as ‘End Article 370 Day’ and ‘Save Kashmir Day’. Let’s compare these claims with the contemporary documents relating to Mookerjee.
Mookerjee as member of the Constituent Assembly of India signed Indian Constitution with Article 370 as its integral part following its ratification by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. So far as, the issue of sending Kashmir dispute to UN is concerned both Sardar Patel and Mookerjee were parties to it. Mookerjee when he was minister of Nehru’s first Cabinet admitted that he was part of the decision-making. Addressing Lok Sabha on August 7, 1952 he said:
“It has been said that I was a party when the decision was taken to refer the Kashmir issue to UNO…That is an obvious fact.”
[Lok Sabha Debates, August 7, 1952, Cols. 5885-5899 cited in Eminent Parliamentarians Series: Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Delhi, 1990, p. 109.]
More importantly, this Hindutva icon did not think it fit even to mildly express his unease against the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which was done by a Hindu nationalist member, Jaspat Roy Kapoor, while discussing the Draft Constitution on November, 21, 1949, who said:
“I only wish that Kashmir should also have been brought in on the same level as other States but, unfortunately, much to our dissatisfaction and chagrin, if I may say so, this would not be done. This is a delicate subject and I will not say anything more on it.”
[Constituent Assembly Debates, vol. XI, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Delhi, 2003 [4th reprint], p. 762]