Portrait of a Martyr : Life of Dr.Shyama Prasad Mookerjee by Prof. Balraj Madhok – Summary Part 1

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Born 7th July 1901. Died 23rd June 1953

Dr.Mookerjee as an educationist and social activist.

Prof.Balraj Madhok was one of the secretaries of Bharatiya Jansangh under Dr.Mookerjee. He considered Dr.Mookerjee as his political guru. Balraj Madhok wrote the book when he was in Delhi jail while Dr.Mookerjee was in detention in Kashmir. The book Originally dealt life of Mookerjee after the formation of Jansangh. The biography also serves as a history of Bharatiya Jansangh in its formative years.

The present book is a centenary edition. Eleven new chapters are added to it thoroughly revised and rewritten. Early life and family details were provided by Mr. R. P. Mookerjee, elder brother of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. The introduction is written by Mr. Guru Datta, savant and author who accompanied Dr.Mookerjee on his last journey to Kashmir and was with him in detention till his death.

Fight for Indian Independence had many shades. Dadabhai Navaroji the anglophile liberal, the Russophile Internationalist Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Tej Bahadur Sapru, Motilal Nehru, and his son Jawahar Lal Nehru Represent the school of thought and line of action initiated by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Muslim elite took political and intellectual reconciliation with English Master Sir Sayyad Ahamad Khan led this movement and the Aligarh Muslim University became its institutional symbol.

Swami Dayanand Saraswathi was the harbinger of India’s intellectual renaissance. It represented a new spirit of rational synthesis of the age-old Indian thought and culture with those from the west. Mahadev Govind Ranade,  Lokmanya Bal Gangadhara Tilak, Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bipin Chandra Pal, Ashutosh Mookerjee, Lala Lajpat Rai, Swami Sraddhanand, Bhai Parmanand, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Purushottama Das Tandon were the main representatives of these thoughts. within congress, Sardar Vallabhai Patel represented The Tilak school of politics. Outside congress Dr.Mookerjee donned the mantle of Swami Dayananda, Bankim, and Tilak.

In 1924 Dr.Mookerjee enrolled as an advocate of the Calcutta high court. He started Bang VaniI a Bengali journal in 1922. He wrote a regular feature for Capital edited by Mr. Pat Lovele under the pen name of Ditch. His father Ashutosh Mookerjee has purchased The Calcutta Review from Thacker Spink. He started his own daily The Nationalist from Calcutta which was short-lived. His father Ashutosh Mookerjee was Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University. His father had made original contributions to mathematical studies which were named Mookerjee theorem. He has solved a large number of geometrical problems. Ashutosh Mookerjee has refused to visit England to attend the coronation of King Edward v11, even after repeated requests made by Lord Curzon. Ashutosh Mookerjee had a valuable collection of 85000 books and Dr.Mookerjee has gifted these to the national library of Calcutta which is known as Ashutosh wing.

He was called to the English bar in 1927. He represented Calcutta University at the conference of British universities of the British empire. It was in England that Dr.Mookerjee came in close touch with Dr. S. Radha Krishnan. After returning from England in 1927 he took to legal practice. But because of the preoccupation with the university, he had to leave the same.


Education had become a transferred subject under the Montague Chelmsford reforms of 1921.he was elected to the Bengal legislature council as a congress candidate representing the Calcutta university in 1929. He resigned the seat in 1930 when the congress decided to boycott the legislatures. He was re-elected as an independent to the legislative council in 1930. He was appointed vice-chancellor of Calcutta University in 1934. He changed the syllabi and courses were remodeled. He made Bengali the medium of instruction up to matriculation and introduced honors courses in Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. He undertook the publication of a special series of Bengali books on different branches of knowledge. The usage of Bengali spelling also standardized. Rabindra Nath Tagore delivered his convocation address of Calcutta University in Bengali in 1937 due to him only. He reformed and reorganized the system of examination and curriculum. He organized the teachers training department at Calcutta University. Introduced short term training courses including a vocation course- the precursor of the present-day refresher course. He initiated military training courses in college studies. Started annual celebration of university foundation day which fell on 24th January at Calcutta maidan. There used to be march past and other activities. For assisting youth students welfare department and student appointment board were established. Scheme of agricultural education and diploma course in education, training for large scale production of certain industrial goods in the applied chemistry department was started. Introduction of Tibet and Chinese studies as part of ancient Indian history and culture, the foundation of the Ashutosh Museum of Indian and arts culture, settlement of the arrangements of government financial help to the university was his contribution to the education field.

He was very anxious to preserve the autonomy of Indian universities. His father has guarded the Calcutta university from the official encroachment of Lord Lytton. He advocated a national system of education with a balanced structure to guard harmony, strength, and solidarity of every section. A compulsory provision for three months of intensive social work was intended to narrow the gulf of the social divide of the educated and the illiterate, free elementary education for all and higher education only for those who deserved it, state to arrange for the higher education of brilliant poor students. Technical education and training to be given after a minimum basic education. Number of students to be restricted for trades and profession according to needs, to avoid unemployment.

As president of all India Bengal literary conference (Nikhil Bharath Banga Sahitya Sammelan) conference on language and literature at Cuttack on 24th and 25th December 1952 wanted Devanagari being the script of Sanskrit to be adopted as a script for all languages. A common script will be a contributing factor for national unity, Hindi as national lingua franca of the country.

He was an elected member of the court and council of the Indian institute of sciences Bangalore and was president of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1943. He was chairman of the inter-university board. He addressed the convocation of Delhi university in December 1952. He was conferred an honorary doctor of law by Calcutta University in 1938 and also bananas university. As president of Mahabodhi society, he received the relics of Sariputta and Mahamoggaallana two disciples of Gautama buddha on 14th January 1949 from Nehru at Calcutta. The relics were taken by general Cunningham in 1851 and kept at the British Museum in England. He took these relics to Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia. He visited Burma in march 1952, Cambodia on 6th October and Indo-China in October 1952. On return, he also halted at Saigon for two hours to show the relics. Re-enshrinement of the relics at Sanchi stupa was done in November 1952.

Mookerjee’s entry into politics.

What prompted Dr.Mookerjee to enter politics was the congress attitude towards communal award and the political situation after the inauguration of the government of India act of 1935.

The new Bengal assembly elected on the basis of the communal award had 250 members out of which 80 were Hindus most of whom returned on congress ticket. The Muslims were divided between the Muslim League led by s. H. Suhrawardy and Krishak Praja party of a. K. Fazal-ul-Haq. The congress was driving all Muslim members into the fold of Muslim league, because of the bankruptcy of their statesmanship. Muslim league was making life miserable for Hindus by pushing through the legislature the Bengal secondary education bill, the university bill, and the Calcutta corporation bill. He was disillusioned with congress because of its policy of compromise with Muslim league and so joined Hindu Maha Sabha. V. D. Savarkar the renowned revolutionary was a close companion of Lokmanya tilak.

His joining the Hindu Maha Sabha in 1939 was welcomed by Mahatma Gandhi. Shyama prasad asked Gandhi why congress was not opposing separate electorates which would lead to partition of India at some stage. He referred to lady Minto’s diary in support of his contention. Gandhiji considered Patel as a congressman with Hindu mind and Shyama Prasad a Hindu sabhaite with congress’s mind. Gandhiji wanted Shyama prasad to be like Shiva to drink the poison of the Indian politics.

With the connivance of British bureaucracy, the league ministry of Bengal planned to engineer riots to demoralize Hindus and flee them from their homes or convert them to Islam. They also wanted to Muslimise the administration and destroy the pre-eminence of Hindus in education and the cultural sphere. Dacca riot of 1940 was pre-planned and the press was censored under the defense of India rules. Nawab of Dacca, the president of the Bengal Muslim league had planned and organized the entire carnage. The British chief secretary at first did not allow Mookerjee to visit Dacca.

The league planned to Muslimise and dominate the secondary education through legislation. Mookerjee mustered all non-congress Hindu forces of the legislature and formed a progressive coalition with Krishak raja party of Fazal-ul-Haq. Against the wishes of the British governor, sir john Herbart they formed the government. His coalition ministry with Fazal-ul-Haq was a direct slap to the British assertion that Hindus and Muslims could not work together.

Dr. Mookerjee wanted Hindu Maha Sabha to join the quit India movement. But veer Savarkar and other leaders were opposed to that. Savarkar wanted maximum people to join the military and get training and revolt at the opportune moment. Mahatma advised Mookerjee not to join the movement as he wanted him to lead the country, when all congress leaders were put in jail. The viceroy did not permit him to meet Gandhi in jail. It is well known that Mookerjee financed J.P.Narayan and many other revolutionaries during those hectic days. Sir Stafford Cripps found him to be more vehement than congressmen in their viewpoint.

On 10th October 1942, the Midnapore district was hit by a severe cyclone. The bureaucracy under instructions from governor withheld relief to the victims of cyclone and reign of terror was unleashed by the notorious district magistrate. M. Khan. The governor has interfered with the work of the ministry and the farcical nature of the provincial economy came to the fore. The doctrine of benevolent trusteeship was exploded by unsympathetic bureaucrats and bungling governors.

The first political writing of Dr. Mookerjee’s phase of Indian struggle’ published in book form mentions about British planning of withdrawing, following a scorched earth policy and the mistrust of nationalistic Bengalis to fight the Japanese. The existing army rules prevented Mookerjee’s government to mobilize and train people for the defence of their homeland. The real power was in the hands of irresponsible bureaucracy whom he cannot remove. He proposed to the British for raising the home army for the defense of Bengal. He did not want India to start on a fresh career of foreign subjugation under japan. So he had to resign from the ministry on 16th November 1942.

Bengal famine

In 1943 the food situation of Bengal started to deteriorate. The Midnapore cyclone has completely destroyed paddy crops throughout the state. Supplies of rice from Burma was discontinued even before the Japanese occupation. There was a 25% deficit in rice supply and the Fazal-ul-Haq ministry demanded the British to make the deficit and in retaliation, the British dismissed the ministry in march 1943. And in April Muslim league ministry was put in saddle. To checkmate Subash Bose’s Indian national army from penetrating Bengal through Burma, plying of boats and vehicles was banned. It was to demoralize the people and thereby not to support INA. The British wanted to teach the Bengali Hindu nationalists a lesson with the help of the Muslim league.

On 29th July the Bengal relief committee was formed with Sir Badri Das Goenka as president and Shyama prasad Mookerjee as. Vice president. After that Hindu Maha Sabha relief committee, Arya Samaj, Marwari society, and Rama Krishna mission followed suit. In spite of these organization’s efforts, this man-made famine caused a loss of more than 30 lakh lives. The Muslim league took no steps to organize relief till the above agencies shamed them into action.

After that, the Muslim League, the Khaksar organization, and the communist party also set up their relief committees. The Khaksar and the Muslim league sent Hindu destitute to outside Bengal and converted them. Due to pressure exerted by Mookerjee, the government was forced to appoint an inquiry committee. The relief work of Dr. Mookerjee during Bengal famine has been compared to the role played by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in the Bihar earthquake of 1935.

Dr Mookerjee in his study

Partition of India

The noise made by the Muslim league for the partition of India was backed by the entire Muslim and Anglo-Indian press. To appease the Muslim League, the plan put forth by C.Rajagopalachari, better known as the C.R.Formula, practically accepted partition. Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sir Chotturam in Punjab rebuffed Jinnah and his image and idea of Pakistan was scoffed at, even by prominent Muslims.

It was at this juncture Gandhiji who was released from the jail blessed the C.R.Formula and it gave the league a fresh lease of life. Governor-general, lord Wavell convened a conference of political leaders at Shimla in August 1945. An interim national government on the basis of parity between the congress and the Muslim league. Hindu Maha Sabha was not invited. Congress decided to join the government and Gandhiji wanted Mookerjee in the cabinet. Patel was also in favor. Dr. Mookerjee did not want to join. Nehru opposed the move.

The British Indian government decided to try the top leaders of INA on charge of treason. Protest meetings were held against this on all India levels and in November 1945 INA Day was observed. At this time government changed in Britain. Mr. Atlee convened a constituent assembly for which provincial legislature was to act as an electoral college which made weak centre with only four subjects and autonomous provinces with residuary powers and option to form groups within the Indian union for specific common purposes. In 1942 congress has passed a resolution in Allahabad that they would not accept the partition of India in any former shape. C. R. Formula and Gandhi’s blessings diluted the same.

The Poona resolution of the congress virtually accepted the principle of partition much against the opposition of Sardar Patel. Congress also declared that they would not force any unwilling part to remain in India. Mookerjee’s stand was that self-determination for provincial units will create warring zones within the country and completely shattering central authority. The urge for Pakistan is to see Islam re-established in India as a sovereign power.

In the election, the Muslim league got a clear majority in Sind, Punjab, and Bengal. In the northwest frontier, it became the second-biggest party. In other places also Muslim electorate solidly backed the Muslim league. In Punjab and Bengal Muslims had only a slight majority. Luckily Hindu population in these provinces was concentrated in adjoining areas of Hindu majority provinces.

The Muslim League and the British wanted Calcutta to go to Pakistan. Thousands of Hindus were butchered and their shops and houses looted for evicting Hindus from Calcutta. The Hindustan national guards set up by Mookerjee checkmated the Muslim league. The same story was repeated in Noakhali and surrounding areas. Mookerjee demanded the division of Bengal to separate the Hindu majority of the western part from the Muslim majority of the eastern part. Thus he saved half of Bengal for India. Hindus constituted 45% of the undivided Bengal. Sind was carved out of Mumbai to placate communal whims and many opportunistic congressmen supported the same. Suhrawardy the brain of Muslim league in Bengal schemed of united sovereign Bengal and was supported by some congress leaders like Sarat Chandra Bose who had the blessings of Gandhi. Mookerjee objected to this on the ground that if united India can be partitioned on religious grounds why Bengal cannot be divided. Even west

Punjab went to Pakistan because of Christian members supporting the Muslim league. The British government made a blueprint for the partition of India into two states of Bharat and Pakistan conceding the right of Hindu majority areas of Bengal and Punjab to opt-out of Pakistan. A boundary commission was appointed to demarcate the areas.

The terms and reference of the Radcliff commission gave it large scope to play havoc with the boundary lines. The whole of the Kulan district which had over sixty percent Hindu majority went to Pakistan because of congress appeasement. Radcliff award was very unfair to west Bengal. Two million Hindus were placed under the mercy of Pakistan. Radcliff commission was partial to the Muslim league. As per the criteria Lahore should have come to India. The district of Thar Parkar in Sindh continuous to jodhpur and Kutch which acceded to India and had over 80% Hindus was not given to India. Even though there were only 51% of Muslims in Sylhet it was cut off from Assam at the insistence of the Muslim league and the congress were silent spectators.

If Thar and adjoining Hindu Majority areas of Hyderabad district of Sindh has been given to India, Pak claim on Rann of Kutch would have never risen. Not only that Hindu refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir could have been settled. Hindus numbered 13 million and constituted 30%of the population of East Bengal. They owned 80% of the national wealth, owned most of the urban property owned 95% of 1290 high schools and 47 colleges. The Hindu population included large and progressive middle class and a very active and viral rural population of Nam Sudras. Besides, there were half a million Buddhists in Chittagong hill who opposed partition.

Jinnah has suggested a complete exchange of population. Dr. Ambedkar in his famous book “Thought’s on partition” had advocated the exchange of population and given a detailed procedure to make it happen in five years. Master Tara Singh and other Hindu leaders of Punjab also advocated the same. But the congress refused it. Rawalpindi massacre of march 1947 and the massacre of Sheik Pura soon after the formation of Pakistan pointed to the need of exchange of population. Partition was effected on condition of security of life, property equal rights and treatment of law to minorities of both India and Pakistan. Hindus of East Bengal and Dr. Mookerjee wanted an exchange of population.

The congress organization was controlled by Sardar Patel, but for Gandhi’s intervention, he would have become president of Indian national congress in 1945 and also the first prime minister of the country. At the insistence of Gandhi and Patel, a national government was formed under the prime ministership of Nehru. Sir John Mathai, Shri Shanmukham Chetty, Dr. Ambedkar were made ministers. Nehru had no love for Mookerjee but at the insistence of Gandhi and Patel, made him a minister. Left to himself he would have made cabinet of yes men where even top congressmen like n. V. Gadgil would not have been selected.

Pakistan pressurized Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan through economic blockade. When it failed, they launched an armed attack on Kashmir on October 22nd, 1947. The maharaja’s Muslim soldiers mass joined the attackers and they reached the outskirt of Srinagar by October 24. Now Hari Singh wanted j& k to accede to India but Nehru was opposed to the same. Timely intervention of Sardar Patel and pleading of sheik Abdulla who had fled from Kashmir saved the situation. Sardar Patel had the backing of Dr. Mukerji, Sardar Bal dev Singh and N. V. Gadgil. Nehru made an offer of plebiscite in Kashmir without the approval of the cabinet. Appeasement of the Muslim league was the hallmark of Nehru’s policy. Sheik Abdullah turned from a supplicant to dictator because of the wrong approach and policies of Nehru. Pakistan was able to get 33000 miles of Indian territory including the strategic region of Gilgit. Hyderabad was also treated by Nehru as his special domain. Nizam Usman Ali of Hyderabad

Had the tacit support of maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. The nizam conspired with the Portuguese to acquire goa, to have an outlet to the sea. 90% of the population of Hyderabad state were  Hindus and his army started suppression of Hindus with the help of Razakars led by notorious Kasim Rizvi. Nehru agreed to accept a semi-sovereign status for Hyderabad with a standing army of its own. The government was indifferent to the fate of millions of Hindus in Sindh, Baluchistan, and n. W. E. P. And west Punjab.

The government failed to name Pakistan as the aggressor even after all facts has been established. The forced payment of fifty-five crore rupees to Pakistan under pressure of Gandhi’s fast was another blow. Hostile public reaction to Pakistan policy of congress was getting momentum, but the assassination of Gandhi by Godse changed the entire scenario. Clever exploitation of the event by Nehru and his left-wing supporters isolated Sardar Patel and Mookerjee within and outside the government.

Congress government under Nehru signed two inter- dominion agreement at Calcutta in April 1948 and at Delhi in December 1948 to safeguard the minorities of both the countries. Pakistan never stuck to the agreement. In spite of the agreement 20 lac Hindus were forced to leave east Bengal during the first two years of Pakistan’s existence besides millions from Punjab and Sindh. In 1950 in east Bengal 50000 Hindus were butchered, thousands of Hindu women abducted and raped. Nehru’s innate cowardice would not allow him to take any bold and quick step. He kept on fiddling while east Bengal burned. By signing the Delhi pact with Liaquat Ali Khan, Nehru saved Pakistan from world criticism on the policy of extermination of Hindus. The Pakistan government used their than officers, district magistrates to harass Hindus. No employment

Was to be given to non-Muslims without prior approval from the govt. They were also instructed not to return the land and properties of returning Hindu migrants to them. There was a steady influx of refugees from East Bengal to India throughout the 1950-51. A girls release duty was imposed on all Hindu girls leaving Pakistan.

In February 1950 Nehru had said that when peace full methods fail, other methods will be adopted by the government. He wanted Nehru to adopt economic sanctions and demand for land as suggested by Sardar Patel. He asked Nehru not to talk of Gandhian ideology. Cowardice and inaction were not Gandhian ideology. Pandit Nehru’s international heart was too full of miseries of the people of Tunisia, Morocco, and Korea. He had no feelings for his compatriots in Pakistan. Hindus of East Pakistan were living as serfs or converts. Without a sound base of national solidarity, internationalism cannot thrive. The real strength of a nation is its people.

Mookerjee resigned from cabinet on first April 1950 and Nehru readily accepted the same. Other ministers particularly Sardar Patel did not approve of it. Mukerji’s resignation resulted in the modification of Nehru- Liaquat agreement, the clause of reservation of seats for Muslims in legislature and services. It was due to the backing of Sardar Patel and N. V. Gadgil the modification happened. Nehru’s attitude towards Pakistan has been weak, halting and inconsistent. Our goodness or inaction was interpreted weakness by Pakistan.

Passport system between Bengal’s came into operation on 15th October 1952. It created hardships for Hindus coming into the west. Bengal and thousands of people were stranded in the border and on their way. Visa system and passport was introduced by Pakistan to make the exodus non-visible time. All party meeting demanding the withdrawal of the same excluding the congress and communists was held on Calcutta maidan on 16th October 1952 and Gandhi grounds on 26th October 1952. On second November a public meeting at wellington square was held to seek justice for Hindus of Pakistan. On November 23rd, 1952 all India east Bengal rights day was observed throughout India. The case of east Bengal Hindus was once again placed before the parliament on 15th November 1952 by Dr. Mookerjee. He reminded Nehru and other con dress leaders of the pledges and assurances given to Hindus of East Bengal on the eve of partition.

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Vathukkat Krishnan KuttyAn Avid reader and knowledge seeker with a curious mind and descriptive skills.

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