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, founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), precursor of present BJP, 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 (2016) too, the Hindutva ruling brigade is mourning his death by holding a meeting in Delhi on June 29, 2016 with the theme ‘Syama Prasad Mookerjee: A Selfless Patriot’. Amit Shah, president of BJP will be the chief guest and Professor Tathagatha Roy, Governor of Tripura will deliver the ‘special lecture’ at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library which was established as archives of the glorious anti-colonial Indian freedom struggle. Interestingly, this year BJP/RSS have discarded much touted slogans ‘End Article 370 Day’ and ‘Save Kashmir Day’ due to their political alignment with traditionally pro-separatist PDP led by Mehbooba Mufti.
The Hindutva brigade is fond of declaring Dr. Mookerjee as great nationalist and patriot who laid down his life for the unity of the nation. Modi described him as “a statesman, thinker and a patriot who devoted his life towards strengthening national integration”.The Hindutva rhetoric about patriotism of Dr. Mookerjee needs to be cross-checked with the contemporary documents available even in RSS and Hindu Mahasabha archives.Perusal of these documents clearly shows that the claim that Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee was a ‘selfless patriot’ and a great patriot right from his birth is a white lie. Dr Mookerjee never-never participated in the anti-colonial freedom struggle. If patriotism means being part of the freedom struggle and making sacrifices, Dr Mookerjee not only kept aloof from it but 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.
In pre-Independence times he was a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, which was led by V.D. Savarkar. When in 1942 Congress gave a call to the British rulers to leave India immediately by launching Quit India Movement, the rulers responded to this mass movement by unleashing a reign of terror. Congress was banned, its provincial governments were dismissed, whole of India was turned into a jail and thousands died in the repression unleashed by armed forces of the British and native rulers. The crime of many of those who were killed was to carry a Tricolour. Hindu nationalist organizations namely, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS with Muslim nationalist organization, Muslim League not only boycotted Quit India Movement but also decided to support the British government in its repressive campaign.
The 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.”[i]
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 assured the British masters through a letter dated July 26, 1942. Shockingly, it read:
“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” [ii]
His letter to Bengal governor that the Fazlul Haq led Bengal Government, along with its alliance partner Hindu Mahasabha (Mookerjee being Deputy CM in this ministry) made 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.[iii]
A prominent historian R.C. Majumdarwho is also 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 organised 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…”[iv]
The Hindu Mahasabha 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.”[v]
Nowhere in pre-Partition RSS literature have we found references to any work 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 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.” [vi]
Despite all these shocking facts being available in the Hindutva archives, the Hindutva brigade continues to falsify history. The Hindutva juggernaut is in full steam demolishing the great, heroic and selfless sacrifices of thousands of Indian who laid down their lives for the freedom of India against the colonial masters and their stooges like Princes and Muslim League. The Hindutva gang is trying to replace the braves and heroes of anti-colonial history with stooges and collaborators. It makes one fact very clear that BJP/RSS do not have a single person to be presented as freedom fighter. However, it is terribly sad that those who love martyrs of the great anti-colonial struggle and respect glorious liberation struggle are not there to encircle places in protest where the Hindutva denigrates the real martyrs and freedom fighter and attempts to establish collaborators as patriots.
Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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[i] VD Savarkar, Samagar Savarkar Wangmaya (Collected Works of Savarkar), Hindu Mahasabha, Poona, 1963, p. 479-480
[ii]Mookherjee, Shyama Prasad, Leaves from a Dairy. Oxford University Press. p. 179.
[iv] RC Majumdar, History of Modern Bengal. vol. 2, G. Bharadwaj & Co, Calcutta, p. 350.
[v]Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), volume IV, Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd, p 40.
[vi]V.D. Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p. 460.