Everything About: Syama Prasad Mookerjee

About: Syama Prasad Mookerjee

  • Born on 6 July 1901 in Calcutta, Syama Prasad Mookerjee was an Indian politician, barrister and academician.
  • In 1934, Mookerjee earned the rare distinction of becoming the youngest vice-chancellor of Calcutta University at the age of 33.
  • For his outstanding academic record, he was awarded with the Doctorate of Literature by the Calcutta University and LL.D (Doctor of Law) by Banaras Hindu University in 1938.

His work before independence:

  • Political career:
    • Mukherjee started his political career in 1929, when he entered the Bengal Legislative Council as an Indian National Congress (INC) candidate.
    • However, he resigned from the Congress a year later as the party decided to boycott the British legislative process.
    • In 1937, he was re-elected to the assembly as an independent candidate. The same year, Mookerjee became the Leader of the Opposition when KrishakPraja Party and Muslim League joined hands to come to power in the state.
    • In 1939, he joined the All-India Hindu Mahasabha in Calcutta when V.D. Savarkar was its president. He later became its president and held the post from 1940 to 1944.
    • As the member of the Hindu Mahasabha, Mookerjee formed the government in Bengal with Fazl-ul-Haque of KrishakPraja Party. In this government, he was a allocated the finance portfolio.

  • Boycott of Quit India Movement:
    • In a series of events relating to the politics of independence struggle in India, the Hindu Mahasabha decided to boycott the Quit India movement launched by the INC under Mahatma Gandhi, and Mookerjee, too, supported the boycott.
    • He feared that the movement might put at risk the cultural integrity of the society by encouraging popular sentiments. He even wrote a letter to the British governor suggesting steps to curb the Quit India movement.
    • It is to be noted that Mookerjee’s reasons were aimed towards the upliftment of the freedom and defence of the province, and not towards British gains.

  • Support for division of Bengal:
    • Mookerjee was a strong advocate of the integrity of the country. However, but when the division of India became clear, he campaigned for the division of Bengal and demanded West Bengal for Hindu Bengalis.
    • He had also opposed the proposal to form a united, but independent Bengal in 1947 that was pushed by Sarat Bose, brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, former Pakistani prime minister.

Political career after independence

  • As Minister:
    • Mookerjee served as a Minister for Industry and Supplies in the Interim Central Government in 1947.
    • During this tenure, he laid the foundation of India’s industrialisation by introducing some flagship factories across the country — one of which was Bhilai Steel Plant.

  • Opposition to Nehru-Liaquat pact:
    • Dr. Mookerjee resigned from the union cabinet in 1950 after the Delhi Pact (Nehru-Liaquat Pact) was signed between Nehru and then Pakistani PM Liaquat Ali Khan.
    • On paper, the pact was to allow refugees safe return, establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both the countries.
    • However, Mookerjee was opposed to the pact, as he had realized that Liaquat had no intentions to follow the pact.
      • Mookerjee reminded Nehru of previous assurances that Pakistan had given and flouted.
      • He noted “If one analyses the course of events in Pakistan since its creation, it will be manifest that there is no honorable place for Hindus within that state.”

    • Mookerjee suggested that a clause be included in the pact that provided for penal punishment, such as sanctions against the country which went back on its provisions. But Nehru rejected this, and consequently, Mukherjee resigned from the cabinet.
    • Later in 1966, India’s External Minister Swaran Singh admitted on the floor of Parliament that Pakistan had persistently gone against the provisions of the agreement and continued to neglect and persecute its minorities.

Formation of Bharatiya Jan Sangh — BJP’s precursor

  • Mookerjee  founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951 and became its first president.
  • The Bhartiya Jan Sangh was founded on some basic principles — promotion of Uniform Civil Code, ban on cow slaughter and ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In the 1952 general elections, Bhartiya Jan Sangh won three seats and Mookerjee was elected as an MP from south Calcutta.
  • The Bharatiya Jana Sangh later merged with other non-Congress parties to form the Janata Party, which later became the present-day BJP.

Opposition of Article 370:

  • Mookerjee was a lifelong opponent of Article 370, the provision in the Indian constitution that assigned an autonomous status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, and wrote extensively on this topic.
  • He believed that the article acted against the cultural unification of the country and that it was harmful to the country’s integrity.
  • He came up with the motto of ‘ Ekdeshmein do nishan, do pradhan, do vidhannahichalega’ (A country can’t have two emblems, two PMs and two Constitutions).
  • To protest against Article 370, he went to Jammu & Kashmir, from where he was arrested for illegal intrusion. He died a detainee (a person held in custody) on June 23, 1953, at the age of 51.

 History & Culture