Dr. Mookerjee resigned from the Union Cabinet in 1950 against the signing of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. He was dissatisfied with the efforts of the Government of India in safeguarding the lives of Hindus in East Pakistan, who he felt had been left totally at the mercy of the Pakistanis. Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangha in October 1951, and also established a wider coalition called National Democratic Party inside the Parliament. He was strongly opposed to Article 370, and considered it as a danger to national unity. The abrogation of this article was one of the foremost demands of BJS. It was not for nothing that Nehru considered him as his greatest foe alive. Sucheta Kriplani had warned Shyama Babu in no certain terms that he should avoid going to Kashmir, for he might not make it back alive. Her ominous words unfortunately came true.
The permits to enter Jammu and Kashmir were issued by the Central government, prior to entering that state, on the Punjab-Jammu border itself. In case of attempted transgressions, arrests were made by the Punjab Police. In such cases, persons breaking the law were detained in Punjab, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. Shyama Babu and the retinue following him expected themselves to be arrested on the Border, thereby drawing national attention to the ‘special status’ being enjoyed by the state of J-K. To their surprise, they were allowed to cross the border, and enter Kashmir.
An officer of the Punjab Police had shadowed Shyama Prasad Mookerjee throughout the latter’s Punjab visit. When the permit to enter the J-K was sought, it was not denied, rather the DM informed them that the document would follow after the leader had entered Jammu. He wished him luck and even made vehicular arrangements. On May 11, 1953, as soon as Mookerjee stepped into J-K, he was arrested at Lakhanpur . Atal Behari Vajpayee, accompanying the BJS leader, was asked to go back and tell the country about the incident.
Vajpayee later dubbed this as a ‘Nehru Conspiracy’. He alleged that as per the understanding between the Central and J-K Governments, Mukherjee was allowed to enter and was arrested by the J-K Police. Since he was arrested and detained in Kashmir, the writ of the Supreme Court of India did not extend there. This ensured that Nehru did not have to answer any direct question on either Kashmir or Mookerjee, and Abdullah was not answerable to anyone in any case. The Doctor was detained-without-trial and kept for almost one and a half months. He was kept in a small cottage on the outskirts of Srinagar. There were no telephone lines, and no proper medical facilities. The family of Mookerjee was informed only after his death. Nehru, who referred to Shyama Babu as his friend, did not visit the latter when he toured Srinagar during this period.
After Mookerjee was diagnosed with dry pleurisy, the local doctor gave him Streptomyecin injections despite the former’s objections that he had a complicated history with them. No alacrity was shown in the case of medical emergency, not even on the day he died, purportedly of heart attack, that is on the morning of June 23rd , 1953. No probe was ordered by the Centre or the J-K Government despite a lot of hullabaloo. Nehru played a one man enquiry commission, conducted preliminary inquiries on his own behalf and declared there was no need for further inquest. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s mother Jogmaya Devi repeatedly requested the then PM, but Nehru did not budge. His behaviour was not just suspicious, but also quite indefensible. Was he just appeasing his friend Abdullah? Or was he hiding something more?
The West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution in November 1953 demanding a probe into Mukherjee’s death. It argued for holding an inquiry through a Commission headed by a Supreme Court judge. Later, the wordings were changed to ‘requesting the JnK Government to hold an inquiry’, and mention of the Commission and the Supreme Court judge were dropped, for they were deemed interfering. Shyama Babu had been opposed to precisely this kind of a set-up where JnK, led by Sheikh Abdullah, enjoyed almost an independent status what with a separate flag, Constitution and head-of-state. Dr. BC Roy, the powerful CM of West Bengal, and SP Mukherjee’s friend, who had demanded special inquiry, was impressed upon by the Centre to dilute the tone and tenor of the resolution. Even this resolution, passed in November, was received in the Ministry of States(Kashmir Section), Government of India in February, 1954, where it lay pending for six months. Thereafter, it was forwarded to the JnK Government for further action on their part. Nothing, obviously, came out of it.
As part of a reply to a Parliamentary Question, the JnK Government informed that even Dr. BC Roy had visited Kashmir, visited the cottage and the hospital, and held discussions with the doctors who had attended upon Dr.Mukherjee, but since ‘no official enquiry had been held by the Doctor (after Mookerjee’s death), no such report could have been submitted by him.’
Live with these facts – Mookerjee was allowed to reach JnK, and trapped in Srinagar. He was held without detention. He died because of medical neglect. JnK Government did not even conduct a medical enquiry into the death. Despite all kinds of demands, Nehru did not let any inquest take place into the matter of Dr.Mookerjee’s death.
Hail the Great Democrat!
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