The then Vice President of India and a great scholar Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, immediately after the appalling custodial death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee who was very close to him, had penned down in his painful misty-eyed words about his charismatic and magnetic personality. He said, “He did never fear to express his Conscience throughout his public career. The blatant lies are uttered in silence. If the huge injustice takes place somewhere then to be reticent on it in the expectation that someone shall speak the truth someday, is a great sin committed on the part of a human being. Each one of us must put out the truth fearlessly in a democratic society”. The irony is that the one who dared to revolt for truth and his conviction to make whole J&K, a part of our great nation like other states, was made to sacrifice through his life by some dubious secularist fascists masquerading as a democratic darling. The consequence is the nation’s eyes are still lingering for truth to come out behind his ‘Mysterious’ but ‘Possible Political assassination’.
One may wonder as to why we have deliberately used the paraphrase ‘Mysterious but Possible Political assassination’ even though nothing is judicially established as of now? The reasons are too simple to be astonished. ‘Mysterious,’ because even after passing of 63 years of the occurrence of his death, it continues to remain an enigma as to the nature, identity and role of the catalysts behind his sudden demise in custody of a Government outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India, and the even greater mystery is why the then Central Government in power didn’t constitute a commission of Inquiry or any such body to look into the nightmarish death of one of India’s greatest leaders. The Government’s complete unwillingness and lack of cooperation at that time to constitute an inquiry into the matter to find out the real cause of his death even after repeated requests from the mother of the deceased and numerous celebrated personalities, makes it even more mysterious and indicates a possible existence of criminal intent in the entire scenario.
For the explanation of the second part ‘Possible Political assassination’ there are numerous factual records to reach such a conclusion. In case of the occurrence of any mysterious death the first aspect which any investigating agency prefers to concentrate upon, is who may be the greatest beneficiary of such a death or who would have been more troubled, had the deceased been alive. The same principle applies to this case also and needless to say that the highest beneficiary of his death was none other than the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdulla. It is a matter of record that Pt. Nehru and Shekh Abdulla had got extremely frustrated by the way Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was receiving enormous support from the people of the Country on the issue of entire J&K being an integral part of the nation like any other state. Dr. Mookerjee’s full-fledged support to ‘Jammu and Kashmir Praja Parishad Party’ formed and led by Pt. Premnath Dogra had instilled a sense of great anxiety and fear in Nehru’s mind. He had made Nehru extremely uncomfortable and had almost exposed him through his questions in Parliament dated 7th of August 1952 and on several other occasions inside and outside of Parliament. Mr. Nehru in one of his letters to Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had gone to the extent of threatening him in a subtle hint. He had written “If the movement continues then ‘we’ shall decide as to what actions the Government can take in this regard.” The pronoun ‘We’ used by him was indicative of how he was in complete cahoots and alliance with Mr Sheikh Abdulla.
It is not an embellishment to note that Mr. Nehru had started sensing his titanic competitor in Dr. Mookerjee’s vibrant, dynamic and nationalistic personality. Tathagata Roy in his book ‘The Life and Times of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’ reveals an astounding fact in this connection through the reference to his personal interview with Balraj Madhok dated 28th of August 2008 in New Delhi. As per Balraj Madhok, immediately after Dr. Mookerjee made his decision of visiting ‘J&K’ public, the noted freedom fighter Sucheta Kripalani came to meet him. She asked Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee “You should not go to Jammu & Kashmir. Pt. Nehru will not let you come back.” To this he responded that he doesn’t have a personal animosity with Pt. Nehru. He added that he is fighting for a cause and why Pt. Nehru shall have a sense of personal hostility towards him? Sucheta Kriplani responded to these sincere and upright feelings of Dr. Mookerjee by saying that she knows Nehru better than him. She apprised him that Nehru considers him his prime competitor and he may try to eliminate him from the field by going to any possible extent.
Tathagata Roy had also interviewed Savita Banerjee, the eldest daughter of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, on 24th of April 2010 in her Goregaon Flat of Pune and what she revealed during the conversation was indeed appalling. She said that on her secret trip to Srinagar with her husband Nishith they somehow managed to meet the nurse who was taking care of Dr. Mookerjee in his last moments. The nurse apprised the couple after lot of emotional entreaties that when Dr. Mookerjee went into sleep, she was directed by the hospital doctor to inject a specific injection after he wakes up. When Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee woke up the nurse injected him the said injection and he immediately screamed with all his might ‘It burns, I am burning’. The nurse ran towards the telephone to inform the doctor but till then Dr. Mookerjee lost consciousness and perhaps was made to sleep forever. Needless to say that all these aforesaid indications candidly beckon of a deep political conspiracy in Dr. Mookerjee’s death. Though, on the other hand some may argue that these facts are not substantiated by any positive evidence and thus this would not be fair and reasonable to point finger upon someone, we would like to humbly submit our counter to this prospective counter that “Absence of Evidence is Never Evidence of absence.”
The former Prime Minster of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had openly said in 2004 that Dr. Mukherjee’s death was the result of Nehru’s conspiracy. Dr. Mookerjee was intentionally arrested in Jammu and Kashmir, so as to take him out from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. He was confined in a straitened detention-centre near Nishat garden but it was at a considerable distance from the main town of Srinagar. The doctors could only come on a special invitation or request. The biggest room of this straitened detention centre was 10fit long and 11 fit wide in which Dr. Mookerjee was locked up with his other two colleagues Gurudatt Vaidh and Tekchand. Sheikh Abdullah had issued special directions that no special treatment shall be given to Dr. Mookerjee without his prior approval. On 24th of May 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru and Kailashnath Katju arrived in Srinagar for holidaying and they didn’t have the slightest courtesy to meet Dr. Mookerjee and see in what conditions he was made to spend his days. Dr. Mookerjee’s health started seriously deteriorating in the morning of 22nd June 1953. The Jail Superintendent was apprised of the situation and he came up with a Taxi (not ambulance) to get him admitted in a hospital. Even in that critical condition, he was made to cover the distance between his bed and the taxi on his feet. He was admitted in the ladies department of the Government hospital where only one nurse was there to look after him. Later on what happened is just an imperceptible history as this was the very place where a long-awaiting conspiracy was turned into action to achieve the desired outcome. Dr. Mookerjee was no more on 23rd of June 1953. Pt. Nehru who was outside India when this incident had occurred showed absolutely no sign of regret or grief even for the sake of social nicety after he landed on Bombay airport.
This has been a general precedent that whenever a celebrated personality from any field dies under mysterious circumstances, an inquiry commission is constituted, but this didn’t happen in case of Dr. Mookerjee’s death. Three commissions had been set up to find out the truth relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s death. These commissions were – Shah Nawaz Commission (1956), G.D Khosla Commission (1970) and Manoj Mookerjee Commission (1999). Similarly, Kapoor Commission was constituted to look in to the Political assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; Thakkar Commission for Indira Gandhi and J.S Verma Commission and SC Jain Commission for Rajiv Gandhi’s killings. This is noteworthy that in all of these above cases (except Subhas Chandra Bose’s case) everyone knew about the respective killers yet the committees were constituted but no committee has been constituted hitherto to find out the truth behind Dr. Mookerjee’s death even though he died under completely mysterious circumstances within the border of a state upon which the Supreme Court of India had no jurisdiction. Is this not a great travesty of justice and a blatant discrimination in the first place? Does the citizenry have no right to know the reasons which led to the sudden demise of one of its beloved leaders? The mother of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Jogmaya Devi, had written to Pt. Nehru to find out the real cause of his mysterious death. But Pt. Nehru dismissed her request by saying that he had gathered information from his personal source and did not find any mystery behind his death. He termed it a natural death. Nemo Judex In Causa Sua is an established principle of natural justice which means no one can be a judge in his own cause, but here Jawaharlal Nehru appears to be one.
Irrespective of political persuasion or political ideologies, justice should not alone be provided but also seem to be provided. And as the facts present themselves, the mysterious death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in prison, in Kashmir, requires a relook. People must know what went into the sudden death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in prison while some other political leaders were busy holidaying completely oblivious of his health conditions and unconcerned about the well-being of one of the greatest personalities this sub-continent has produced. All the files related to Dr. Mukherjee needs to be known by the larger public, whether with the Central Government or State Government It also needs to be seen whether there are any files in the first place or not. If not, why not. And if yes, they should be made known to the wider public.
It is perfectly understandable to have reservations regarding the functioning of our police system and justice delivery mechanism. So, yes, even a person with dubious background like Yakub Menon deserves justice in a nation proud of its bearings.
And, in that scenario, a great intellectual and political leader like, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee surely deserves justice. It is quite possible that the culprits of his political killing might all be dead or too old and infirm but it needs to be known, who were they?
The entire intellectual, academic and media class of India has been silent on this for more than sixty years. It has never been widely debated or discussed. His name and contributions does not even appear in Indian history books. Even somebody like Jinnah, who created Pakistan, has been re-accommodated or at least discussed by academics, intellectuals and media persons whereas even the memory of Dr. Mukherjee has been wiped off the slate of Indian history. His death, like the death and killing of religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh, something which Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had intuitively sensed after the massacre of Hindus in Noakhali, goes largely unnoticed. It is high time that it is known. Let truth be known whatever it may be.
With inputs from Pratyush Kumar
*(Dr. Mukherjee’s great-granddaughter, Dr. Gayatree Sharma, a journalist formerly working with the Times of India is ready with the petition for setting up of such an enquiry commission by the Government of India. She is going to take up the issue both with the Government of India and the President of India. When interviewed by the authors of this piece, she informed on how she will also rally all the existing members of the extended Mookerjee family on this issue.)
*The factual narrative of this essay is drawn primarily from these two sources:
1. Tathagata Roy, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Prabhat Prakashan, 2012.
2. Prashanto Kumar Chatterji, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Indian Politics, Foundation Books, 2010.