Saturday, January 23, 2021
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Will Modi prove Mookerjee wrong on PoK?

K B Jandial

Contrary to the popular perception, BJP’s ‘deity’ and its founder, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had not resigned from Pt Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet over the unwarranted constitutional concessions to Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir but on Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950 that dealt with minorities in India & Pakistan. Be it that, Mookerjee became “martyr” in pursuit of his crusade against J&K’s special status as manifested in Article 370 that was “abrogated” by Modi Govt. last year.

Interestingly, he started his political career as a Congressman but soon he shifted to Hindu Mahasabha and since then he was Congress’ pariah. Mahatma Gandhi, who saw in him a great potential & political wisdom, got him inducted in Nehru’s Cabinet as Union Minister for Industry & Commerce. But even as Cabinet Minister, Mookerjee had strong differences with PM on hordes of issues like treatment to Hindu minority by East Pakistan, unilateral ceasefire of operations in J&K, allowing Pakistan to retain illegal occupation of territory of the State, special concessions to Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir, Hindu Civil Code etc. He had no inhibition to take on Nehru on many issues that prompted Times of India to write that “the mantle of Sardar Patel has fallen on Dr. Mookerjee”.

Ideological differences between them had gone too far that provoked Nehru to amend the Constitution of India within 16 months of its introduction. Mookerjee opposed Nehru-Liaquat Pact in Lok Sabha and advocated the Akhand Bharat. For Nehru it was an invitation to war as without it two countries could not be reunited. He argued that criticism of a Head of the State or Head of a foreign country may lead to a war. Mookerjee countered it by saying that restrictions would prevent free debate on issues with Pakistan including treatment to minorities and its role in Kashmir. Brushing aside counseling of many senior parliamentarians, Nehru went ahead with the amendment of Article 19 to restrict the freedom of speech, inter alia, on "friendly relations with foreign states".

On Nehru’s charge of communalism, Mookerjee countercharged and said, “If it is communalist to love one’s community and not think ill of other communities; if we feel that an attempt should be made to unite 40 crores of Hindus living in India that have been liberated after 1000 years; if we try to recover our lost position in a manner which is one hundred per cent consistent with the dynamic principles of Hinduism which Swami Vivekananda said, I am proud to be a communalist.”

There had many interesting spats between them in Lok Sabha. On May 21, 1952, PM Nehru interjected Mookerjee who was cautioning on Sheikh’s politics, and said, “I know more about Kashmir than Dr. Mookerjee”. He retorted to which PM had no convincing answer, “I would like to know, are Kashmiris Indian first and Kashmiri next or they are Kashmiris first and Indian next or they are Kashmiris first, Kashmiris second and third…this is an important point we have to settle.”

Dr. Mookerjee was strongly opposed to Article 370, treating it as a threat to national unity. Ideologically and constitutionally he opposed this Article which became one of the primary objectives of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS). In Lok Sabha on 26 June 1952, he termed the arrangements under Article 370 as Balkanisation of India and the three-nation theory of Sheikh Abdullah. In opposition to separate symbols, his war cry was, "Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi chalenge". BJS along with Hindu Mahasabha and Jammu Praja Parishad launched a massive satyagraha to get Article 370 removed and fully integrate with India.

Dismantling the argument for Article 370 that the nation was bound by “pledges” given to Kashmir, Mookerjee said that we had given pledges to many on several occasions including on minorities of East Bengal. He said that we had given pledges to Hyderabad that it would have its Constituent Assembly and its future would be decided by the Legislative Assembly. “But is not Hyderabad a part of the Indian Union?”. On Kashmir, he said, “we did not give new pledge to Kashmir. Let’s us be clear about it”

Mookerjee had total clarity on the developments of Kashmir including Article. Speaking in Lok Sabha on August 7, 1952, he admitted that as a cabinet Minister he too was party to the cabinet decision to refer Kashmir issue to UNO as was obvious. “We did not go to UNO with regards to the question of accession, because accession then was an established fact. We went there for the purpose of getting a quick decision from UNO regarding the raids….” Making a strong case for withdrawing India’s case from UNO, he said, “We can tell them respectfully that we have had enough of the UNO …& try to settle the matter through our own efforts. The only matter regarding which the dispute continues is about the one-third territory of Kashmir which is in occupation of the enemy…. We are peace-lovers, no doubt, but to what extent?-that…. to allow a portion of our territory to be occupied by the enemy”. Talking straight to the Pt Nehru, he asked, “Is there any possibility of our getting back this territory? We shall not get it through the efforts of the UN: not get it through peaceful methods, by negotiations with Pakistan. That mean we lose it, unless we use force which the PM is unwilling to do so. Let’s face the facts-are we prepared to lose it?”

Mookerjee had a vision and assessed entire scenario perfectly right. Article 370 generated separatist tendencies that made Kashmir a fertile ground for Pakistan to inject Islamist terrorism taking a heavy toll of life. As the historic facts are unfolded, it is clear that PM Nehru’s inaction at that time; Kashmir was made an international issue and practically lost PoK to Pakistan even though tactically we continue to say that it is a part of J&K & India. While Modi fulfilled Mookerjee’s dream by “abrogating” Article 370 on August 5-6 last year but will he prove BJP’s deity wrong by recapturing PoK?

(Author is a retired IAS officer) feedback: [email protected]

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