Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, set out on his last & fateful journey from Delhi railway station at 6.30 a.m. on 8 May 1953.
His slogan, “Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan, aur do nishan nahi chalenge”, became the hallmark of the movement that stirred throughout India starting in 1948, peaking in 1952, and sustaining till his controversial death in captivity in 1953.
Had it not been for SPM, not only India’s legacy, independent India’s geography too would have been remarkably different. More likely than not, the state of Punjab would have been part of Pakistan and the state of West Bengal would have been part of Bangladesh. This may sound exaggerated, but it is part of documented history. If this sounds exaggerated, that’s because of Dr Mookerjee’s marginalisation in popular renderings of
Independence movement and because good books on him are rare.(As said by Bibek Debroy)
Dr. Mookerjee’s principles and thoughts were beyond any personal ambition. He always thought for his country, lived for his country and finally died for his country.
In his last message as a free person Dr Mookerjee told Vajpayee, his private secretary and others to tell the country that he had at last entered the state of Jammu and Kashmir, though as a prisoner, and to carry on his work in his absence.
Apparently, when Dr Mookerjee had made known his intention to visit Jammu, Sucheta Kripalani paid him a visit and told him, that you won’t go, Nehru will not allow you to return safe from there. Dr Mookerjee told Sucheta, ‘I have no personal enmity against Nehru, I am working for a cause, why should he have any vendetta for me?’
Then Sucheta told Dr Mookerjee, ‘You don’t know Nehru, I know Nehru, he looks upon you as his main rival and he will try to remove you from the field if he can and he is capable of anything.’
It is practically forgotten that he was India’s first industry and supply minister in Nehru’s Cabinet + laid the foundation for much of India’s industrial policy & our public sector corporations. It is true that he has not been given enough attention by historians & the matter of his death in Kashmir at the young age of 52 remains a question of mystery.
Shortly before his departure, he issued a statement explaining his purpose of going to Jammu, namely to find out for himself the extent & depth of the Praja Parishad agitation & the repression let loose on the citizens of Jammu by Abdullah.
Explaining why he had not applied for an entry permit, the statement said:
Mr Nehru has repeatedly declared that the accession of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to India has been 100 per cent complete. Yet it is strange to find that one cannot enter the State without a previous permit from the Government of India.
This permit is granted even to Communists who are playing their usual role in Jammu and Kashmir. But entry is barred to those who think or act in terms of Indian unity and nationhood.
His journey was a Yatra covering present day Haryana, Punjab before ending at Pathankot.
While at Amritsar, the DC of Gurdaspur told him that the Punjab government had decided not to allow him to reach Pathankot.
But strangely, he was not arrested, neither at Amritsar nor at Pathankot nor anywhere on the way.
Soon after his arrival at Pathankot, the DC informed Dr Mookerjee that he had been instructed by his government to allow him and his companions to proceed & enter Jammu Kashmir state without a permit.
He himself appeared quite surprised that the orders that he was due to receive had been reversed. Little did he, or anyone else present there, knew the diabolical scheme that had been hatched?
They wanted Dr Mookerjee to get arrested in Jammu so that he would remain outside the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court.
When arrested,he was incarcerated at a small cottage converted into sub-jail in the middle of nowhere & could be reached only by mounting a steep flight of stairs & there was also no arrangement for adequate medical aid.
Madhok states that many letters to and from him were completely suppressed. It was later discovered that Abdullah had ordered that Dr Mookerjee be given no additional facilities without his express orders.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mookerjee’s health started deteriorating, after much deliberation & wrong administration of medicines , Dr Mookerjee was removed to the gynaecological ward in the state hospital.
On that fateful night, Trivedi, Mukherjee’s lawyer stayed with him till 7.30 p.m., Dr Mookerjee was weak but cheerful. Doctors in attendance told Trivedi that the worst had passed and would be all right in 2 or 3 days.
But on 23 June at about 3.45 a.m. Trivedi was informed that Dr Mookerjee was in a bad state & the district magistrate had asked him to be at his bedside immediately.
He reached there about 4 a.m. and was informed that Dr Mookerjee had breathed his last at 3.40 a.m.
On 23 Jun, Dr Shyama Prasad died in Nehru-Abdullah captivity.
On the same day, King Karan Singh wrote in a letter to JL Nehru
“It came as a great shock, particularly as we were completely unaware that he had not been keeping good health for some time. I was not informed of his illness or his removal to hospital, and, most amazing of all, I only learnt of his demise several hours after the body had been flown from Srinagar, that too from unofficial sources. There is a widespread feeling and indeed there are strong reasons to indicate that in the whole unfortunate matter, the state government, to say the least, acted in a most questionable and incompetent manner.”
Mookerji’s eldest daughter Sabita went to Kashmir, hiding her real identity & approached the nurse who was treating him.
As soon as Sabita revealed her identity the nurse said she would not say anything & asked her to leave.
Sabita begged the nurse to tell her, saying that she would never reveal her name.
Then the nurse revealed that Dr Mookerjee had fallen ill & was taken to the ‘maternity home’ as she described it. There, on his last day, she was on duty. He was sleeping. The doctor left, leaving instructions that whenever he woke up he was to be administered an injection, for which he left an ampoule with the nurse. After some time he woke up, she administered the injection. As soon as she did it, Dr Mookerjee started tossing about, shouting at the top of his voice,
‘Jal jata hai, humko jal raha hai.
I rushed to the telephone to tell the doctor & ask for instructions, he said, ‘Theek hai, sab theek ho jaiga’.
Meanwhile Dr Mookerjee had fallen into a stupor. And that was the end of him.
The nurse had refused to give her name.
And thus ended prematurely, even before he was fifty-two, the journey of the great man who could have saved the country from many of the ills that overtook it in the subsequent years.
Source: Syama Prasad Mookerjee – Life and Times by Shri Tathagata Roy