Portrait of a Martyr (A Biography of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji)

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Item Code: NAI361
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Bal Raj Madhok
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788171674930
Pages: 330
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 320 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


This edition of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee’s biography bears importance as the year 2001 marks his 100th birth anniversary. Dr. Mookerjee was one of the remarkable figures who adorned India’s political firmament during the crucial decades before and after independence. This book puts into perspective the life and career of this versatile genius who excelled in every field of activity he entered - as vice-chancellor of Calcutta University (1934-38); as the acting president of the Hindu Mahasabha (1940); as parliamentarian and the first president of Jana Sangh (1951-53); and as a crusader for the cause of Indian unity for which he laid down his life in prison under mysterious circumstances on 23 June 1953.


About the Author


Prof. Bal Raj Madhok’s association with Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee began in 1940. He has worked in close association with Dr. Mookerjee for the formation of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This book is his tribute to Dr. Mookerjee whom he considers his political guru. Jana Sangh reached the highest watermark of popularity under Prof. Madhok’s Jeaderhsip in 1967. He was elected to the second and fourth Lok Sabha from New Delhi and South Delhi. Other works by Dr. Madhok include Indianisation, Murder of Democracy, Reflections of a Detinue, Rationale of Hindu State, Kashmir: Centre of New Alignment and Kashmir, Kargil and Indo-Pak Relations.




Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji is one of the most remarkable public figures that stalked the Indian political arena in the crucial pre-Independence and post-Independence decades of Indian history. Blessed with an elegant personality, brilliant intellect, impeccable character, robust self-confidence, and high sense of patriotism, he rose on the Indian firmament like a meteor, dazzling his friends and critics alike by his versatile genius and excellence of performance in whatever field of activity he entered. He then suddenly disappeared under mysterious circumstances leaving behind a trail of light which steadily gains lustre.


Beginning as an educationist at the young age of twenty- three he rose to be the youngest vice-chancellor of Calcutta University at the age of thirty-four. Entering politics a few years later, he made his mark as a dynamic and clear-headed politician when he ousted the Muslim League Ministry of Bengal and installed a coalition government under the leadership of Mr. Fazal-ul-Haq in which he himself became the finance minister at the age of forty-two.


Making his debut on the all-India stage soon after as president of the All-India Hindu Mahasabha, he became the most effective spokesman of nationalist opinion on the crucial question of unity of the country which was being threatened by the Muslim League with the direct encouragement of the British Government and connivance of a section of the Congress leadership, His entry and exit from the first Central Cabinet of free India, his performance both as member of the Government and as leader of the Opposition, and the role he played in the formation and growth of Bharatiya jana Sangh, the instrument that he forged for giving concrete shape to his political philosophy, along with his martyrdom in jail for the unity of the country distinguish him as one of the most remarkable political figures of all times whose place in history cannot be contested. He was not merely a politician of which India is harvesting a rich crop since freedom. He was a statesman who had foresight and the courage of conviction to put forth his views fearlessly.


I had the good fortune to interact with him soon after he resigned from the Central Cabinet in April 1950. The association that then began, grew closer after the formation of the Jana Sangh when I became one of the secretaries of the party of which he was the first president. Having been closely connected with the Jammu and Kashmir state, I had the good fortune in getting him interested in the Kashmir problem which occupied all his time and energy during the closing months of his dedicated and busy life. The closer I got to him the greater my admiration grew for him as a man, as a parliamentarian, and as a political leader. He became my model. I looked forward to a great and fruitful future for him and the country under his leadership. The news of his death in detention which reached me when I too was detained in Delhi Jail, therefore, came as a great shock to me. I decided there and then to write his biography as my humble homage to the departed leader and succeeded in bringing it out by the end of the year. But it mainly dealt with his life after the formation of Jana Sangh. It was, therefore, more of a history of the Jana Sangh. It has now been out of print for many years.


The present book contains eleven new chapters on Dr. Mookerji’s life from his birth to his entry into the Central Cabinet in 1947 and has also been thoroughly revised and rewritten.


I am thankful to Justice R.P. Mookerji, elder brother of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji for the valuable help and guidance he gave me in writing this biography. I am also thankful to Shri Ved K. Wadhera and my wife, Kamla, for their valuable assistance. I am grateful to Vaidya Guru Datta, the great savant and author who accompanied Dr. Mookerji on his last journey to Kashmir and was with him in detention till his death, for acceding to my request to write the introduction.




History, it is said, reflects the interplay of circumstances, and personalities. It is a continuous process. Circumstances throw up personalities which in turn influence them to create situations and conditions suited to the implementation of their ideas and conceptions and realisation of their dreams and ambitions.


The India of today with respect to the political institutions, social attitudes, and material achievements is mainly the creation of the last hundred and fifty years. The establishment of British rule and the impact it had on the social, political, economic, and intellectual life of India, produced varied reactions on the Indian mind which got crystallised in two broad streams of thought and sets of personalities which have been shaping Indian thinking and behaviour in all aspects.


The first impact of the dazzling British success in the face of odds against them on the leaders of thought in India was one of bewilderment and disillusionment which resulted in the growth of an inferiority complex in relation to the British - their social behaviour, political institutions, thought, culture and values of life. Raja Ram Mohun Roy personified this kind of reaction. He was almost swept off his feet by the glare of the British glory. He not only tacitly accepted British superiority in all fields but also became a determined campaigner for the acceptance of English language, thought, and culture with full faith in British justice as a panacea for India’s ills. He-was for long the model for anglicised Indian thinkers, scholars, and political leaders who have played a significant role in the making of modern India. The founding fathers of the Indian National Congress like Dadabhai Naoroji and the train of Anglophile liberals and Russiophile internationalists Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal Nehru represent the school of thought and line of action initiated by Raja Ram Mohun Roy.


The other reaction was one of disgust and dismay which at first resulted in blind hostility to everything British and Western and withdrawal into a closed cell for melancholy brooding, on the part of the custodians of traditional thought and culture of the country. It was particularly so in the case of Muslim theologians and intellectuals who depended entirely on the patronage of erstwhile Muslim rulers and whose thought and outlook was as much alien to the Indian soil as that of the British trespassers. But in due course of time it led to self- introspection in both the camps resulting in readjustments to the changed situation. In the case of the Muslim elite, it took the shape of a political and intellectual reconciliation with the British masters. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan led this movement and the Aligarh Muslim University became its institutional symbol. But in the case of the rest of the Indian society which found itself cheated of the fruits of the long struggle for self- assertion against the alien Turkish and Mughal rulers by the new invaders, it gave rise to a new spirit of intellectual resistance symbolized by Swami Dayananda Sarasvati. Swami Dayananda was as much conscious of the weaknesses that had crept into the national society which made it incapable of successfully meeting the challenges posed by foreign aggressors as Raja Ram Mohun Roy was. His solution, however, was different. He decided to attack the weaknesses by presenting them as later accretions which had polluted the social and cultural structure originally created by the Vedas and developed by leaders of thought and culture in the pre-Puranic period. His was a rational and national approach to things both spiritual and mundane. He created a yearning for knowledge together with a spirit of enquiry and critical evaluation of the traditional thought, rituals, and social behaviour. He was in fact the harbinger of India’s intellectual renaissance.


The Dayanand Anglo Vedic (D.A.Y.) movement that was initiated to perpetuate his name and continue after his death in 1883, represented a new spirit of rational synthesis of the age-old Indian thought and culture with those from the West. Many other savants and scholars in different parts of- the country who combined deep grounding in the ancient thought and culture of the country with the benefit of modern Western education introduced by the British too took the line of action propounded by Swami Dayananda in its broad national context with gusto. The result was a galaxy of leaders of thought and action in various fields in different parts of the country.


Mahadev Govind Ranade and Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra, Swami Vivekanand, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bipin Chander Pal and Ashutosh Mookerji in Bengal; Lala Lajpat Rai, Swami Shraddhanand and Bhai Parmanand in Punjab, and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Purshotamdas Tandon in Uttar Pradesh were the main representatives of this stream of thought at the dawn of the twentieth century.


This thought process was carried on by a growing number of Indian elite when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, operating under the reflected glory of Mahatma Gandhi, seemed to be riding the storm of patriotic fervour against the British rule. Within the Congress party, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel represented what has come to be known as the Tilak School of Politics, in spite of his total submission to Mahatma Gandhi so long as the latter was alive.


Outside the Congress, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji was given the mantle to carry on the tradition and thought of Swami Dayananda, Bankim and Tilak. As such, there was a spiritual affinity between him and Sardar Patel.


The role of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji in pre-Independence days as an educationist, humanitarian, parliamentarian, administrator, and above all as a patriot and campaigner for Indian unity is well-known to any student of Indian affairs. He took up the cudgels against the British Government on behalf of nationalist India in 1942 when all the Congress leaders were in jail. He also outwitted the British and the Muslim League by forming the grand alliance of the nationalist forces in Bengal to oust the Muslim League from power. When the Congress party laid down arms before the forces of separatism and virtually gave away the whole of Punjab and Bengal to the Muslim League on a platter, Dr. Mookerji successfully campaigned for the partition of the would-be Pakistan and saved both half of Bengal and Punjab for India.


It was in recognition of these services that Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel insisted upon his inclusion in the first Central Cabinet of independent India which took the oath of office on 15 August 1947.


His positive contribution as minister of industries and supply in formulating the industrial policy and laying down the foundations of an industrial base for the reconstruction of free India, though important in itself, was overshadowed by the clashes he began to have with the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His main differences arose on major questions of policy pertaining to defence and foreign policy, particularly in regard to relations with Pakistan and the attitude towards the sufferings of the Hindus left behind there. This ultimately compelled him to resign from the government in April 1950 to educate and mobilise public opinion against Nehru’s policies from outside.


As the first member to sit on the Opposition benches in the Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament of Free India, he became the symbol and leader of democratic opposition to the monopoly of political power which the British bequeathed to the Congress party before they left India for good. To give an institutional and constitutional shape to the democratic opposition to Nehru Government he founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. This party which has emerged as the second biggest party in the country after the fourth general elections of India, is the most important living memorial to Dr. Mookerji. He literally created and shaped it and gave it a political philosophy and organisational structure. Henceforward, the story of Dr. Mookerji became the story of Jana Sangh.


Jawaharlal Nehru instinctively felt the Jana Sangh to be the potential challenge to his monopoly of power and Dr. Mookerji to be his democratic alternative before: the country. He, therefore, spent all his energies to malign and discredit the Jana Sangh and its founder-president from the day it came into existence. The first general election became the occasion for a trial of strength between these two giants of the Indian political stage. Pandit Nehru succeeded in staging a comeback to power. However, Dr. Mookerji also succeeded in putting the Jana Sangh firmly on the political map of India as one of the four major political parties of the country. He himself was re-elected to Lok Sabha from his home constituency of north Calcutta and became the virtual leader of the Opposition in the Parliament from the day it met for the first time.


The achievements of Dr. Mookerji as a parliamentarian which earned him the title of ‘Lion of Parliament’ were more than matched by the raging and tearing campaign he carried on outside the Parliament against the unrealistic and anti- national policies of the Nehru government.


Kashmir which, thanks to the doting attitude of Pandit Nehru towards Sheikh Abdullah, appeared to be steadily slipping out of India through Sheikh Abdullah’s machinations, became a test of India’s will and capacity to preserve its truncated unity after the Partition. Dr. Mookerji clearly saw the dangerous implication of permitting Kashmir, a constituent unit of the country, to assert its independence by having a separate flag, separate constitution, and separate head of the state for the unity of the country as a whole. He, therefore, took up the cause of Jammu and Kashmir Praja Parish ad which was fighting for preserving Jammu and Kashmir state as an integral part of India as the cause of Indian unity. This brought him to a head-on clash with Nehru and his protege, Sheikh Abdullah, which grew in intensity as the struggle between the forces of unity and separatism within that state intensified.


Nehru got an opportunity to get rid of his redoubtable adversary when Dr. Mookerji went to Kashmir in May 1953. Dr. Mookerji was first, allowed to enter Jammu and Kashmirstate, which he wanted to visit to study the situation there first hand, but then was arrested under a State law to keep him out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India.


Dr. Mookerji’s death in detention in Kashmir Jail under mysterious circumstances on 23 June 1953 marked the end of a dedicated life on the altar of Indian unity.


The refusal of Pandit Nehru even to order an enquiry into the causes of his death in spite of universal demand created serious doubts in the mind of the public about his role as also the role of Sheikh Abdullah in this ghastly tragedy. They still remain to be cleared and constitute a grave reflection on Pandit Nehru as the first prime minister of free and democratic India.


I had the privilege to be closely associated with Dr. Mookerji during his last years. I had a rare opportunity to study his mind and examine his life from close quarters when I accompanied him on his last journey to Kashmir and stayed with him in jail as eo-detinue during the last forty days of his life. The more I observed him, the more my respect for him grew. He was a fearless patriot for whom his country always came first. His character was unblemished, his idealism was lofty, his thoughts were high, and his living was simple. His life and work can serve as a role model to both the young and old of today.


My sincere and heartiest congratulations to Prof. Bal Raj Madhok for writing this biography of Dr. Mookerji. He had worked in extremely close proximity with him in founding and developing the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The last years of Dr. Mookerji were almost wholly devoted to building Jana Sangh. As such this biography can also serve as a history of Bharatiya Jana Sangh in its most formative years. It will be an invaluable source of reference material for all those who are searching for authentic information about Jana Sangh, the motivation for its formation, and its basic thought and ideology.








Son of “Saraswati”


The Formative Years


Towards a “Pure and Manly Life”


The Youngest Vice-Chancellor


From Education to Politics


President of Hindu Mahasabha


The Rebel Minister


The Humanitarian


Fighter for United India


Fight for Partition of Pakistan


Exit from the Central Cabinet


Quest for a Political Platform


The Founder of Jana Sangh


The Electoral Battle of 1952


The Lion of Parliament


Call from Kashmir


Joint Front on East Bengal


India’s Cultural Ambassador


A Momentous Decision


The Man of Reason


The Man of Action


On a Mission of Peace


The Martyrdom


A Nation’s Homage



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