Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a rare ethical and honest politician in India. He served as the Minister for Industry and Supply in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. But unlike Nehru’s colonial attitude, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a Nationalist and wanted India to be free of colonial mindset and grow strong.
Shyama Prasad was one man who did not support the Article 370 for Jammu Kashmir and believed that it would become a threat to the unity of India. Shyama Prasad who was also the president of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha fought against Pakistan and extremists influence in Kashmir. This created a massive divide between Nehru and Mukherjee and Mukherjee resigned along with K.C. Neogy from the Cabinet on 8 April 1950 over a disagreement about the 1950 Delhi Pact with Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Mukherjee was against the pact signed to establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both countries as he thought it left Hindus in East Bengal to the mercy of Pakistan.
However, Nehru who was keen on appeasement politics, did not hear anyone’s advice and went ahead with his plans. Mukherjee who was too irked with Nehru’s attitude and knew that he was in a process of destabilizing the country, consulted M. S. Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and started a new party called the Bharatiya Jan Sangh on 21 October 1951 in Delhi. In the 1952 elections, the BJS won 3 Parliamentary seats. He also formed the National Democratic Party within the Parliament which had 32 members of the Lok Sabha and 10 members of the Rajya Sabha. But the speaker did not recognise them as opposition party.
Due to Article 370, The Jammu Kashmir state was given a separate flag and a separate Prime Minister and one had to take special permission from him if they had to enter the state of JK. This was something which was against constitution as every other state in India followed one rule except Jammu Kashmir. Mukherjee fought against this injustice both inside and outside parliament and wanted to get rid of special status to JK.
He termed the arrangements under the article 370 as Balkanization of India and the three-nation theory of Sheikh Abdullah. Mukherjee said “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi chalenge” (A single country can’t have two constitutions, two prime ministers, and two national emblems).
The Jan Sangh along with Jammu Praja Parishad, which was founded by RSS member Balraj Madhok launched a massive campaign against Nehru and his special status to JK in February 1953.The protests gained huge momentum as many Nationalists supported the opinion of Mukherjee to remove Article 370. Nehru was perturbed with the development and was worried if his own party members start opposing him.
In May 1953, Mukherjee decided to enter Jammu Kashmir without taking any permission. Everyone thought Mukherjee will be arrested by the Punjab government and would not be allowed to enter JK. But that did not happen. Rather Nehru and JK government seemed to have planned a strategy that would end Mukherjee’s protest for ever. The other issue that worried Nehru was if Mukherjee was not allowed to enter JK, it may lead to chaotic situation and questions would be raised on integration of the state with the country which had several drawbacks. When Mukherjee tried to enter JK, he was not arrested, and they allowed him to enter JK. But secret instructions was given to JK government that Mukherjee should not be allowed to go back.
So, once Mukherjee entered Jammu Kashmir, he was suddenly arrested and put in jail. The JK government did not proceed with any trials. Just two months after his arrest, Mukherjee was reported dead inside the jail. He was only 52 years and was a very healthy individual.
His deaths raised a lot of suspicions on Nehru and JK government. Srimati Jogmaya Devi, the mother of Mukherjee made personal request to Nehru to investigate the matter of his death. But Nehru had given a vague reply that he had enquired from a number of people who were in privy to the facts and said that there was no conspiracy in his death.
No inquiry commission was set, nor was there any investigation into his death.In 2004, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made a big allegation on Nehru in 2004 saying that it was his conspiracy that lead to Mukherjee’s death.
“When Mookerjee decided to violate the permit rule by entering J&K without a permit, we thought the Punjab government would arrest him and prevent him from proceeding further,” Vajpayee, who was accompanying the Jana Sangh leader as a journalist, recalled. “However, that did not happen. Later we came to know that the J&K government and the Nehru government had entered into a conspiracy as per which it was decided that Mookerjee would be allowed to enter J&K, but not allowed to leave.”Vajpayee claimed that Nehru’s government entered into the conspiracy as it feared that if Mookerjee was not allowed to enter Jammu and Kashmir, questions would be raised about the state’s integration with the rest of the country. “The J&K government was told that he should not be allowed to come back,” he claimed. That was why, he said, Mookerjee was “deliberately arrested” only after entering Jammu and Kashmir.Mookerjee was kept under house arrest in Srinagar, where he died.