It was 55 years ago that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee died as a detinue in Kashmir, struggling to secure the state'seffective integration with the Union. A leading national daily at that time remarked that the mantle of Sardar Patel had fallen on Dr. Mookerjee who exercised the same type of sobering influence on the Nehru government from outside as Patel had exercised from inside. Both believed that ?politics detached from realities was not only meaningless but also dangerous?.
Dr. Mookerjee had sensed Sheikh Abdullah'spropensity to float a virtual ?three-nation theory?? a theory which, of late, has again gained ground in the form of ?third option?. In a letter written about four months before his death, he told Abdullah in no uncertain words: ?You are now developing a three-nation theory, the third being the ?Kashmir nation?. These are dangerous symptoms and not good for your state or the whole of India.?
On May 21, 1952, Dr. Mookerjee, with his characteristic candour, posed a pertinent question to Nehru in Parliament: ?Are Kashmiris, Indians first and Kashmiris next or are they Kashmiris first and Indians next, or they are Kashmiris first, second and third and not Indians at all?? There was no clear reply.
On August 7, 1952, Dr. Mookerjee, again, asked the Prime Minister: ?Was Sheikh Abdullah not a party to the Constitution of India? Did he not accept this Constitution in relation to the rest of India, including ?497? states? If it is good enough for all of them, why should it not be good enough for him in Kashmir?? Elaborating, he said: ?Suppose some sort of fulfillment of the pledge that we are thinking of so literally in relation to Kashmir was demanded by other states, would we have agreed to give that? We would not have because that would have destroyed India.?
About Sheikh Abdullah'sinsistence to have a separate flag for the state, Dr. Mookerjee observed: ?You cannot have a divided loyalty. It is not a question of fifty-fifty. It is not a question of parity.?
Dr. Mookerjee cautioned Parliament: ?If you just want to play with the wind and say we are helpless and let Sheikh Abdullah do what he likes, then Kashmir will be lost. I say this with great deliberation that Kashmir will be lost.? Parliament, unfortunately, did not rise to the occasion. It let the then Prime Minster do what clearly had seeds for future trouble.
Dr. Mookerjee noticed that those who pointed out the dangers of appeasement, were berated with all sorts of labels. He once commented in the Lok Sabha: ?The Prime Minster said the other day that, even if Kashmir had not acceded to India, when it was attacked by raiders, the Indian army, on humanitarian grounds, could have marched to Kashmir and protected the distressed and oppressed. If I make a similar statement, I am a communalist, I am a reactionary, I am a war-monger!?
Dr. Mookerjee was sorely disappointed by the Delhi Agreement (July 24, 1952) which was arrived at between Nehru and Abdullah. The provisions of this agreement included the abolition of hereditary rulership, the election of a constitutional head of state, Sadar-i-Riyasat, by the state assembly from among the state subjects, denial of citizenship rights to non-state subjects and the flying of a separate flag for the state. Dr. Mookerjee was convinced that ?the agreement was not likely to gain Kashmir for India but would endanger the security and development of the state?. He, therefore, lent his powerful support to the Jammu-Praja-Parishad agitation, and raised it to an all-India level. The underlying inspiration of the agitation was nationalistic and its main plank was that ?in one country, two Constitutions; in one country, two flags; in one country, two Presidents/Prime Ministers?, would not be tolerated.
Abdullah proved insincere even with regard to the agreement. After securing the implementation of items that suited him, such as the abolition of rulership, he started procrastinating. Nehru himself was dismayed by his crafty approach.
Having ignored Mookerjee'swarning about the mind and motivation of Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru was badly caught on the wrong foot. He had placed all his eggs in one basket and did not know how to save them when the basket itself started tilting. In almost all his letters on Kashmir during the period 1952 to 1953, he made a repeated use of the expression ?I do not know?. For instance, in his letter dated April 27, 1953, to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Nehru observed: ?I do not mind dealing with any matter but I quite feel helpless about the Kashmir issue because I do not know where I stand.? Incidentally, Mookerjee once remarked: ?Nehru claims to have discovered India. But he is yet to discover his own mind.?
How misplaced was Nehru'sfaith in Abdullah stood proved by the facts that came to light subsequently. The contemporaneous records, now made public, reveal that as early as January 28, 1948, Abdullah had discussed the subject of Kashmir'sindependence with the American officials. The report (September, 1950) of Loy Henderson also noted: ?In discussing future Kashmir, Abdullah was vigorous that it should be independent.?
Mookerjee'stragic death in Srinagar on June 23, 1953, in detention?detention without trial?caused a wave of national anger. Nehru'sown standing in the public suffered greatly. This was particularly so in Bengal, as is clear from Atulya Ghosh'sletter of June 29, 1953, to Nehru. Ghosh wrote: ? The public feeling in our state has risen very high?.
Nehru could no longer tolerate Abdullah'santics or allow him to give a concrete shape to his ?three-nation theory?. Abdullah was accordingly sacked and imprisoned. On the assumption of office, his successor, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, in a radio broadcast, said: ?Betrayal of the country'sinterest was in the offing. An independent Kashmir will be a grave threat to freedom and independence of India.? The threat to the country'sintegrity was warded off?to a large extent, by the supreme sacrifice of Mookerjee.
Soon after Mookerjee'sdeath, his mother Smt. Jogmaya Debi posed a poignant question to Prime Minister Nehru: ?Had my son, a citizen of India, a member of the House of People, a leader of the Opposition, the fundamental right to enter Kashmir without any obstruction from any quarter?? This question alone raised the level of national consciousness so high that no government, howsoever insensitive, could afford to make any concession on Kashmir. From his cortege which was accompanied by the biggest crowd till then ever witnessed in Calcutta, Mookerjee could, perhaps, legitimately say: ?Death be not proud! I have achieved what I could not while alive.?
After the American Civil War (1861-65), Abraham Lincoln, in his famous Gettysburg speech, had said: ?Let us hereby resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain.? It is now for the nation to ensure that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee'ssupreme sacrifice does not go in vain.
(The writer is a former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Union Minister.)