60 years of Praja Parishad Movement-II
Praja Parishad Movement was instrumental in mobilising the people of Jammu and Kashmir towards national unity and patriotic feelings. The Praja Parishad leaders did not want to accept anything for Kashmir that was divisive in nature. Their slogan ‘Ek Vidhan, Ek Nishan and Ek Pradhan’ was supported by Bharatiya Jana Sangh, and Pt Prem Nath Dongra was invited in Kanpur Convention of the Party to present his case. Finally, a resolution was passed to support the Movement. It was declared that the Movement will be taken to different parts of the country, and that a team of Jana Sangh leaders will go to Jammu and Kashmir. The team comprising of Barrister Umashankar Trivedi, VG Deshpande and Ram Narayan Singh was to be led by Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee. But the team of Nehru and Sheikh was so adamant that they wouldn’t allow these patriots to enter into the territory of Kashmir.
Dr Mookerjee wrote to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru on January 9, 1953 to consider seriously the demands of Praja Parishad leaders, because keeping those demands pending would be fatal to the national integration and sovereignty. Dr. Mookerjee also raised the issue in Parliament on several occasions. However, quite surprisingly, Nehru not only ignored the demands of Praja Parishad, but also turned down the request of Dr Mookerjee to meet him personally. Meanwhile, Dr Mookerjee kept on corresponding with Nehru, but when nothing was done by Nehru government by February 28, 1953, he made all the letters public, so that people could know the truth and what was being communicated between them. Nehru went to the extent of telling the MPs in Lok Sabha that Sheikh Abdullah is not wrong in suppressing Praja Parishad movement. Everyone, including the ruling party MPs, was wonderstruck at the attitude of Nehru.
Addressing a large crowd of protesters near Delhi railway station on March 5, 1953, Dr Mookerjee said, “Considering the attitude of Nehru government, now for us there remain two options only. One, that we surrender and yield to the whims of Nehru and Sheikh, risking the sovereignty and integrity of the nation; or two, we fight it out with full nationalistic zeal and make sacrifice to save the unity of our country. And, dear friends, I have chosen the second one.”
Throughout the months of March and April the agitations and protests were held throughout the country, and the government continued to persecute the protesters all over the country. Even in jail the leaders and workers of the movement were tortured by the jail administration. Saddened and enraged by all this, Dr Mookerjee, all of a sudden on May 7, 1957, declared, “I will be going to Kashmir tomorrow”. He informed people about his objectives, saying that he will go there to find out what is happening, as he has received the information that Praja Parishad workers and leaders are being harassed and tortured by the Sheikh Abdullah at the behest of Nehru government at the centre.
Dr Mookerjee informed people that he tried several times to go there but he was not given entry into the state. He was not allowed even though he was a Member of Parliament and in that capacity he could move to any parts of the country without seeking permission from anyone. He added that the government keeps on saying that Jammu and Kashmir are parts of India, but still they say that we need permits from the government to go there, as if it was a foreign land. He said that a citizen of India can go to any state without permit and that he can be punished only if he violates any law of the state and therefore he would go to Kashmir without seeking the permission of the government. Elaborating on this purpose he said that he would like to meet the common man to know what they want, he would talk to the Praja Parishad leaders to know what sufferings are being perpetrated on them, and he would talk to Sheikh Abdullah also to find an amicable solution to the whole problem.
Dr Mookerjee sent a telegram to Jawaharlal Nehru, “I am going to Kashmir without any permit because I don’t think any permit is needed for going there as I consider Kashmir as an integral part of our country. Moreover, your government has denied permission to numerous persons on numerous occasions. And I feel that it is my political, moral and legal right to go there. I am a Member of Parliament and therefore I am especially authorised to go to any part of the country to study the situation of that place” He sent copy of this telegram to journalists also.
Dr Mookerjee also sent a similar telegram to Sheikh Abdullah as well, adding that he wants to meet the people of that state to know about their conditions and that after meeting the people he would also want to discuss the issue with Sheikh himself to find what best possible solution can be to the whole issue. But Sheikh Abdullah just sent a simple reply saying that “You do not come here.” This cold and insensitive response further infuriated Dr Mookerjee, and he took a pledge that he would go to Kashmir, come what may, and he is prepared to make any sacrifice for the cause of nation.
It may be mentioned here that Barrister Umashankar Trivedi and GV Deshpande had been arrested on 17th April in Jalandhar while on their way to Kashmir, and the Supreme Court of India ordered to release them, declaring that they had not violated any law. Nehru had taken a lesson from this and decided that Dr Mookerjee should be arrested only in Kashmir because there the law of the country does not apply and that the Supreme Court of India cannot interfere there.
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had accompanied Dr Mookerjee as a journalist and he has mentioned at one place that the Commissioner of Gurudaspur informed Dr Mookerjee that he would make all the necessary arrangements for his visit and that he would facilitate his meetings with all the parties concerned, but something foul was smelt as soon as Dr Mookerjee was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police on Madho Singh bridge. The news spread like a wild fire and demonstrations and agitations were intensified in all the places. Barrister Umashankar Trivedi wanted to meet Dr Mookerjee but he was not allowed. He was allowed only when the high Court of Jammu and Kashmir permitted him. After meeting Dr Mookerjee, the Barrister moved a petition in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and the Court fixed 23rd June for hearing, and everyone waited with curiosity as to what judgment would be pronounced by the court. But alas! All the heads hung in shame when the news was broadcast that Dr Syama Prasad died the previous night under mysterious circumstances. To evade any further trouble all other leaders were released by the government immediately. Thus ended the hectic life of the greatest leader of this movement who laid his life unto the feet of MOTHER INDIA – OUR BELOVED BHARAT MATA. And the country will ever cherish the memory of this Great Son, whose name will be imprinted in bold and golden letters in the history of our nation.