60 years of Praja Prarishad Movement-III
Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji sacrificed himself for the cause of national integration and unity. However, his martyrdom did not go waste. His demands and slogan ‘Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan’ with reference to Jammu & Kashmir became a guiding principle to all the nationalist organisations in the time to come. At the time of his martyr Dr Mookerji was only 52. It was widely acknowledged that Sheikh Abdullah was responsible for his death. And we cannot doubt even Nehru’s hands behind it. While Dr Mookerji was breathing his last in Sheikh’s custody Nehru was attending the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II in London.
It may be mentioned that Nehru had gone to meet Sheikh Abdullah in the year 1946 when the latter was in the custody of Maharaja Hari Singh and was put up at Kahala Guest House in all comfort. Nehru had returned after three days. Exactly after six years Dr Mookerji was arrested on pretext that he could not enter the state without permit, even though the state was now merged in the Indian Territory. Sheikh Abdullah did not release Dr Mookerji. Instead, he sent the latter’s deadbody to his Calcutta home after 43 days. Later on Dr Karna Singh, the son of His Highness Maharaja Hari Singh, wrote at one place that he had no information about the arrest of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji, and that even about his death he came to know only when his body was dispatched to Calcutta.
On 24th June a condolence meeting was held at Jammu Parade Ground, where it was declared that for 13 days the movement will be suspended and thereafter it would be intensified and taken to all parts of the country until Jammu and Kashmir become a part of India. However, by that time Jawahar Lal Nehru had realized that this movement would grip the entire nation and apprehending further trouble he talked to Praja Parishad leaders, assured them that their demands would be accepted. He got Sheikh Abdullah arrested. A resolution was passed in J & K assembly that the state would henceforth be a part of Indian state. On 14th May 1954 the President of India issued an order to this effect.
By now the differences cropped up even within the National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah and dissents were expressed by many leaders over the dictatorial attitude of Sheikh and his anti-national approach. Abdullah wanted that India and J & K relations should confine to three areas only – Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication. On the other hand, Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed and his supporters, GL Dongra, DP Dhar and others wanted the relationship in other areas also, such as judiciary and finance.
At one stage there was confrontation in National Conference meeting and it was decided that this matter be resolved through voting. Fifteen votes were cast in favour of Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed and four votes were cast in favour of Sheikh Abdullah. Thus the pro-India group had shown its strength. Dr Karna Singh informed Nehru about this situation while the latter was in Europe. On 24th July Sheikh Abdullah’s statement was published in Hindustan Times New Delhi that J & K relations with India have been tarnished due to recent communal acts. Soon came the counter-statement of Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed that he would ensure the national integration at any cost.
However, Sheikh Abdullah kept on saying that the merger of J & K with India was forced and not willful. By now the confrontation had taken a serious turn and Sheikh demanded resignation of his cabinet minister Shamlal Sarraf, who refused to oblige him. Instead, a five-page memorandum was drafted by Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed, GL Dongra and Shamlal Sarraf and the same was dispatched to Sheikh and copy marked to Sadar-e-Riyasat Dr. Karna Singh. In this five-page letter it was said that Sheikh had violated his own stand on India and J & K relations, that was reflected in the Delhi-Accord that was signed during the constituent assembly. It was said that the recent approach of Sheikh was in contravention with the spirit of earlier agreements, due to which the policy of national integration and secularism polity was at stake. They alleged that due to his recent decisions people have lost faith in the government and the cabinet of ministers.
The message of the above memorandum was clear that the cabinet had lost faith and therefore the government must go. Sheikh Abdullah had lost the right to remain the ‘Prime Minister’ of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, for justifying the claim of Sheikh to be the PM of J & K, Nehru had earlier argued that National Conference was the only political outfit in Kashmir and that Sheikh was the unanimous leader of the party. But now the situation had changed. Neither National Conference had remained the only organization (since Praja Parishad had emerged as a force to reckon with) nor Sheikh Abdullah had remained the only leader of National Conference.
Sadar-e-Riyasat Dr Karna Singh called Abdullah to meet him and after holding preliminary discussions on all the issues asked him to come with the other ministers in the evening so that all the different opinions can be compared and the issue be resolved. But Abdullah didn’t turn up. Instead, he went to Gulmarg with his family members. At this, exercising his power as Sadar-e-Riyasat, Dr. Karna Singh dismissed the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah and his cabinet. Sheikh Abdullah was arrested from Gulmarg and was brought to Tara Guest House that was converted into temporary jail. And at the same time Bakhshi Gulam Mohammed was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. And thus Post-Independence Indian history completed its first full circle.
The unfortunate part of this story was that Nehru and National Conference leaders could smell the foul designs of Sheikh Abdullah very late, and meanwhile the country had to sacrifice one of its heroes Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji. After Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest when the constituent assembly met to finally approve the constitution, only nine members of national conference (including Sheikh Abdullah) were absent, which made it immensely clear to everyone that even his party was not prepared to follow the divisive policy of Sheikh Abdullah. Thus we can see that our dearest hero Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji achieved the desired results even though he was not present amongst us in his mortal shape.