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Opinion
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: Facts and Fiction-II
By Subhash Gatade
"
If at all the saffrons are able to undertake this arduous journey they will be confronted with another set of troubling questions regarding Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's political journey before independence and their continuous valorisation of his legacy.

Born in 1901, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee started his political leader in 1929 and became a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. He joined the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939 to espouse the cause of the Hindus in India and was a close associate of Savarkar. He was the opposition leader in the state when a coalition government led by Krishak Praja Party - Muslim League coalition was in power 1937-41. Later he joined the Ministry headed by Fazlul Haq as a Finance Minister and continued sharing power during the tumultuous times of the 'Quit India' movement when the Britishers faced mortal challenge to their rule. The experiment to share power with Muslim League then was not limited to Bengal alone, it extended to Sindh as well as NWFP (North West Frontier Province) and was part of a conscious policy adopted by the Hindu Mahasabha.

Defending this power sharing Savarkar had said:

..in practical politics also the Mahasabha knows that we must advance through reasonable compromises. Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind Hindu Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition government. case of Bengal is well known. Wild Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissiveness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and sociable as soon as they came in contact with the Hindu Mahasabha and the coalition government, under the premiership of Mr Fazlul Haq and the able lead of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities.

(V.D.Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya Hindu Rasthra Darshan (Collected works of V.D.Savarkar) Vol VI, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p 479-480)

Prof Shamsul Islam, in his well researched book 'Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS' (Media House, Delhi, 2006) describes how '[H]indu Mahasabha and the Muslim League had a coalition government in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) also.' (Page 313) He quotes Baxter: 'In the Frontier, Sardar Aurangzeb Khan formed a ministry which combined Muslim Leaguers, Sikh Akalis and Mahasabhaites, and placed the Congress led by Dr Khan Sahib temporarily in the opposition. The Mahasabha member of the Cabinet was Finance Minister Mehar Chand Khanna.' (Craig Baxter, The Jan Sangh : A Biography of an Indian Political Party, (Philadelphia : University of Pennysylvania Press, 1969, P. 20).

It is now history how in 1942 when the Britishers were engaged in the World War II and the Congress's call for 'Quit India' reverberated throughout India, thousands of people engaged in government jobs including police and military left their jobs to protest continuation of British regime, the formations espousing the cause of Hindutva adopted a compromising attitude. While the RSS preferred to keep itself aloof from the 'Quit India Movement', Savarkar, then Supremo of Hindu Mahasabha went one step further. At that time, Savarkar preferred to tour India asking Hindu youth to join the military with a call 'Militarise the Hindus, Hinduise the nation' .. thus strengthening British efforts to suppress the rising tide of people's movement.

Savarkar's address to the twenty fourth session of Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur is worth quoting where he outlined Hindu Mahasabha's 'policy of responsive cooperation' with the British rule.

The Hindu Mahasabha holds that the leading principle of all practical politics is the policy of responsive cooperation. And in virtue of it, it believes that all those Hindu Sangathanists who are working as councillors, ministers, legislators and conducting any municipal or any public bodies with a view to utilise those centres of government power [...] are rendering a highly patriotic service to our nation. [..] The policy of responsive cooperation which covers the whole gamut of patriotic activities from unconditional co-operation right up to active and even armed resistance, will also keep adapting itself to the exigencies of the time, resources at our disposal and dictates of our national interest.

(V.D.Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya Hindu Rasthra Darshan ( Collected works of V.D.Savarkar) Vol VI, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p 474)

In fact, Savarkar was of the opinion that with banning of Congress in 1942 and its removal from "..[t]he political field as an open organisation..the Hindu Mahasabha alone was left to take up the task of conducting whatever 'Indian National' activities lay within its scope.' (do - Page 475)

As a close associate of Savarkar, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who later became President of Hindu Mahasabha in 1944, was a party to all these decisions and had no qualms in British efforts to suppress people's movement against the British rule. In his book 'History of Modern Bengal' Ramesh Chandra Mazumdar provides details of his letter to the then Bengal Governor on suggesting measures against the Quit India Movement. According to him:

"[S]hyam Prasad ended the letter with a discussion of the mass movement organised by the Congress. He expressed the apprehension that the movement would create internal disorder and will endanger internal security during the war by exciting popular feeling and he opined that any government in power has to suppress it, but that according to him could not be done only by persecution.... In that letter he mentioned item wise the steps to be taken for dealing with the situation .... " (Ramesh Ch. Mazumdar, History of Modern Bengal, Part II, pp 350-351).

(Concluded)


News Updated at : Friday, July 5, 2013
 
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