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Shyamaprasad Mukherjee had "supported" Kashmir autonomy, opposed Quit India

By Our Representative
A new book by Subhash Gatade, "Hindutva's Second Coming", published by Media House, has revealed that Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, considered by BJP as one of the main Hindutva ideologues, who died in 1953 under "debatable circumstances" after being arrested for opposing the special status to Kashmir, had "initially accepted" the inevitability of Article 370, which provides autonomy the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Taking a leaf from the past on the basis of "documents, letters, memorandums, white papers, proclamations and amendments" brought to light by AG Noorani in ‘Article 370: A Constitutional History of J and K’, Gatade, a Left activist and author of several books and articles in Hindi and English, states, these are enough to "clear many a confusions about the tumultuous era in post-Independence times" pertaining to J&K.
Negotiated between Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, says Gatade, special status to J&K "had a stamp of approval from Sardar Patel and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, with Patel playing an "important role in getting the provision for J&K’s special status cleared by our Constituent Assembly."
He adds, "Contrary to the BJP propagated opinion, Patel intervened in a dispute between some Congress party members opposed to the special status and Jawaharlal Nehru’s minister (without portfolio but entrusted with the task of dealing with the issue) Gopalaswamy Ayyangar to ensure the smooth passage of Article 370 (called 306 then)."
Gatade quotes Jitendra Singh, former spokesperson of BJP for J&K and its national executive member as acknowledging Mukherjee "had suggested to first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to put a time-bound rider on ‘Article 370’ and specify for how long it was being envisaged.”
According to Gatade, "In his write-up in ‘The Greater Kashmir’, Balraj Puri, veteran journalist, has provided further details about the same: '[S]hyama Prasad’s prolonged triangular correspondence with Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah on the status of the state, which was published at that time by the party, is the most authentic evidence of his stand on the issue'."
In his letter dated January 9, 1953 to both of them, Mukherjee wrote: “We would readily agree to treat the valley with Sheikh Abdullah as the head in any special manner and for such time as he would like but Jammu and Ladakh must be fully integrated with India.”
Notes Gatade, while Nehru rejected the idea warning against its repercussions in Kashmir and the world, Abdullah sent a detailed reply in which he said, “You are perhaps not unaware of the attempts that are being made by Pakistan and other interested quarters to force a decision for disrupting the unity of the state. Once the ranks of the state people are divided, any solution can be foisted on them.”
Abdullah further quoted Mukherjee's letter to Pandit Nehru on February 17, 1953, where it was suggested that "both parties reiterate that the unity of the state will be maintained and that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu and also to Ladakh and Kashmir Valley", and that the "implementation of Delhi agreement -- which granted special status to the state -- will be made at the next session of J&K Constituent Assembly.”
Gatade asserts, "Nehru replied that proposal for autonomy to the three provinces had been agreed by him and Abdullah in July 1952. If Mukerjee had realised his mistake, he should withdraw the agitation unconditionally. Mukherjee was unwilling to do it as it amounted to surrender. The deadlock prolonged over some way which could provide, what may be called, a face saving to the Jana Sangh."
Revealing this and more in the books's chapter "Can the Real Shyamaprasad Mukherjee would ever Stand Up?", Gatade says, Mukherjee -- born in 1901, joining the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939 to "espouse the cause of the Hindus" and was "a close associate of Savarkar" -- even joined the joined the Muslim League ministry headed by Fazlul Haq as finance minister and continued sharing power in Bengal during the tumultuous times of the ‘Quit India’ movement.
"The experiment to share power with Muslim League by the Hindu Mahasabha then was not limited to Bengal alone, it extended to Sind and as well as North West Frontier Province) and was part of a conscious policy adopted by the Hindu Mahasabha", Gatade says, adding, Mukherjee, who later became President of Hindu Mahasabha, "had no qualms in British efforts to suppress people’s movement against the British rule."
Thus, in his book ‘History of Modern Bengal’ Ramesh Chandra Mazumdar is quoted as referring to the Bengal Governor as saying that Mukherjee "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."
Mukherjee's letter allegedly said that "anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being... The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal?"
Mukherjee is claimed to have added, "The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province... Indians have to trust the British, not for the sake for Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defense and freedom of the province itself."
However, Mukherjee got disillusioned with the Hindu Mahasabha, and after Gandhi’s assassination. He declared on February 6, 1948 that .."[i]n my considered judgement the Hindu Mahasabha has today two alternatives before it. The first is that it can break away from its political activities and confine its attention to social, cultural and religious matters alone.The other alternative is for the Hindu Mahasabha to abandon its communal composition, to reorient its policy and throw its doors open to any citizen, irrespective of religion..."

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