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Syama Prasad Mukherjee

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Title: Syama Prasad Mukherjee  
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Subject: Minister of Commerce and Industry (India), Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, K. B. Hedgewar, Hindutva, Narhar Vishnu Gadgil
Collection: 1901 Births, 1953 Deaths, 1St Lok Sabha Members, Bengali Hindus, Bengali People, Bengali Politicians, Bharatiya Jan Sangh Politicians, First Indian Cabinet, Hindu Mahasabha Politicians, Hindu Martyrs, Hindu Revivalists, Indian Academics, Indian Barristers, Indian Independence Activists from Bengal, Indian People Who Died in Prison Custody, Indian Political Party Founders, Lok Sabha Members from West Bengal, Members of Constituent Assembly of India, People from Kolkata, Presidency University, Kolkata Alumni, Presidents of the Asiatic Society, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Pracharaks, Relief Workers in Noakhali, University of Calcutta Alumni, Unsolved Deaths, Vice Chancellors of the University of Calcutta
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Syama Prasad Mukherjee

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
Minister of Commerce and Industry
In office
15 August 1947 – 6 April 1950
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Preceded by First Minister of Commerce and Industry
Succeeded by ?
Founder-President of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh
In office
Preceded by First President
Succeeded by Mauli Chandra Sharma
Personal details
Born (1901-07-06)6 July 1901
Calcutta, Bengal, British India
Died 23 June 1953(1953-06-23) (aged 51)
Jammu and Kashmir, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Jana Sangh
Other political
Hindu Mahasabha
Spouse(s) Sudha Devi
Parents Ashutosh Mukherjee (father)
Jogamaya Devi (mother)
Alma mater University of Calcutta
Lincoln's Inn
Profession Academician
Political activist
Religion Hinduism

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee alternatively spelt as Syama Prasad Mookerjee(6 July 1901 – 23 June 1953) was an Indian politician, barrister and academician, who served as Minister for Industry and Supply in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet. After falling out with Nehru, Mukherjee quit the Indian National Congress and founded the nationalist Bharatiya Jana Sangh (which would later evolve into BJP) in 1951.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career Pre-independence 2
    • As leader of Hindu Mahasabha 2.1
    • Opposition to Quit India Movement 2.2
  • Political career Post-independence 3
  • Opinion on special status of Jammu and Kashmir 4
  • Death 5
  • Legacy 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born in a Bengali family on 6 July 1901 in Calcutta (Kolkata). His father was Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, a judge of the High Court of Judicature at Fort William, Bengal, who was also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. His mother was Lady Jogamaya Devi Mukherjee. Eminent writer and Himalaya lover Umaprasad Mukhopadhyay was his younger brother.

Shyama Prasad grew up to be "an introvert, rather insular, a reflective person; also an emotional person", who needed someone else by his side to give him emotional support. He was seriously affected by the early death of his wife Sudha Devi and never remarried Mukherjee obtained his degrees from the University of Calcutta. He graduated in English securing the first position in first class in 1921 and also completed an MA in Bengali(on his father's advice) and stood first in 1923 and completed his BL in 1924. He became a fellow of the Senate in 1923. He enrolled as an advocate in Calcutta High Court in 1924 after his father had died. Subsequently he left for England in 1926 to study at Lincoln's Inn and became a Barrister-at-Law in 1927. At the age of 33, he became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1934), and held the office till 1938. During his term as Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University he invited Rabindranath Tagore to give Convocation Address in Bengali in 1937, for the first time in history.[1]

He was married for 11 years and had five children – the last one, a four-month-old son, died from diphtheria. His wife died of pneumonia shortly afterwards.

His grandniece Kamala Sinha served as the Minister of State for External affairs in I. K. Gujral ministry.[2]

Political career Pre-independence

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee started his political career in a small way in 1929, when he entered the Bengal Legislative Council as a Congress candidate representing Calcutta University.[3] He was elected as member of the Legislative Council of Bengal, as an Indian National Congress candidate representing Calcutta University but resigned the next year when Congress decided to boycott the legislature. Subsequently, he contested the election as an independent candidate and was elected. He was the Finance minister of Bengal Province in 1941–42.

As leader of Hindu Mahasabha

He joined the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939, becoming President in 1944.[4] He became the opposition leader when the Krishak Praja Party – Muslim League coalition was in power 1937–41 and joined the Progressive Coalition Ministry headed by Fazlul Haq as a Finance Minister. On 11 February 1941 Mukherjee told a Hindu rally that if Muslims wanted to live in Pakistan they should "pack their bag and baggage and leave India... (to) wherever they like".[5]

Mukherjee supported the partition of Bengal in 1946 to prevent the inclusion of its Hindu-majority areas in a Muslim-dominated East Pakistan;[6] he also opposed a failed bid for a united but independent Bengal made in 1947 by Sarat Bose, the brother of Subhas Chandra Bose and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, a Bengali Muslim politician.

His views were strongly affected by the Noakhali genocide in East Bengal, where mobs belonging to the Muslim league massacred Hindus in large numbers.[7]

He wanted the Hindu Mahasabha not to be restricted to Hindus alone or work as an apolitical body for the service of the masses. Following the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, the Mahasabha was blamed chiefly for the heinous act and became deeply unpopular. Mukherjee himself condemned the murder.

Opposition to Quit India Movement

Following the Hindu Mahasabha's official decision to boycott the Quit India movement,[8] Mookerjee wrote a letter to the British Government as to how they should respond, if the Congress gave a call to the British rulers to Quit India. In this letter, dated July 26, 1942 he wrote:
“Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. 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” [9][10]
Mookerjee in this letter reiterated that the Fazlul Haq led Bengal Government, along with its alliance partner Hindu Mahasabha would make every possible effort to defeat the Quit India Movement in the province of Bengal and made a concrete proposal as regards this:
“The question is how to combat this movement(Quit India) in Bengal? 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. It should be possible for us, especially responsible Ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres it might be limited during the emergency. Indian 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. You, as Governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your Minister.[10]
Even the Indian historian R.C. Majumdar noted this fact and states:
"Shyam 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 .... " [11]

Political career Post-independence

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inducted him into the Interim Central Government as a Minister for Industry and Supply. Mukherjee was widely respected by many Indians and also by members of the Indian National Congress, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of its chief leaders.

But on the issue of the 1950 Delhi Pact with Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Mukherjee resigned from the Cabinet on 6 April 1950. Mukherjee was firmly against Nehru's invitation to the Pakistani PM, and their joint pact to establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both countries. He wanted to hold Pakistan directly responsible for the terrible influx of millions of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan, who had left the state fearing religious suppression and violence aided by the state. Mukherjee considered Nehru's actions as appeasement, and was hailed as a hero by the people of West Bengal.

After consultation with Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Mukherjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh on 21 October 1951 in Delhi and he became its first President. In the 1952 elections, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh won 3 seats in the Parliament of India including his seat. He had formed the National Democratic Party within the Parliament which consisted of 32 members of parliament and 10 of members of the Rajya Sabha which, however, was not recognised by the speaker as an opposition party.[4][12] The BJS was ideologically close to the RSS and widely considered the political arm of Hindu Nationalism. It was opposed to the appeasement of India's Muslims. The BJS also favoured a uniform civil code governing personal law matters for both Hindus and Muslims, and wanted to ban cow slaughter and end the special status given to the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. The BJS founded the Hindutva agenda, which became the wider political expression of India's Hindu majority. His legacy still remains influential among the conservative members within the Congress.

Opinion on special status of Jammu and Kashmir

To voice his opposition Mukherjee turned outside Parliament and on Kashmir he termed the arrangement under Article 370 as the Balkanisation of India and the three nation theory of Sheikh Abdullah. Bharatiya Jana Sangh along with Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya Parishad launched a massive Satyagraha to get removed the provisions. Mukherjee went to visit Kashmir in 1953 and was arrested on 11 May while crossing Kashmir Border at Lakhanpur. He died as detenu on 23 June 1953.[4]

Mukherjee opposed the Indian National Congress's decision to grant Kashmir a special status with its own flag and Prime Minister. According to Congress's decision, no one, including the President of India could enter into Kashmir without the permission of Kashmir's Prime Minister. In opposition to this decision, he once said "Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi chalenge" (A single country can't have two constitutions, two prime ministers, and two National Emblems).

Mukherjee went to visit Kashmir in 1953 illegally, and observed a hunger strike to protest the law that prohibited Indian citizens from settling in a state within their own country and mandated that they carry ID cards. Mukherjee wanted to go to Jammu and Kashmir but, because of the prevailing permit system, he was not given permission.[13] He was arrested on 11 May while crossing the border into Kashmir. Although the ID card rule was revoked owing to his efforts, he died as a détenu on 23 June 1953 under mysterious circumstances.

However, before his death, he had agreed to a formulation of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir with further autonomy for each region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. In a letter on 17 February 1953 to Nehru in which he suggested:[14] "(1) 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. (2) Implementation of Delhi agreement—which granted special status to the State—will be made at the next session of Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly.”

According to Balraj Madhok, who later on became the President of the Jana Sangh, the party withdrew its commitment to the State autonomy and regional autonomy under the directive from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters).[14][15]


Mukherjee was arrested on entering Kashmir on 11 May 1953. Thereafter, he was jailed in a dilapidated house.[16] Mukherjee had suffered from dry pleurisy and coronary troubles, and was taken to hospital one and a half months after his arrest due to complications arising from the same. He was administered penicillin despite having informed the doctor-in-charge of his allergy to penicillin, and he died on 23 June 1953.

His death in custody raised wide suspicion across the country and demands for an independent enquiry were raised, including earnest requests from his mother, Jogamaya Devi, to Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru declared that he had inquired from a number of persons who were privy to the facts and, according to him, there was no mystery behind Mukherjee's death. Jogamaya Devi did not accept Nehru's reply and requested the setting up of an impartial enquiry. Nehru, however, ignored the letter and no enquiry commission was set up. Mukherjee's death therefore remains a matter of some controversy.[17] Atal Bihari Vajpayee claimed in 2004 that the arrest of Mukherjee in Jammu and Kashmir was a "Nehru conspiracy".[18]


Along with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Mukherjee is considered the godfather of Hindu nationalism in India, especially the Hindutva movement.

Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre - Headquarters of Municipal Corporation of Delhi

On 22 April 2010, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD) newly constructed Rs. 650-crore building (the tallest building in Delhi) was named the Doctor Syama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre.[19] The Civic Centre was inaugurated by Home Minister P. Chidambaram. The building, which will cater to an estimated 20,000 visitors per day, will also house different wings and offices of the MCD. Delhi also has a major road named after Mukherjee, as does Kolkata.

On 27 August 1998, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation named a bridge after Mukherjee.[20]

A BEST bus stop near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and Regal Cinema in Mumbai is named Syamaprasad Mukherjee Chowk in his honour.

In 2001, the main research funding institute of the Government of India, CSIR, instituted a new fellowship named after him. The Syama Prasad Mukherjee Fellowship is the most prestigious fellowship given in India for doing a PhD. Only the top twenty-percent of students who clear the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF CSIR/UGC) are eligible to sit for this examination.

On 15 January 2012, Mathikere flyover under Bangalore City Limits was inaugurated and named the Dr Syamaprasad Mukherjee Flyover.

In 2014, a multipurpose indoor stadium built on the Goa University campus in Goa was named after Mukherjee.[21]


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  5. ^ Legislative Council Proceedings [BLCP], 1941, Vol. LIX, No. 6, p 216
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  18. ^ Nehru conspiracy led to Syama Prasad's death: Atal Times of India – 4 July 2004
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Further reading

External links

  • Excerpts from convocation address at Benares Hindu University (1 December, 1940)
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