Death of SP Mookerjee: Nirmal Chatterjee demanded inquiry in LS by a SC Judge, Congress including Bidhan Chandra denied it

Death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee at Srinagar (1)

Parliamentary Debates, House Of The People, Official Report, 18th September 1953, Parliament Secretariat, New Delhi.

DATE: 18th September 1953

Shri N. C. Chatterjee: Sir, this session of Parliament began with a reference to the tragic death of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. That tragic death robbed this House certainly of one of the ablest Parliamentarians India has ever produced. Certainly, this country still mourns the loss of one of the greatest sons of mother India who rendered conspicuous services both to Bengal and to India in moments of great crises, especially during the Bengal famine, during the dark days of relentless repression which followed the August 1942 movement and also the terrible days which we in Bengal had to go through under the League administration.

Millions of his admiring countrymen were literally stunned to hear the unexpected news of his death at Srinagar. In the city of his birth, there was a spontaneous outburst of public feeling and the demonstrations of popular homage and tribute were really remarkable. The city of Calcutta has never witnessed anything like that since the passing away of the great patriot Deshbandhu C. R. Das. Far, far away from his family, far far away from his friends, in the chilling atmosphere of a State hospital at Srinagar, died Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. But, he died a hero’s death, a true martyr to the cause which he held sacred, the cause of India’s unity and integrity which he cherished all his life and for which he sacrificed his life. But, what adds poignancy to the tragic death is that one of the greatest sons of India was robbed of his freedom, not by a Government run by alien usurpers, but by a Government which was manned by the children of the soil. The greatest tragedy is that he was kept as a prisoner behind the prison bars, without any trial and he was treated like an ordinary criminal in spite of his serious illness because he loved his motherland deeply and passionately and because he sought in his own way to maintain, the unity of the country, and, if possible, to intensify and strengthen that unity and solidarity.

I am appealing today to all sections of this House to respond to the demand for a public enquiry. Dr. Jayakar, you know. Sir, was a Judge of the Federal Court of India and later on he was a Member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. On the day of his death, 23rd June, Dr. Jayakar issued a statement from Poona. I am reading from a book published by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s brother entitled “Syama Prasad Mookerjee: His Death in Detention A case for Enquiry”. I find the hon. Home Minister has got the same book in his hand. I refer to page 53. Dr. Jayakar said: “To die in prison-house locked there by his country’s Swadeshi Government, by persons with whom he shared power as a colleague only a few days ago is a fitting termination of a warring life. Let us hope that this incident will make the Government of India realise, in their self-complacent enjoyment of the chits of American visitors, the deep enormity of their behaviour which ignored all the canons of fairness and Justice accepted by civilised Governments.”

I hope the Government of India appreciates the enormity of its behaviour and it will respond readily to this demand not merely put forward by the revered mother of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, but by all sections, by all parties, by all groups of people in Bengal and by millions of people outside Bengal. It is not merely tragic but it is also mysterious, how the last chapter of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s life was written in detention, in the sub-jail, and in the hospital at Kashmir. The public feel that both Srinagar and New Delhi had badly bungled the situation.

The then Prime Minister of the State of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, had issued a statement shortly after Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s death, that is, on the 26th June. You will find that in page 36 of this book. You will find that statement printed there. Sheikh Abdullah categorically stated why Dr. Syama Prasad was arrested. It says: “Referring to the circumstances under which the Jan Sangh leader was detained and arrested in the State for defying the permit system, Sheikh Abdullah said even though the permit system means some difficulty for us, we have to submit to the needs of the national security of India as defence of the country is paramount for every Indian.”

Sheikh Abdullah was then thinking that he was an Indian and that Dr. Syama Prasad was being detained for the defence of India and for the security of India. Now, Sir, this is a very peculiar position, who introduced the permit system? When was it introduced? Whose responsibility was the permit system? The permit system was introduced by the Government of India, not by the Government of Sheikh Abdullah. Up to the point of time when Dr. Mookerjee was arrested there was no law in the State of Jammu and Kashmir making it an offence for anyone to enter that State without any permit. After Dr. Mookerjee’s arrest, the Jammu and Kashmir Government passed an Ordinance through the Sadr-e-Riyasat making this an offence. Therefore, up to the point of his arrest there was no law in that State of Jammu and Kashmir which required anyone to produce a permit. This has been clearly recorded by Dr. Mookerjee in his own handwriting, in some notes made by him in connection with an application made before the Kashmir High Court. That note is printed in the booklet at page 70, paragraph 2, Dr. Mookerjee says what happened: “On 11th May Jammu and Kashmir Government passed an Ordinance through the Sadr-i-Riyasat making it an offence for anyone to enter the State without a STATE permit. My arrest was not under this Ordinance.”

When a Member of this Parliament, Mr. V. G. Despande, wanted to visit Kashmir, the Government of India refused to issue a Kashmir entry permit to him in the month of April this very year. Mr. Despande immediately wrote to the Prime Minister of India on the 11th of April. On the 12th of April, the Prime Minister of India promptly replied to Mr. Despande’s letter. I am reading out a portion of that letter of the Prime Minister. I have got the original letter with me.

“The system of issuing permits for entry into the Jammu and Kashmir State was introduced some years ago by the Government of India, and it is the responsibility of the Government of India exercised by the Defence Ministry of India.”

Therefore, Sir, according to the Prime Minister, the permit system was introduced by the Government of India. The responsibility was that of the Government of India. The responsibility was to be exercised by the Defence Ministry of India. What right had Sheikh Abdullah to arrest Dr. Mookerjee? What right had Sheikh Abdullah’s Government to arrest Dr. Mookerjee for the infringement of the so-called permit system? The facts prove that on the 8th of May, Dr. Mookerjee, before proceeding to Jammu and Kashmir had telegraphically informed Sheikh Abdullah of his proposed visit and of the purpose of his visit. That is in an affidavit which Dr. Mookerjee himself affirmed, to which no objection was taken by the Kashmir State Government which was represented in the High Court. I am reading. Sir, pages 74 and 75—at page 74 is the petition which was filed In the High Court the petitioner being Dr. Mookerjee; in page 75 you will find the affidavit of Dr. Mookerjee verifying the facts as being true to his knowledge. In paragraph 2 he says:

“Before coming to Jammu and Kashmir I had intimated to Shri Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah by a telegram of my proposed visit and of the purpose of my visit, viz., to study conditions myself and to explore the possibilities of creating conditions leading to a peaceful settlement and to see if possible Hon’ble Shri Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. I had received a reply thereto.”

That reply is set out at page 75 of the booklet. Sheikh Abdullah wrote: “Thanks your telegram—I am afraid your proposed visit to the State at the present juncture inopportune and will not serve any useful purpose.”

Dr. Mookerjee has left some notes which were kept in a portfolio. His diary and the biography of his father. Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee, which he was writing in jail have been unfortunately withheld. Fortunately, the papers in that portfolio had not been removed because the key of that portfolio was attached to his sacred thread. That key was discovered when his dead body “was placed on the bier at his Calcutta residence. When the portfolio was opened, in one of the notes found therein there was a charge clearly made by him in his own handwriting: That, Sir, is printed in this booklet at page 71 item (2). This is the charge made by Dr. Mookerjee:

“Conspiracy between Government of India and Jammu and Kashmir Government—the circumstances under which my entry was facilitated by Indian officials.”

This is a serious charge to make. That there seems to be a good justification for Dr. Mookerjee making that charge in writing. He has not recorded here something untrue, something fantastic, something unfounded. Not only the Government of India did not arrest him for the infringement of the so-called permit system which that Government introduced — it did not detain him for the alleged violation of the permit system— but the District Magistrate of Gurdaspur actually escorted Dr. Mookerjee and his party right up to the border, and it seems that he was pushed into the State of Jammu and Kashmir as a result of some understanding or some arrangement between the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir State.

I have got here a statement issued by Mr. Gurudutt Vaid, a responsible citizen of Delhi, who has clearly stated the circumstances and has stated that the District Magistrate of Gurdaspur and his officials were present at Madhopur check-post and actually wished Dr. Mookerjee goodbye. I am reading from page 36. Mr. Gurudutt Vaid says:

“At about 12 o’ clock…—12 o’clock. Sir, of the day when he was arrested—“ …a message came from the District Magistrate, Gurdaspur, to the place where we have been staying to the effect that he wanted to see Dr. Mookerjee. So he came at about I p .m . He informed Dr. Mookerjee that he had received a message from his Government to allow him and his party to proceed to Jammu, in spite of the fact that Dr. Mookerjee and his party had no permit. He offered help to procure conveyance etc., to us to go to Jammu. In fact, one of his subordinate officers took some of the persons of the party in his Jeep up to Madhopur check post. At Madhopur check post the District Magistrate and all his officers were standing and the District Magistrate wished us a good journey.”

But, Sir, there was one difficulty. The driver of the jeep was not a Member of Parliament, nor a big man. He got funky, and he got nervous. Mr. Vaid has stated— am reading his statement:

“The driver of our jeep had at that time complained that he had no permit to enter Jammu State. We demanded a permit from the District Magistrate. He stated that we should proceed and the permit would follow us.”

Sir, this clearly shows that there was some complicity, combination, coordination, conspiracy between the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. That was why he was trapped in Jammu and Kashmir. It may have been a perfectly good strategy to push him out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India in order to avoid a repetition of another legal discomfiture as had taken place on the occasion when the Supreme Court ordered Syama Prasad’s release and my release. But that makes this Government of India equally responsible and they cannot shirk, nor shed their responsibility for what had happened to Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, after that day when he was in detention in that State. It is significant that Sheikh Abdullah made another statement immediately after Syama Prasad’s death. On the 26 June, in a public statement at Srinagar, the Sheikh Sahib said that he was going to send Dr. Mookerjee back to Delhi immediately on the return of Pandit Nehru to India. If it was merely the concern of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, what was the point of the Prime Minister of that Government stating that he was practically acting as the Jailor or custodian of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee for the Government of India? Obviously, Sir, the two Governments were acting in consultation and combination, if not in conspiracy or complicity.

You remember, Sir, a criminal case for alleged violation of a prohibition order was pending against Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee in the Delhi Court from the month of April. When the Delhi trying Magistrate wrote to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir—send down Dr. Mookerjee because I have got to record his statement under section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code —the Kashmir Government refused to accede to the request of the Magistrate of Delhi. The Government of Delhi, which was prosecuting Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee along with another Member of Parliament, in that case, managed somehow to delay the hearing on the ground of the alleged illness of a Sub-Inspector of Police. That Sub-Inspector was trying to dodge the court from day to day and the case was being adjourned. He was the last witness in the case. The Magistrate was not satisfied. He went down to the Sub-Inspector*s quarter and he found that he was almost all right. Therefore, he ordered that the Civil Surgeon should examine him and report. On the 2nd June, the Magistrate passed orders in writing that he had received intimation from the Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Government stating that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was not likely to be produced in his court in the near future. Can you believe, Sir, that any part of the state could venture to deal with a Magistrate functioning in India in this fashion, trying Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee? Could it act in this contumacious manner unless there was connivance with the top men at Delhi, unless they had realised that that was the wish of the New Delhi lords?

Unless there was some understanding between the ruling men of the Governments, how could any Government of any State or any Part of State ever have the courage to behave in this fashion? In a letter which Syama Prasad wrote on the 12th May, he put in a significant sentence: “I was arrested yesterday, though the Government of India did not prevent my coming here without any permit. Under peculiar circumstances, my stay in Srinagar has come to be arranged”.

Sir, he knew that his letters were being censored and there was no chance of anything escaping the eagle eyes of Sheikh Abdullah because he was taking a personal interest in all his correspondence. But, Sir, he put it in a very mild way:

“My stay in Srinagar has come to be arranged”

The question is: was anything else arranged? That is the public suspicion.

I accuse this Government of India, I charge this Government that Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was illegally detained as a result of their abetment or conspiracy. As a citizen of India, as a Member of this Parliament, Syama Prasad had his fundamental right to go throughout the length and breadth of the territory of India and to find out conditions in any part of the territory of this country. Syama Prasad was deliberately deprived of that right and the orders of the 10th and 11th May really set out false grounds and, I am sorry to say, manufactured grounds. The orders. Sir, are printed in pages 76 and 77. The first order—page 76 – says:

“You shall not enter the Jammu and Kashmir State”.

The second order says:

“Whereas you have acted, you are acting and you are about to act in a manner prejudicial to public safety and peace, it is necessary to make the following order: Therefore, I, Inspector General of Police, order that he be arrested”—

Syama Prasad be arrested—“and removed under custody to Central Jail at Srinagar”.

Sir, this is a funny order and you would be also amazed to know that in his affidavit Dr. Mookerjee had stated that the second order was served on him only one minute after the first order—practically both of them were served together. It clearly is a false statement in the second order that he had acted in any manner prejudicial to public safety and peace. He was given absolutely no chance to comply with the first order. I know, Sir, that Dr. Mookerjee was expecting that he would be arrested by our Government and would be sent back to Delhi. Therefore, he had arranged with a distinguished foreign visitor that he would meet him on the 13th May in Delhi. But destiny decided otherwise.

I am charging that the Kashmir Government had been treating Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee as if he was a convicted fellow. The Health Minister’s statement issued on the 1st of July fails to bring to light certain inconvenient facts. That statement does not disclose one important fact that after the arrest of Dr. Mookerjee on the 11th of May he was taken in a jeep car and in spite of his protest, he was forced to travel till 2 a.m in the morning through mountainous regions.

Shri Purushottamdas Tandon, an hon. Member of this House did not share Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s politics. But, Sir, he said something shortly after Syama Prasad’s death. That is printed at page 54. Shri Tandon said that he felt that Dr. Mookerjee’s treatment “was not properly done”. Shri Tandon hoped the Government of India would explain the whole situation after due enquiry —“after due enquiry”. My grievance is, Bengal’s grievance is the public grievance is, the revered mother’s grievance is—and millions of people feel this grievance—that this Government of India has not explained the whole situation “after due enquiry”.

Really, Sir, no enquiry has ever been made at all, and that enquiry should be made In order to allay public suspicion. Sir, you know Shri Jayaprakash Narayan did not share Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s politics. But on the 8th July, he made a statement—I am reading from that statement printed at page 54 of this book:

“I regret deeply that the Prime Minister of India, in his reply to Shri Atulya Ghosh, reported in the Press this morning, has stated so categorically that there was no negligence shown by the Kashmir Government in the case of the late Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. I cannot say what facts have been placed before the Prime Minister, but the facts, as I know them, lead to an entirely different conclusion”.

Then Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan further added:

“It seems to me that after such a national tragedy the least that the Indian Government can do is to institute a proper and impartial enquiry into the whole affair. ….. Meanwhile, it does not seem proper for the Prime Minister to pronounce judgment on such a controversial subject and to attempt to whitewash the guilt of those who seem to deserve severe punishment.”

Sir, in a letter which Shri Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Shrimati Jogmaya Devi, the revered mother of Syama Prasad, he stated this. I am reading the letter.

“I can only say to you that I arrived at the clear and honest conclusion that there is no mystery in this. Dr. Mookerjee was given every consideration.”

The mother’s prompt reply was on the 9th of July.

“It is a sad commentary on the whole situation. Instead of helping to clear up the mystery, your attitude deepens it. I demand an open enquiry; I do not ask for your clear and honest conclusion. Your reaction to the whole affair is now well-known. The people of India and I. the mother, have got to be convinced. There is a rooted suspicion in the minds of many. What is required is an open, impartial and immediate enquiry. The various points raised in my letter remain unanswered. I had clearly told you that I had positive evidence to prove certain very relevant and important facts. You do not care to know or look into them. You say that you had enquired from a number of persons who had occasion to know some facts. It is strange that even we the members of his family are not regarded as persons who can throw at least some light on the matter! And yet you call your conclusion to be ‘honest’”

How could the Prime Minister of India be satisfied? How could he come to the honest conclusion and clear conclusion that there was no negligence and that Dr. Mookerjee was given every consideration? From whom did he make enquiries? Did he send for Mr. Trivedi, M.P. who was counsel of Dr. Mookerjee and who saw him on the last day? Did he send for any of the co-detenus who had spent days with him in the sub-jail? Did he send for any of the other persons? Dr. Mookerjee’s companion in jail has issued a statement in which he has pointed out that no medical assistance was available on the spot where Dr. Mookerjee was detained even when his condition had become serious.

Sir, I have not got time to go through all these. I will just read only one paragraph at page 42. Vaid’s statement says:

“It is a matter of regret that a precious life was lost in circumstances which I feel could admit of more efficient handling.

(a) Medical assistance was not available on the spot where Dr. Mookerjee was detained even when his condition became serious.

(b) No nursing arrangements were at all made in the place of his detention.

(c) No laboratory tests were made so long as he was in the sub-jail

(d) None of his fellow detenus were permitted to be at his bedside when he was removed to the hospital.

Even after Dr. Mookerjee expressed the desire that his fellow prisoners should be brought to the hospital no information was sent to them till he passed away.”

All this shows great cruelty, almost inhuman cruelty. When he realised that the end was coming he was shouting and appealing that his co-detenus should be brought to the hospital, but no one was allowed to visit him.

I am reading again from the book.

”No intimation was at all sent by the Kashmir authorities to Justice Mookerjee, his mother and his other relatives nor was any attempt made to have the service of an independent competent medical practitioner.”

It is a very significant charge. Sir. That charge itself shows that there is good prima facie case for an enquiry.

“(g) In spite of Dr. Mookerjee’s protest based on competent medical advice during his previous illness at Calcutta streptomycin was administered to him without previous pathological examination or without consulting his Calcutta doctors who were available on the phone.”

These charges, Sir, have been solemnly made; they stand and I am repeating these charges on the floor of this House.

Lot of propaganda has been and is being made that Dr. Mookerjee himself sent telegrams to the members of his family on the 22nd of June. Really it was one telegram addressed to his brother Mr. Justice Mookerjee and copies were sent to others. A lot of propaganda is being made that Mr. Trivedi M.P., who was the counsel of Dr. Mookerjee, had a long interview with him on that day even on the evening of that fateful day. As a matter of fact. Sir, in some countries this is one of the methods of liquidation of political opponents.

Dr. Mookerjee was made to undergo exertions which ought to have been avoided. Read the statement of Mr. Trivedi himself. Mr. Trivedi in his signed statements admits that the gravity of the illness had not been realised. I am just reading one paragraph on page 48 of Mr. Trivedi’s statement.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker: I am calling upon him to speak. I am allowing him an opportunity to speak.

Shri N. C. Chatterjee: I will read only one portion of his statement:

“(1 ) Dr. Mookerjee was not advised complete rest after the first attack on 22nd morning, 4 o’ clock;

(2) He was not immediately removed to the hospital while 7 valuable hours were lost;

(3) He was not carried to the hospital in an ambulance but was carried in a small taxi and in uncomfortable position;

(4) The immediate medical relief was not made available even after entry into the hospital;

(5) The gravity of the illness was not noticed;

(6) The Superintendent, Jail, was asked to remove Dr. Mookerjee to the hospital early morning but he wasted time and actually sat chatting with Mr. Raina for nearly one and a quarter of an hour”

Then he says something about medicine:

“(8) When the Doctors knew that he had heart trouble they failed in doing their duty to issue a bulletin immediately and to study the case with the greatest possible care specially when it appeared to be a case of heart trouble.

(9) All causes of mental pain ought to have been removed, the posting of police guards at his room and not allowing him the congenial company of one of those who knew him was also bad”

Then, Sir, he says something about the treatment. Lastly, he says:

“(11) The diagnosing doctor left it in the hands of his junior to carry out his behest without reference to Dr. Mookerjee and notwithstanding his suggestions to give him  smaller doses of streptomycin and avoiding the use of sedatives”

Sir, these are serious charges which Mr. Trivedi has made. Apart from this, very eminent doctors have pointed out, after the Government communique was issued and after the medical report of the illness of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was published by the Kashmir Government, that the treatment of Dr. Mookerjee was faulty in many respects.

Dr. Khare has clearly stated it. My friends are amused. I pity them. Dr. Khare has clearly stated that the nation-wide demand for a deep probe into the affair was fully justified. Dr. Naliniranjan Sen-Gupta*s report is very detailed and it is printed at page 51. He is the biggest doctor of Calcutta next to Dr. B. C. Roy and now that he is the Chief Minister he is the leading Doctor. Dr. Amal Kumar Roy-Chowdhury, M.D. is one of the best physicians known all over Bengal, whose opinion is on page 52:

“It seemed there must have been bungling somewhere and that proper attention had not been paid to the case.”

Then, Sir, there is one eminent doctor, Dr. T, N. Banerjee, who was the Principal of the Medical College, Patna and he has also said that there was no proper treatment.

The most cruel phenomenon in this entire tragic drama was that no intimation was ever sent by the Kashmir authorities to Mr. Justice Mookerjee his brother, or to his mother or his relatives, not even to Dr. B. C. Roy. Certainly, they knew that Dr. Roy was his physician and he was the Chief Minister of Bengal. They could contact him within two minutes on the phone. After his death he was informed in a short time, but not so long as he was ill.

Dr. Mookerjee was a strong critic of Pandit Nehru’s Government, in particular of his Kashmir policy as well as his policy towards Pakistan and the refugees. The ablest Parliamentarian in India, however, has languished and capitulated to death in prison. The greatest menace to democracy is the feeling that a political opponent of the Government can be liquidated in prison when he is held in detention without trial. That suspicion should be removed. That can be removed only by an honest inquiry. I think it is in the interest of the Government that they should immediately respond to this demand. This is a demand which the mother of Dr. Mookerjee has made in very moving terms: She says:

“I had long dedicated my son for selfless service to the country, and my son sacrificed his life for the cause of the Motherland. He had the courage of conviction to oppose the Party in power. Am I to believe that in Free India to lead an Opposition is a crime? And yet my son suffered detention till death, as a condemned criminal with this difference that the criminal gets a trial, but for him, there was not even a show of trial. It seems, malice and jealousy of persons in Authority, armed by the people with unlimited powers, pursued him persistently, and a huge machine of organised injustice was set against him. But my son’s courage proved greater than their malice, stronger than any torment their cruelty could devise. And he shall ever live even in death, for while thinking of him I cannot but think of those martyrs who had died on the wheel, in the flames, under the sword, riddled with arrows, torn and devoured by wild beasts”.

I honestly feel that it is desirable in the interests of the two governments concerned, if they have no guilty conscience if they have not got anything to hide from the public, nothing to keep back from the public, that they should immediately respond to this demand. It is a tragedy too deep for tears that a man of his position was held under a “lawless law” which is a disgrace to any civilised country and especially to a country which proclaims itself a Republic.

It is an Act much worse than the Preventive Detention Act, which stands to the discredit of my hon.friend under whom we have been enjoying for some months the taste of that statute. The least that he can do is to institute an impartial Commission of Enquiry and that has been demanded by the revered mother of Dr. Mookerjee and that demand has been endorsed and supported by millions of his countrymen throughout India. For under our Preventive Detention Act there are some grounds furnished, some charges given, but under that wonderful Kashmir Government’s Preventive Detention Act there are no grounds, no charges, no formulation, no knowledge of exactly what has happened.

He had fundamental political differences with New Delhi and with Kashmir. But he was no criminal who deserved no consideration even in his illness. Even under the British Imperial regime, a leader of his status could not have been kept behind the bars when he was ill. He would have been restored to liberty in time. Kashmir Government’s association with this grievous tragedy would not have been there if he had been released before he was removed from the sub-jail. This lamentable lapse on the part of the Kashmir Government would need a lot of explaining and New Delhi cannot escape from its share of the blame. It should have been more alert than it actually had been. Dr. Mookerjee epitomised the Opposition in the Parliament and that is why the Government should have been more careful, more vigilant and more tactful. I ask when was the Government of India informed of his serious illness?

What action had the Government taken? Did they make any offer to send any Doctor to Srinagar? It is in the interests of the two Governments that they should accede to this demand. Nemesis has overtaken Sheikh Abdullah. The Divine retribution has been very swift. The detainer is now himself a detenu. That is how Divinity shapes the destiny of men and things. Yet, it is in the interests of the two Governments to accede to the demand for a public enquiry and to probe into the circumstances which led to his death and explain to the country the whole position.

Source: Parliamentary Debates, House Of The People, Official Report, 18th September 1953, Parliament Secretariat, New Delhi.


(1) Syama Prasad Mookerjee passed away on June 23, 1953. A minister in undivided Bengal and in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet, Mookerjee was a prominent Opposition leader and founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He was detained without trial by Sheikh Abdullah’s government after his arrest in Kathua on May 11, 1953.

On June 30, 1953, Nehru wrote to Jogmaya Devi, Mookerjee’s mother, conveying his condolences. On July 4, Devi responded: “My son died in detention, detention without trial. You say, you had visited Kashmir during my son’s detention. You speak of the affection you had for him. But what prevented you, I wonder, from meeting him there personally and satisfying yourself about his health and arrangements?… Ever since his detention there, the first information that I, his mother, received from the Government of Jammu and Kashmir was that my son was no more… and in what cruel cryptic way the message was conveyed.” Further communication between Devi and Nehru makes for a sad reading.

Much later, on November 27, 1953, a resolution was moved in the West Bengal legislative assembly to hold an inquiry into the circumstances of his death while in detention in Kashmir. It argued for holding an inquiry through a commission headed by a Supreme Court judge. Surprisingly, an assembly member from the Congress party, Shankar Prasad Mitra, moved an amendment to this resolution asking for the words “for holding an inquiry”, to be substituted with “for requesting the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to hold an inquiry”. He also sought that the sentence “by appointing a Commission with the Judge of the Supreme Court of India to serve as Chairman of the Commission,” be omitted. Many who actively opposed the amendment wondered why Bidhan Chandra Roy, the Congress chief minister of West Bengal, who thought an inquiry to be necessary, had later declined it. [S P Mookerjee’s death left some unanswered questions-The Indian Express-]

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