There are many who divided our nation, but there are few who fought till their last breath to unite our partitioned nation.
Amongst the galaxy of freedom fighters, if there is one great fighter, we should be thankful to for enabling us to remain as a part of India, it is Dr Syama Prasad Mukherji. He shines as a big star. This man’s foresight and fight helped Assam remain in India. Assam was a group-C state and was supposed to be a part of East Pakistan during partition. Dr Syama Prasad Mukherji was a life saviour of the people of our State. His role in saving Assam from Pakistan is in record everywhere, in India and abroad. He saved Assam from being a part of Pakistan when he fought tooth and nail to retain Assam in India and not be included in the partitioned part given to over to Pakistan as part of East Pakistan.
Great freedom fighter Pushpalata Das said that Assam could not have been saved from being merged with East Pakistan by Gopinath Bordoloi alone if Dr Mukherji did not actively lend his support, strategise and fight for retaining Assam in India. Dr Mukherjee also provided adequate security to persecuted Bengalis as long as he was alive.
If we are happily living a secured peaceful life in Assam today, we should be thankful and grateful to him. Else we would have been on the other side of borders and be only 8.5% of the surviving Hindu population instead of 79.8% of India. Or scaringly of the 28% of the Hindu population of Bangladesh that no longer exist.
Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee travelled to several parts of Assam. He stayed here and experienced Assamese lifestyle and worked for the unity of Assam. He advocated for Assamese language to be the official language of the state. Such was his love and affection for Assamese language that he wanted to promote it extensively and made efforts towards it.
As soon as he became Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1935, he introduced Assamese language. He wanted that people of India should appreciate and learn Assamese language so as to know about the history of Assam, the state’s great and brave kings, have a sense of the past, community lifestyle cuisine, traditional industry, economics, art culture, the contribution of Assam and Assamese people towards our freedom struggle.
He selected Birinchi Kumar Barua, the first Assamese as a teacher at Calcutta University to teach Assamese language.
Parallelly, he urged every citizen of Assam, whichever region, religion, community they come from to learn the Assamese language and experience and feel the beauty of the language just as he did. He knew that more assimilation and affinity can be developed by knowing the language and learning to speak the language. Speaking the Assamese language by all communities of Assam will create more positive attitudes, bonding and less prejudice toward people; and definitely strengthen relationships.
Very few know about this towering personality. Apart from being one of the founding fathers of independent sovereign India, a· great patriot, educationist, parliamentarian, statesman, humanitarian and above all a campaigner for national unity and integrity he was also exceptionally intelligent meritorious students and a politician per excellence with top positions and ranking and had many firsts to his credit.
Born on 6 July, 1901 in Calcutta he became a legend in his life time. He was also an exceptionally intelligent meritorious students and a politician per excellence with top positions and ranking and has many firsts to his credit.
He was the youngest ever Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, being only 33years when he joined.
- He was the first to introduce Indian vernacular languageas a subject for the highest examination in Calcutta University when it was dominated by English alone
- He secured the first position in first classin his graduation in 1921.
- Although he secured a first class first in English in his graduation, but the nationalist in him never allowed him to take up English for M.A. He, therefore, took Indian vernacular – Bengali and one another Indian language – instead of English for his M.A. which also he passed with a first class in 1923.
- He passed his B.L., once again standing first in the University.
- During Dr Mukherjee’s term as Vice-Chancellor, Rabindranath Tagore delivered the university convocation address in Bengali for the first time.
- He was also an entrepreneur and started his own daily from Calcutta called The Nationalist.
- He was Independent India’s first Minister of Industry and Supply.
As Minister for Industries and Supplies in the Union Cabinet, he laid the firm foundation of the industrial development of the country by setting up the three most successful gigantic industrial undertakings viz. the Chittaranjan locomotive Factory, the Sindhri Fertilizer Corporation and the Hindustan Aircrafts Factory, Bangalore. In the four years of the pilotage of the crucial ministry, he did not attract one barb of criticism — so free from blemish was his performance.
He was righteous and always fought for the rights, security and equality of the citizen of India, especially protecting the rights of Hindus. He had great foresight of the future and how to keep a nation united and strong.
He was strongly against the partition of India. He considered it a very dangerous and disquieting development and fought tooth and nail for a united India.
- Dr. Mookerjee exerted his energies to save the Hindu majority parts of Punjab and Bengal. He organised a countrywide campaign against the partition of the motherland and thus, it was due to his efforts that half of Punjab and half of Bengal was saved for India.
- He opposed the Nehru-Liaqat Pact of 1950 and not being able to prevent that pact from being signed, he left Nehru’s cabinet, yet forced an amendment in the first original draft of the Agreement, which committed GoI towards reservation of seats for Muslims in legislatures and services, was modified to eliminate these provisions.
- After leaving the cabinet, Dr Syama Prasad returned to the first Lok Sabha in the first general elections held in 1952 under his newly launched party The Bharatiya Jan Sangh and in spite of having only 2 members he stood head and shoulders above all others.
- He gave the famous clarion call— “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Nishan nahin chalenge, nahin chalenge (Two Constitutions and two flags in one country are not acceptable)”.
- He strongly opposed Art 370 and fought for it. He also launched the first satyagrahaon the issue in the post-Independence era, which attracted a huge number of people, for which he was arrested and detained leading to his death due to deliberate medical negligence.
He was a great humanitarian and his role during Bengal Famine and his untiring effort to save lives can never be forgotten.
Dr. SP Mukherjee was a true son of mother India, a true nationalist and patriot. His principles and thoughts were beyond any personal ambition. He always thought for India, lived for India and finally died for India.
One day perhaps the dream of unfurling the tricolour in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) will be a reality, that will also be a tribute to his vision of united India.
(The Writer is a Researcher on Policy and Governance, Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Clusters of NE. She is also a member of the Assam Youth Commission. The views expressed are her own.)