Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a strong voice for secular and unified India

"Whatever you undertake, do it seriously, thoroughly, and well; never leave it half-done or undone, never feel satisfied unless and until you have given it your very best. Cultivate the habits of discipline & toleration. Surrender not the convictions you hold dear but learn to appreciate the point of view of your opponents"- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee


Early Life and Family

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born on 6 July 1901 in Calcutta, in a Bengali Brahmin family. It was his grandfather Ganga Prasad Mukherjee, who planned to settle in Calcutta. His father, Ashutosh Mukherjee was a judge at the Calcutta High Court and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta.


Shyama Prasad Mukherjee inherited the rich tradition of erudite scholarship, fervent nationalism, and fearlessness from his father. He was destined to be great. It was as much in his blood as he worked towards achieving it.

In 1906, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee took admission in Bhawanipur’s Mitra Institution. He passed matriculation in 1914 and got admission into the prestigious Presidency College. Known to be a meritorious student, he stood seventeenth in the Inter-Arts Examination in 1916 & secured the first position in English honors in 1921.

He enrolled as an advocate in Calcutta High Court, post his father’s death in 1924. For further studies, he left for England in 1926 to study in Lincoln's Inn. He became a barrister in 1927.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s entry into politics came at a very difficult time. However, that never got reflected in his conduct. And, that is what made him so great!


Politics

In the words of Anirban Ganguly, the founder of the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Research Foundation, the Congress was powerful in politics in the western part of the state of Bengal in the 1940s, yet hesitant to voice the rights of the Hindus. It often bowed down to the Muslim League pressure tactics. Thus, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee emerged as a torch-bearer of alternative politics in Bengal and as an eminent opposition leader at the center.

The role of personalities like NC Chatterjee (father of former Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee), himself a well-known barrister at the Calcutta High Court, Ashutosh Lahiri, Justice Manmatha Nath Mukherjee, and Swami Pranavananda (Founder of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha) was imminent in Dr. Mukherjee’s entry into politics.

The Jana Sangh was established by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in the year 1951.

The association later went on to become the parent body of one of India’s prominent political parties, the Bhartiya Janata Party. It advocated the rebuilding of a strong, secular, and unified India.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was an ardent critic of Articles 370 and 35-A. He raised questions like why Jammu and Kashmir were kept out of the President's jurisdiction and why a special permit was needed to enter J&K.

He coined the slogan- "Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur do Nishan nahi chalenge [There cannot be two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two flags in one nation]", after J&K's merger into the Indian Union was passed.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee played a vital role during the 1943 Bengal famine. The people of Bengal can never forget the efforts of Dr. Mukherjee in organizing a large-scale relief drive for the famine-stricken people. He invited leading politicians, businessmen, and philanthropists to devise ways and means to provide relief to the needy and the distressed.

As a result of his relentless efforts, the Bengal Relief Committee and the Hindu Mahasabha Relief Committee were formed.


Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Kashmir

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee breathed last on 23rd June 1953. Until his last breath, he championed the cause of J&K’s complete integration with the Union of India. On 11th May 1953, he was detained at Jammu for crossing the border without an entry pass. He died 40-days after his arrest, under detention of the Kashmir Police.

In a life spanning for a brief period of 52 years, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (1901-1953) worked as a statesman, educationist, and political revolutionary. He had become the Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University at a young age of 33 years, independent India’s first Industry Minister, the founder of the Jana Sangh, and a political stalwart.

His life is exemplary of how much one can achieve if driven by an unalloyed determination to serve India. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee worked relentlessly and wholeheartedly for the progress, unity, and well-being of his motherland. His contributions to nation-building and India’s freedom movement are unparalleled. And, his memory shall forever remain etched in the hearts of the countrymen.