Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: Childhood and Student Years
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born on July 6, 1901 in British occupied Calcutta. His father Ashutosh Mukherjee was an eminent advocate of education and was much respected even among British circles. In addition, Ashutosh Mukherjee was also the first Indian Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, an obvious reason for Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to seek and complete his education from Calcutta University. He earned his graduation degree in English in the year 1921 from the University of Calcutta and went on to complete his masters from the same institution in 1923. The same year, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee became a member of the Senate of the University of Calcutta and started studying in law. He earned the BL degree in 1924 and subsequently became an advocate in the Calcutta High Court the same year after the death of his father. After practicing with the Calcutta High Court for two years, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee left for England in the year 1926 for further studies in law at the Lincoln’s Inn. He became a barrister in the year 1927 and returned to his hometown Calcutta. In the year 1934 when Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was only 33 years of age, he assumed office as the Vice Chancellor of his alma mater the University of Calcutta, becoming the youngest person in the history of the University to do so. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee remained in office till 1938.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: Political Journey
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee entered into active politics after the end of his term as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. He joined the Indian National Congress, from where he was elected to the Legislative Council of Bengal. However, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee resigned from the legislative council after only a year in office in support of Congress’ decision to boycott the legislature. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee decided to contest elections as an independent candidate after his resignation. He won the elections and assumed office as the Finance Minister of the Bengal province for the term 1941-1942. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee protested against the communalist and separatist ideas propagated by Muslim League leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah wanted a separate Muslim state, a condition that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee decided to protest against.
He gradually became popular as a spokesman for Hindus in Bengal and after he joined the Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was appointed its President in the year 1944. However Shyama Prasad Mukherjee soon realized that all that the Muslim League promoted was communal disharmony. He realized the futility of compromising with the Muslim League and being a part of a Muslim dominated state. Therefore Shyama Prasad Mukherjee no longer protested against separation, rather he spoke in favor of the partition of Bengal in 1946, saying that the Muslims could live in a separate state of East Pakistan. Later it was the Hindus who were blamed for violence when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. The Hindu Mahasabha, of which Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was the president, came under attack after the assassination and was highly criticized.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: After India’s Independence
After August 1947, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was made a part of the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet and given the office of the minister for industry and supply. Having worked with the Indian National Congress before, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a favorite with several within the party. But differences between him and Jawaharlal Nehru forced the former to resign from his position in the government on April 6, 1950. While Jawaharlal Nehru had forwarded an invitation to the Pakistan Prime Minister to discuss issues on minority commissions and minority rights, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was of the opinion that Pakistan was responsible for the influx of refugees from East Bengal in West Bengal. He even believed that the violence that was meted out to Hindus in East Pakistan was the result of Pakistan’s support to the government of the country. Though Jawaharlal Nehru was prepared to appease Pakistan, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee refused to relent from his beliefs and thus quit the Congress. For his act, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was hailed as a hero of West Bengal.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee formed the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) on October 21, 1951 after his fallout with Jawaharlal Nehru. The BJS supported Hindu nationalism in the country. It stood for free market economies as opposed to the socialist economic policies followed by Jawaharlal Nehru. However, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee did not believe in discriminating against the Muslims, and as such, he practiced the same civil code for both the Hindus and the Muslims. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee repeatedly spoke out against the ritual of cow slaughter followed by the Muslims and the special favors given to the Muslim majority state, Jammu and Kashmir. There was a rule during that point of time which prevented any Indian, including the President of India from entering Jammu and Kashmir without the permission of the Prime Minister of the state. The 1952 general elections in the country saw Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and the BJS winning three seats in the Parliament. Protesting against the rule applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee visited Kashmir in 1953 and crossed the borders without the permission of the state’s authorities, thus facing arrest on May 11, 1953.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: Death
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was taken under house arrest on May 11, 1953. Keeping him locked inside a decrepit house did not help to better pleurisy and coronary problems which he was already suffering from. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was taken ill to hospital in June and treated with penicillin in spite of repeated warnings to the medical authorities about his allergy to penicillin. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee died while he was in hospital under mysterious circumstances. He was declared dead on June 23, 1953 and though many including his mother wanted explanations and independent enquiries into the death, Jawaharlal Nehru clearly refused their demands, saying that once death was declared there could be no mystery. The Hindu nationalist thus died a controversial death.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was and has remained one of the chief political figures of India.
- A junction located at the intersection of Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum and the Regal Cinema in Mumbai has been named after Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.
- The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation dedicated a bridge to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on August 27, 1998.
- The CSIR in India announced fellowships named after Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in 2001 for deserving candidates who want to pursue the Ph.D degree.
- The tallest building in Delhi, the newly constructed 650 crore building which houses offices of several branches of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was named the ‘Doctor Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre’ on April 22, 2010.
- 1901: Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was born on July 6.
- 1921: Graduated with English from University of Calcutta.
- 1923: Completed his masters from the same institution.
- 1923: Became a fellow of the Senate in Calcutta University.
- 1924: Completed the bachelors in law degree.
- 1924: Became an advocate in Calcutta High Court.
- 1924: His father Ashutosh Mukherjee expired.
- 1926: Went to England to study at Lincoln’s Inn.
- 1927: Became a barrister in England.
- 1934: Became the youngest Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University.
- 1938: His term as Vice Chancellor ended.
- 1941: Elected Finance Minister of Bengal province.
- 1944: Became the President of Hindu Mahasabha.
- 1946: Spoke out in favor of the partition of Bengal.
- 1947: Joined Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet as minister for industry and supply.
- 1950: Had quit from his position on April 6 after differences with Jawaharlal Nehru.
- 1951: Sets up the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) on October 21.
- 1952: Won three seats in general elections.
- 1953: Was arrested after entering Jammu and Kashmir by force on May 11.
- 1953: Died in hospital on June 23.