Syama Prasad Mukherjee

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For the Indian statistician, see Shyamaprasad Mukherjee.
Syama Prasad Mukherjee
Syama Prasad Mookerjee.jpg
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

Syama 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[edit]

Syama 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.

Syama 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[edit]

Syama 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.

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, but resigned within less than a year. He emerged as a spokesman for Hindus and shortly joined the Hindu Mahasabha, becoming President in 1944.[4]

Mukherjee was a political leader who felt the need to counteract the communalist and separatist Muslim League of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who were demanding either exaggerated Muslim rights or a Muslim state of Pakistan.

Mukherjee adopted causes to protect Hindus against what he believed to be the communal propaganda and the divisive agenda of the Muslim League. Mukherjee and his future followers would always cite inherent Hindu practices of tolerance and communal respect as the reason for a healthy, prosperous and safe Muslim population in the country in the first place. His views were strongly affected by the Noakhali genocide in East Bengal, where mobs belonging to the Muslim league massacred Hindus in large numbers.[5]

Mukherjee was initially a strong opponent of the Partition of India, but following the communal riots of 1946–47, Mukherjee strongly disfavored Hindus continuing to live in a Muslim-dominated state and under a government controlled by the Muslim League.

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".[6]

Mukherjee supported the partition of Bengal in 1946 to prevent the inclusion of its Hindu-majority areas in a Muslim-dominated East Pakistan;[7] 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.

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.


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.

This gave a fillip to his public life. He dedicated himself to full-time work in the RSS from 1942. He had attended the 40-day summer vacation RSS camp at Nagpur where he underwent training in Sangh Education. After completing second-year training in the RSS Education Wing, Mukherjee became a lifelong pracharak of the RSS. He worked as the pracharak for the Lakhimpur district and, from 1955, as the joint prant pracharak (regional organiser) for Uttar Pradesh

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][8] 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[edit]

See also: Article 370

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 pernicious 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]

Dr.Syama Prasad 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 challenge" (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.[9] 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:[10] "(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).[10][11]


Mukherjee was arrested on entering Kashmir on 11 May 1953. Thereafter, he was jailed in a dilapidated house.[12] 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.[citation needed] 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.[13] Atal Bihari Vajpayee claimed in 2004 that the arrest of Mukherjee in Jammu and Kashmir was a "Nehru conspiracy".[14]


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

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

On 22 April 2010, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's newly constructed Rs. 650-crore building (the tallest building in Delhi) was named "Doctor Syama Prasad Mukherjee Civic Centre".[15] 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 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Delhi also has a major road named after Dr. S.P. Mukherjee, as does Kolkata.

On 27 August 1998, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation named a bridge after Mukherjee.[16]

A BEST bus stop near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum) and Regal Cinema in Mumbai is named as "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 20% 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 "Dr Syamaprasad Mukherjee Flyover". In 2014, a multipurpose indoor stadium built at the Goa University campus in Goa was named after Mukherjee.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Former MoS for External Affairs Kamala Sinha passes away". Business Standard. 1 January 2015. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee". Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "Syama Prasad Mukherjee (1901–1953)". BJP. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Sinha, Dinesh Chandra; Dasgupta, Ashok (2011). 1946: The Great Calcutta Killings and Noakhali Genocide. Kolkata: Himangshu Maity. pp. 278–280. 
  6. ^ Legislative Council Proceedings [BLCP], 1941, Vol. LIX, No. 6, p 216
  7. ^ "Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee". Bengal Voice. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "Bharatiya Jana Sangh (Indian political organization) – Encyclopedia Britannica". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "A comprehensive biography of Dr Mukherjee". Organiser. RSS. Retrieved 12 February 2013. 
  10. ^ a b (Greater Service) (8 August 2010). "Leaf from the past Lastupdate:- Sun, 8 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  11. ^ (Greater Service) (6 February 2011). "Kashmir Policy of BJP Lastupdate:- Sun, 6 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Y.G. Bhave (1 January 1995). The First Prime Minister of India. Northern Book Centre. p. 49. ISBN 978-81-7211-061-1. 
  13. ^ Mukherjee's martyrdom compelled the Nehru government to remove the permit system and the two heads of state.
  14. ^ Nehru conspiracy led to Syama Prasad's death: Atal Times of India – 4 July 2004
  15. ^ "Yahoo India News – Latest India News & World News Headlines". Yahoo India News. 13 June 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2014. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Terrorism: Advani accuses USA of double standards". Tribune India. 28 August 1998. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  17. ^ "Indoor stadium at Taleigao named after S P Mukherjee | iGoa". 17 January 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Graham, B. D. (1968). "Syama Prasad Mookerjee and the communalist alternative". In D. A. Low. Soundings in Modern South Asian History. University of California Press. ASIN B0000CO7K5. 
  • Graham, B. D. (1990). Hindu Nationalism and Indian Politics: The Origins and Development of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38348X. 

External links[edit]