Syama Prasad Mookerjee (centre) with Jawaharlal Nehru (right) and Jairamdas Doulatram (left). | Commons
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Mookerjee’s death has been the subject of debates and conspiracies for decades and Nehru is among those who have been controversially linked to it.

New Delhi: Syama Prasad Mookerjee did not die a natural death but was murdered, a group of academicians have claimed, 65 years after the founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh – the forerunner of the BJP – died in Srinagar in what has long been said as mysterious circumstances.

The controversial claims were made on the death anniversary of Mookerjee Saturday – at a seminar organised by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in the capital to discuss the life and mission of Mookerjee.

Mookerjee’s death has been the subject of debates and conspiracies for decades and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru is among those who have been controversially linked to it.

Mookerjee, who died on 23 June 1953, was vehemently against Article 370 which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In 1953, he had gone to the state to protest against, among other issues, the permit system for non-residents. According to official records, he took ill and died due to a heart attack while under treatment.

“There is every evidence to prove that he was murdered. The real question to ask is where was the planning hatched; in Srinagar or in Delhi? What was the contribution of Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru in the planning?” asked Jawahar Lal Kaul, president of Jammu Kashmir Study Centre and chair of the panel discussion.

The theme of Saturday’s seminar, organised by ICHR, was ‘Life and Mission of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee’. ICHR is an autonomous body under the human resource development ministry.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party claims to draw its ideological inspiration from the teachings of Mookerjee.

Mookerjee served in the cabinet of Nehru for about three years as minister of commerce and industry, but resigned in 1950 due to differences with Nehru. At the beginning of his political career, he was first a member of the Indian National Congress and then the Hindu Mahasabha.

He was also a strong votary of the Uniform Civil Code.

Central University of Himachal Pradesh professor Kuldip Chand Agnihotri, one of the panel members, backed Kaul. “The more you dig deeper, the more circumstantial evidence you get,” he said.

“Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, who was also family physician and close friend of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, wrote to Nehru asking why he was not informed about his poor health in Srinagar.”

The other members of the panel raised questions about why no committee was formed to investigate the “murder” of Mookerjee despite repeated requests from his mother.

“Nehru wrote that he inquired about his death and was satisfied that there was no foul play. He never disclosed who conducted the inquiry and what happened to the report. Probably for the first time in world history a prime minister conducted the inquiry of murder himself,” said Agnihotri.

Speakers were dismissive about those who questioned Mookerjee’s contribution in the freedom struggle of India. “Those who question the contribution of Syama Prasad Mookerjee in the freedom struggle of India don’t know anything about the India’s freedom struggle,” Prof. Rajneesh Kumar Shukla, member secretary of ICHR, said.

Shukla also called the allegations of communalism against Mookerjee false. “He was the one who founded Islamic studies centre in Calcutta University and he was the first non-Buddhist to head the Mahabodhi Society…there was nothing communal in his writing and act. It is just a lie spread by vested interests,” he said.

Kaul emphasised how history has been distorted to suit a particular narrative and there is no reason to blindly trust it. He added an attempt must be made to rewrite history based on facts.

Om Jee Upadhyay, assistant director (research), ICHR, said the seminar was the first in a series on the life of Mookerjee. “Next is in Kolkata on 6-7 July. The other two will be in Silchar and Mumbai but their dates have not been finalised yet,” he said.

The ICHR is also compiling all the written works of Mookerjee.

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