New Delhi: On the 55th birth anniversary of Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1971, Nanaji Deshmukh, his colleague in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for nearly three decades, had lamented how Upadhyaya’s death remained a mystery even after three years.
On 11 February 1968, Upadhyaya, the then president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh that later became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was found dead under mysterious circumstances at the Mughalsarai railway station near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
“Today we are celebrating the 55th birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya but there are tears in our eyes,” Deshmukh said, addressing a gathering in New Delhi in 1971. “Panditji was not only murdered, but nothing could even be discovered about his murderers. Neither the CBI nor the Chandrachud Inquiry Commission could tell why and who murdered Deendayalji. It seems the government (then headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi), out of fear that the political results of this would be bad, did not want the murderers and their accomplices to be caught.”
In 1968, in his friend’s memory, Deshmukh established the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) that still does pioneering work in the field of transformation of rural India. It was a subject close to Upadhyaya’s heart as he is also credited with propounding the concept of ‘Integral Humanism’, which is the official ideology of the present-day BJP and holds rural transformation as the key to building a stronger India.
But some four decades since that that speech by Deshmukh, the question continues to roil followers and admirers — Who killed Deendayal Upadhyaya?
It’s 25 September again, and it’s his 104th birth anniversary, but there are still no answers to who killed Upadhyaya, who was then one of the country’s most promising politicians.
A mysterious death
After Upadhyaya’s body was found on the railway tracks at Mughalsarai station, which was renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya railway station in 2018, the then central government had handed over the inquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
At that time, the CBI director was John Lobo, who had a reputation of being an upright and honest officer. As soon as the inquiry was handed over to the CBI, Lobo went to Mughalsarai with his team. But before he could complete his work, he was called back. The development led to suspicions being expressed that the direction of the investigation was being changed.
The CBI in its inquiry report concluded that the murder was an ordinary crime. According to the CBI report, two petty thieves had murdered Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and their motive was theft.
A special sessions court gave its verdict on the basis of this CBI report, creating a stir with the statement that “the real truth still has to be found”. The verdict came on 9 June, 1969.
The judge’s remarks in court sparked a furore, prompting the then Indira Gandhi government to constitute an inquiry commission.
The commission, appointed on 23 October 1969, five months after the court verdict, was headed by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud.
The commission made some interesting observations.
Stranger than fiction: Commission
The Chandrachud Commission did note that Upadhyaya was murdered under mysterious circumstances.
“What happened in Mughalsarai, in parts, is stranger than fiction. Several people behaved abnormally to create suspicions. Whatever they did in such comparative circumstances is against the ordinary human behaviour that is hoped for. In the same way, some events in Mughalsarai are knitted to some abnormal fabrication,” the commission said in its report. “When ordinary hopes are falsified regarding men and events, then suspicions arise. In this matter there is no end to such suspicious circumstances. All this builds a nebulousness that attempts to cover up the actual affair.”
The day he was murdered, Upadhyaya was travelling on the Lucknow-Sealdah Express, headed to Patna from Lucknow. Half the bogey in which he was travelling in was part of the third class and the other half was first class. In Railway parlance, it was an FCT bogie.
Upadhyaya was travelling first class.
There were three coupes in the bogie that belonged to the first class — A, B and C. There were four berths in A, two in B and four in C.
Upadhyaya’s berth was in Coupe A, which he had changed for the Coupe B. He was the sole passenger in it. He had exchanged his berth with legislative council member Gauri Shanker Rai. The other passenger in Coupe A was M.P. Singh, a government officer.
Major S.L. Sharma had a reservation for Coupe C, but he did not travel in that coupe and instead travelled in the train service coach.
“The warp and weft of the sequence of events prima facie is no less than some terrifying James Bond movie. Major S.M. Sharma’s name was written wrongly, not once, but twice, to the extent that even his ticket number was written wrongly,” the commission said in its report. “Although his marriage had taken place only a few days earlier, even then he had shifted his date of travel beforehand; the conflicting testimonies given by M.P. Singh’s travelling companions and the conductor, B.D. Kamal; the changing of the state of the body, the discovery of a legitimate ticket in the pocket of the deceased, through which he could be identified easily; despite the attempt to settle his body in a makeshift manner, the discovery of a bottle of phenyl in the compartment; the strangeness of the injuries and many other such questions reflect an aberrance. The interesting thing is that at every step the involvement of some Railway employee or the other is found.”
The RSS pracharak who headed the Jana Sangh
Deendayal Upadhyaya was born on 25 September, 1916, in the village of Nagla Chandrabhan in UP’s Mathura district. His mother Shrimati Rampyari was a religious-minded lady and his father Bhagwati Prasad, was an assistant station master at Jalesar.
In 1937, he completed his B.A. from the Sanatan Dharma College in Kanpur. His friend Balwant Mahashabde played an instrumental role in him joining the RSS in 1937. A few years later, he became an RSS pracharak.
Upadhyaya established the publishing house, ‘Rashtra Dharma Prakashan’, in Lucknow and launched the monthly magazine, ‘Rashtra Dharma’. He later launched the weekly ‘Panchjanya’ and the daily ‘Swadesh’.
He is known to have burnt all his educational certificates after becoming an RSS pracharak so that he could serve the organisation and the cause single-mindedly. In December 1967, he was elected as the president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
(*All the information used in this report has been sourced from ‘Complete Works of Deendayal Upadhyaya’, Vol.1-15, Prabhat Prakashan).
- The writer is associated with RSS. He is research director at think-tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS.