Why Syama Prasad Mookerjee is a mere memory in Kashmir
The BJP has failed the cause of a united India, after the Jana Sangh founder died fighting for it on this day 62 years ago.
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There is a place called the Lakhanpur check-post. This is where, on the National Highway 1A, one can cross over from the Indian state of Punjab into Jammu and Kashmir. It is from here that Syama Prasad Mookerjee was arrested in 1953, by the government of Sheikh Abdullah and dragged all the way to Srinagar, over 400km away, across a rough mountainous terrain, in a jeep.
Mookerjee was arrested for protesting against Article 370 that among several and much worse provisions, also forbade Indians from entering Jammu and Kashmir, which was just another state in the Union of India, without a valid permit. He protested by publicly violating that law. Once in Srinagar, he ended up at a hospital where he was killed on this day, June 23, 62 years ago, in 1953. His body was sent to his mother in Calcutta without any inquest. Mookerjee was the Jana Sangh's founder president and the movement he was leading was, arguably, the first significant political mobilisation by his then fledgling party. Even today, it is unimaginable to visualise any office of the BJP without his large portrait displayed prominently on the wall.
Two years ago, on this day, June 23, 2013, I was at the Lakhanpur check post. It was the 60th anniversary of Mookerjee's martyrdom. I had gone there, all the way from Delhi, to see, hear and, if possible, meet Narendra Modi. This was going to be his inaugural rally for the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign. There was a memorial erected at a spot slightly ahead of the Madhopur bridge over the river Ravi. A huge statue carved in black stone, under a flower-bedecked canopy, veiled behind the thousands of bright marigolds strung and hanging from that canopy, was waiting to be unveiled by the newly anointed spearhead of the "BJP campaign committee" at the then just concluded Goa national executive of the party.
This was the longest distance I had ever travelled just to hear an electoral campaign speech. Thousands had begun to arrive in the wee hours itself, from across Punjab and neighbouring Jammu. The sweltering temperature of June seemed hardly a deterrent. The octogenarian chief minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, himself was there to receive the would be prime minister. The team arranging the venue and the other related arrangements, seemed possessed. They just wouldn't rest or take a break. The audience that arrived early seemed eager to pitch in as well. NaMo's announcement as the de facto candidate of the BJP, for the prime ministership, had, as if, electrified everyone.
His speech was carried live by most news networks. It said all that was needed to be said. NaMo's speech specifically, recalled Mookerjee's martyrdom and the cause for which he died. I had invited a few exiled Kashmiri Pandit friends too from nearby Jammu. We all emerged hopeful and charged up from the speech NaMo delivered. It all seems like yesterday, though that event today is 730 days old. Incidentally, it is now 403 days since NaMo won the absolute mandate that he had set out for that day, after paying tributes to the founding father.
It isn't that we cannot wait. If we have waited 9,261 days since January 19, 1990, we can surely wait a few hundred days more. But it is the past 115 days since the BJP crossed over into the government of Jammu and Kashmir that makes me and other Kashmiri Hindus in exile anxious. This crossing over just does not bear any similarity with, or even memory of how Syama Prasad Mookerjee had crossed over into the state, 62 years ago. It hurts. It must be hurting Mookerjee too, wherever he is.