The Significance of 23rd June, 1953 Print
Written by Capt. S.K. Tikoo   
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 00:00

The morning of 23rd June, 1953 was no different than the morning of the previous day. It was one of those pleasant summer mornings in Srinagar, when the breeze is cool and refreshing and the rising sun in the east is not yet hot but its rays have that typical soothing effect, eagerly awaited and enjoyed by only those fortunate souls who live in cold climes. We too were among those fortunate ones till we were thrown out of our beloved Maej Kasheer by Pak-sponsored Islamist terrorists. I was busy helping my father tending the small lawn in front of our house in Kani Kadal. The river Kuta Kol was in full flow. The water level was so high that I had to just pull water out of the fast flowing river by a bucket without even going a step down on our private ghat. You only had to be extra cautious and watch out lest you be carried away by the fast current. Every summer a few unfortunate people would routinely get drowned in this river. Incredible, but true, Kuta Kol was a full-fledged river those days and was used extensively for navigation throughout the summer season. When we left Kani Kadal in February 1990, the river was already a drain, a sewer full of filth and stench and no water seen around. I wonder what it looks like now, maybe a link road, a la Nala Maar.


Coming back to the morning of 23rd June of 1953, there was a little commotion at our main entrance door. It was my elder brother Makhan Lal Tiku (my cousin Makhan Toth) who later became the Chief Librarian in the Kashmir University. There were three or four of his friends, same age group as him, at least two of whom were from the Thussoo family of Kathleshwar. All that I could hear from their whispers was the name of Shyama Prasad Mukherji. They all were apparently planning to go to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Karan Nagar, hardly any distance from our house. I too followed them, maintaining a safe distance but always ensuring that I was part of the group. Things had started getting clearer--Shyama Prasad was dead. He had breathed his last in SMHS Hospital just a few hours earlier. Ours was a normal Kashmiri Pandit family where, besides enjoying typical Kashmiri Pandit cuisine, politics used to be the staple food. So Shyama Prasad Mukherji stood already introduced to me.

It was still early morning when we reached the then outskirts of the hospital. The hospital’s main entry used to be on the Saad Mansoor locality side with a huge, well-carved wooden gate. The gate was closed and there was not even one security man on guard duty there. A small crowd of around a hundred people was already there. They were mostly from the areas nearby, some from Karan Nagar, some from Kani Kadal, Rishi Mohalla, Habba Kadal, and Zainder Mohalla. Quite a few of them were also from the Raghu Nath Mandir locality. Almost all of them were Kashmiri Pandits, but all of them were not the RSS Shakha-going type--a few of them were from Communist Party of India and National Conference. Those were good old days, when people respected law and nobody even made an attempt to go near the main door since it was closed, although there was no one to stop them. There was hushed silence all around, nobody was talking to anybody, and all were walking in circles like zombies, jostling with each other, staring aimlessly into each other’s eyes. One thing was obvious—fear was writ large on their blank faces. You could plainly deduct that everyone was feeling sad about the death of this great leader under mysterious circumstances, yet nobody had the courage to raise his voice to seek an explanation of the untimely and sudden death of a fairly healthy young man, that too when he was in government custody.

There was, however, a gentleman in the crowd who had suddenly started attracting everyone’s attention. Clad in a spotless white kurta pyjama and a light pink silken shawl around his shoulders, I later learnt, was one Prithvi Nath Jyotshi, an advocate who lived in Karan Nagar. He surely conveyed something to those who had collected around him and within minutes the crowd started dispersing. I too headed towards my home along with my elder companions, now more in numbers. Prithvi Nath Jyotshi had wisely advised this motley crowed of Kashmiri Pandits to beat a hasty retreat. His sixth sense had warned him of an impending attack by National Conference ‘volunteers’, both Hindus and Muslims, on that assembled crowd of ‘Sanghis’ who were mourning the death of another ‘Sanghi” who was ‘anti-Kashmiri’ too. How true, the truck loads did reach there, only to find the roads deserted, not even the regular morning shoppers were there, they too had sensed trouble.

Sad to say that Indians in general and the party he founded in particular have failed Shyama Prasad Mukherji. His slogan, ‘Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishan’ was trivialized and made use of as another vote-catching slogan, that too just in Jammu. When Shyama Prasad Mukherji defied the Jammu and Kashmir Government and entered the state at Madhavpur without obtaining the requisite permit, he was in fact defending the very idea of a secular, pluralistic, and sovereign state of India as envisaged by its founding fathers and enshrined in the constitution of India. Having rejected the discredited Two Nation Theory of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which ultimately saw the vivisection of our motherland in which millions were uprooted and over a million butchered, how could any person in his senses agree with the acceptance and implementation of the Two Nation Theory in a part of sovereign India. The late Mukherji had a point: if the Constitution of India was good enough for 8 crore Muslims (as on 15 Aug, 1947) of India, how could less than 25 lakhs (tentative figures in the late forties and early fifties of the last century) of Muslims living in the Jammu & Kashmir state not feel comfortable with it? And come to think of it, Muslims of Kashmir never asked for this kind of a conditional relationship--safeguards, yes, but not just because you profess a different religion. Himachal Pradesh and northeastern states have stringent laws where an outsider cannot buy immovable property, yet they are as good or bad a part of India as any other state is.

I do not hesitate to repeat it umpteen times that the national leadership of all hues and colors, including the followers of the party founded by the late Mukherji, should once and for all decide whether India as a whole can survive as a secular sovereign republic, and further, no part can be given ‘anything short of Azadi’ just because a fringe majority of that part comprises of Muslims. You either reject the Two Nation Theory or accept it; there can be no selective acceptance or rejection. Not pursuing the policies of late Mukherji with determination has already cost the nation too much. It has resulted in ethnic cleansing of the Valley of an entire population of Hindus who had been living there for over 5000 years. An equal number, if not more, of those Kashmiri Muslims who do not see eye to eye with fanatic Islamists have also made the rest of the country as their home, silently. And back in the state, the hawks have come out with an open declaration that the state of Jammu & Kashmir means Kashmir Valley only, by denying jobs to 8 Scheduled Castes in the Valley because they do not belong to the Valley. Who even cares if they are state subjects?

A new NGO in the name of Shyama Prasad Mukherji held a seminar in the prestigious India International Centre only a few months back. The NGO is headed by Tarun Vijay, a renowned intellectual, reputed journalist, and an ideologue of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The seminar, probably the first ever held under its aegis, carried the title, “Are we losing Kashmir?” It was the greatest ever disservice to the departed soul who laid down his life to see that Kashmir is never lost. It was his good luck that the late Mukherji was cremated like all others of his faith or else he would be turning in his grave, watching helplessly at the deviation of his own party folk. There was no scope for a question-answer session at the seminar. I wonder why the seminar was held at all, and that too by an NGO which carries the name of the late Mukherji at its masthead. Going by the approval of the track 2 diplomacy between Pakistan and India by the likes of Tarun Vijay, was not the seminar an attempt to prepare the hard core right-wingers for a sell-out on Kashmir? I understand this very NGO is going to hold another seminar, now in SKICC Srinagar on 30 June, 2010. I am just keeping my fingers crossed.

Lastly, did any one of Shyama Prasad Mukherji’s followers ever make an effort to go into the mystery of his death in custody? Did they ever make a demand for an Inquiry Commission to establish the cause of his death? Did they ever try to get in touch with those medics and paramedics who were treating him and were with him till he breathed his last? Who knows, some of them might still be around.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 March 2011 18:00