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That House That Age – Chapter 8
The whole of Bengal was waiting with bated breath as their beloved leader, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was coming back to his home after forced stay for forty days in a Kashmir jail- cottage, big enough to somehow hold him with Vaidya Gurudatta, a well-known Ayurvedic physician, and Tek Chand, the energetic young man from Dehra Dun, who accompanied him to Jammu for state affairs but they were carried to Srinagar in Kashmir almost blind folded; people waiting at Jammu were hoodwinked. They were conspiratorially arrested by the Kashmir Government in collaboration with the head of the Indian Government, as it was widely rumored.
He was coming means his body was coming; his life was taken out mysteriously in conspiring action in vicious circumstances as it was widely rumored again. The rumors were backed by reports published and /or circulated otherwise. Many of the events were officially recorded and even published in book for public knowledge. It might be that the criminal animal hid its face in a hole but traces of it were found in its hind legs and tail exposed outside. Facts were made known in various ways.
It was 24 June 1953: more than a million people waited the arrival of the body in an aircraft flown from Kashmir to its destination, the Dum Dum Airport, Calcutta. The whole body of the populace was in remorseful silence with grievance and grief for the great loss throbbing in each heart. Near about 10 pm the plane landed at the airport. There was rush, there was commotion in silence. It seemed that everyone knew of the conspiracy to kill him at the most opportune moment which occurred in the early hours of the morning of 23 June 1953 to get rid of the most popular yet troublesome speaker to his enemies, a great activist in the country who stood so tall over his rivals that they were again and again harassed, silenced and shamed; for their acts by him without an ability to reply to the people. “His was a voice of truth against the humbug and the vainglorious”, thought Ranadeb, almost in a whisper and that’s why a political conspiratorial killing was the best way to silence his voice forever. A lady standing close by turned her head to hear as if he addressed her but stopped observing his face. There was a suppressed anger in the heart of the crowd with a sense of defeat in the hands of the traitors to the country. Traitors have won many times in India defeating its progress each time. “The head of the State is a progressively regressive person,” thought Ranadeb. “The criminal act was done under the cover of secrecy so in spite of all evidence it left no direct clue to prove,” thought Ranadeb again. For such people sitting at the steering of India it was crippled from the beginning. There could not be any real progress.
As the cortege began moving slowly forward along the Jessore road, the crowd too began moving with it. People were all along the path of the procession from the airport to his residence at south Calcutta, now well known as Ashutosh Mookerjee road, named after the victim’s great father. Some were dropping some were joining in the procession. People on the roadside were swelling up as the night deepened. The whole metropolitan city kept vigil throughout the night. It reached the destination at 5 am in the next morning. All along the path the antecedence of the death engaged Ranadeb’s mind. Like one possessed by it he walked throughout the night, a somnambulist, till he reached the great Mookerjee house.
Dr. Shyama Prasad did not apply for a permit to enter Jammu as he reasonably felt that a member of parliament needed no permission for visiting any part of the country, as Jammu was. Even when he enquired about the position of permit from the Defence Minister, he received no reply. So, he proceeded with his followers including Atal Behari Bajpayee and Bal Raj Madhok and the two named before who accompanied him to the jail. They reached by train on 8 May from Delhi in the assumption that he might not be permitted to go. When the train left from Jullundur for Amritsar an elderly gentleman introducing himself as the deputy commissioner of Gurudaspur warned Shyama Prasad that he had the instruction to arrest him before reaching Pathankot. But when the train reached Pathankot, the same gentleman travelling in the same train again told him that the government had again instructed him to allow Dr. Mookerjee to proceed to Jammu even without permit. He advised him to take as few companions as possible. Shyama Prasad received rousing reception and royal farewell at Pathankot by thousands of people, and the process was repeated at all big stations on the way. His jeep was allowed to proceed. Reaching Madhopur check post on the Ravi bridge he was wished well by the deputy commissioner and other officers who prayed for his enjoyable journey but as soon as the jeep reached the middle of the bridge, he was stopped by the Kashmir police who handed him an arrest order and the three, Gurudatta, Tek Chand and Dr. Shyama Prasad were arrested. The others were set free to go back.
They were taken in closed jeep hoodwinking thousands of his followers at Jammu who assembled at the Tawi bridge and remained till late night. Shyama Prasad’s intended journey was up to Jammu to assess the turbulent situation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir due to unnecessary complication created deliberately by the Government headed by the then Prime Minister who referred the unlawful entry of the combatants; marauders and hooligans from Pakistan who sneaked into the state, to the UNO instead of stopping and driving them out; Ranadeb thought like lakhs of his countrymen who rightly understood the situation that the problem of accession of the state to India, as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir wished, could be solved in a few days had it been dealt strongly and properly by the then Home Minister as it had happened in the case of Hyderabad’s entry into India. Dr. Shyama Prasad played a significant role in it. The deliberate mishandling of the situation by only one man as the head of the ministry in the Government created incomprehensible complications day by day. “Perhaps the creator of such internecine problem wished it, his blood legitimately conspiring with him”, Rano thought.
The martyr was taken to Srinagar and confined in a tiny bungalow belonging to the Central Jail of the state. Thus, they were detained without trial. “If the home minister thought it right to interfere he should have done it creating a strong lobby to support him; even defecting with the person creating the chaos instead of following the clear and straight path, but he didn’t because he was otherwise in league with him, sharing the exploit, the divided India as its grand ruler. Hyderabad was in the middle of the country, it would not be possible for it to exist as a separate independent State within the Indian State for long. Actual test was in Kashmir, the border State with huge population supporting the attack,” thought Ranadeb.
The arrest was known to many as such news spread like fire even without the existence of prompt means of communication. The victim felt physical inconvenience from the beginning due to shortage of space for daily walking as he was accustomed to, the only exercise for keeping his body fit. And they were not given proper food. His body developed some problems of pain. He had been suffering from hypertension. It is strange that the case of such a leader who was adored throughout the country; to hear him large numbers of people thronged in parliament house leaving even all tea stalls and pan shops, who tried to bridge the gap in communal harmony by all means, keeping in mind, of course, the interest of the natives of this land in the face of all unimaginable odds created by the so called left and secular mentality, was mishandled by a separatist State Government and the India government felt shy of interfering! Or they directly favoured it? Rano had no doubt in it. Time was raging in the aftermath of the partition. Shyama Prasad was not only the leader of one community as his rivals tried to propagate, Ranadeb thought, he represented the whole of nationalist India. As the President of the Mahabodhi Society of India, respected by other Buddhist countries in south Asia, and as a representative from India he visited Buddhist countries with relics of Lord Buddha. He was duly honored in such countries.
Suddenly the heaping mass of humanity at Sealdah station and outside, on the footpaths overflowing the city after the exodus from beyond the eastern borders, an after effect of partition, came to Ranadeb’s view. Helplessness was writ large on their faces as they were affected by riot, murder and other tortures, hurrying in tattered clothes they moved here and there to collect food only to live. This continued throughout the years after partition; 1947, 1948, 1949 and moved onwards. He was wondering how this seething mass was absorbed spreading out of the body of West Bengal into different corners of the country. This happened in Punjab too. Ordinary people are always helpless. This night is the same as those days, not far off. The problems continue still.
While thinking of the nitty-gritty of this exodus, humans fleeing from their home and hearth; a large number of people left without shelter, hopeless and unfed or half-fed for no fault of their own, Ranadeb felt helpless, as if a part of that seething mass was still fleeing. This they got as their trophy for winning independence after long subjugation for a thousand year. Ranadeb very bitterly felt that those who led in vivisecting the country for their immediate benefit knew that they or their own people would never be the victims of partition. Neither their homes nor of their regions would be cut by the lines of partition, they knew it would not affect them directly before agreeing to and arranging for the partition. Two border provinces of the country mostly suffered the bitter result of partition. Idealism is praiseworthy but often at others’ cost.
As he was so cogitating in his mind a sudden jerk on his back by the baton of a police cop just passing him by, stunned him. Alert, he looked aside and around to find that the crowd was surrounded by police, vans moving ahead of the procession and behind. They were not free to move anywhere in a free country; even carrying a thousand-year-old bier on their soldiers. Looking ahead, turning his head back, glancing sideways, everywhere he beheld a sea of humanity surrounding him; it bewildered him beyond description. Not far from him he found his brothers and cousins; all stood lamenting the situation. What great could have happened if this large mass moved ahead and had immediately demanded to know the real cause of death of the victim of conspiracy! The mightier persons were sacrificed in free India which helped the useless flops to enjoy the fruits of freedom, he thought. Trying not to think more, neither to look back nor to look ahead, he walked for some time but again that thought of being betrayed assailed him. Honest persons are often betrayed by the cunning foxes, the dishonest lot.
The immediate cause of the death of Shyama Prasad again assailed him silently when he remembered to have heard from a close relative of barrister U. M. Trivedi who went to Kashmir to argue his habeas corpus before the Kashmir High Court that just two days earlier Shyama Prasad had a heart attack at night end and the next morning he was taken to a distant and remote Government hospital at a distance of ten kilometer where facility for giving oxygen was not available, nor was it available in any place nearby. And the most conspiratorial part of the news was that the only two persons who were living in the jail with him, who could have really helped him at the crucial moment, were refused permission to go with him. How dangerous it was to be treated in a hostile place by hostile attendants! Must be hostile for that was the reason he was kindly taken there; to be easily killed by trained butchers! He also heard that Trivedi was planning to come back in the face of the denial by the Government to privately interview Dr. Mookerjee for the case. At a suitable moment some well-wisher entered his room in the hotel and said that if he left Shyama Prasad would be killed, so he should make all arrangements to get him released. It was the Kashmir High court which granted him permission to interview his client privately.
Barrister Trivedi met Mookerjee in the evening after completing his argument in the court, feeling sure that he would win the case and Mookerjee would be released on the next day, the 24 June 1953. The patient felt cheerful after the meeting, an optimist as he was forever.
After many years Rano again shuddered when he remembered the issue, that towards the midnight when the patient was feeling better, a doctor came and gave him an injection as a precautionary measure which deteriorated his condition further. The medical bulletin said that he breathed his last at 3.40 am which contradicted the fact gathered on the spot; confidentially it was known that he died at 2.30 am. Didn’t the Divine Mother say that Shyama Prasad was murdered! Rano shuddered once again. The Mother of Pondicherry liked Shyama Prasad much. She felt that if anyone understood one fourth of Sri Aurobindo, it was Shyama Prasad.
Reaching martyr’s home with his body looked at by all on the road and from the verandah and the open windows, as it happened throughout the night journey, Rano felt so humiliated and betrayed in his free country that he wished away the idea of meeting the ladies of the house and the other relatives of Dr. Mookerjee who came out to receive the body temporarily. The conspiracy was a conspiracy hatched and covered by the jealous leaders whose burnt faces could not be seen; they still enjoyed their reputation after him without their actions being known, burnt faces could not be exposed in the absence of a dynamic and active critic like Shyama Prasad. The cowards killed him.
Rano felt so ashamed carrying the shame of all his forefathers for a thousand years on his head that he wished away the idea of showing his face to anyone in the crowed. He silently slipped a few steps back and on the turn of the road lied down curled on the footpath by the side of the drunkards who were still asleep, not knowing what was happening around. No one noticed them. What would happen to remain with the crowd which was actually sleeping like the drunkards!
Rano’s experience of joining the procession and hiding himself at the end assailed him forever. The death of Shyama Prasad and the absconding Subhas Chandra Bose assailed him from time to time. Netaji was not stabbed on the back, but his progress was halted by the dictatorial clique of the then Congress which caused his arrest after he relinquished the post of the President of the party. Harassment and the compelling situation pushed him to escape which he had planned long ago considering the attitude of compromise and pusillanimity of the leadership under the cover of grand gestures leaving more avenues to the rulers to continue to rule. He was further betrayed when the so-called leaders tried to prove falsely that he died in a plane crash, to get rid of him, to hide the face of the truth forever, but suffered the specter of Bose coming back; keeping spies against his family for 20 more years after his disappearance.
But where did Netaji go and how could he hide from his international and national enemies! He knew that his trusted country led by Stalin betrayed Japan and attacked Manchuria on 8/9 August 1945. How could he go there then? He was seen in Southeast Asian countries for some days after the plane crash. More rumors spread that he was seen afterwards in Siberia, Russia, ruled by the dreadful Stalin then. Who knows! National and international clique never allowed a proper search and investigation of his whereabouts after the so-called plane crash and of his real death. The world is full of mysteries created by man besides the real mysteries!
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