His Majesty’s Companion – Shyama Prasad

The Modi-era has become a battleground for India’s past. Replacing the monopoly of Nehru-Gandhi, several new ‘heroes’ emerged after 2014. There is no doubt that the past trend of Nehru-Gandhi worship is questionable. However, the present trends of representing the shameless lackeys of British rule as ‘patriotic’ figures are much more dangerous, and are nothing but gross falsification of history. The attempt to portray Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee as a “selfless patriot” is one such example, which should be analyzed meticulously.

In 1939, when the Second World War (WW2) broke out as an evident result of the mutual rivalry among imperialist countries, the comprador big bourgeoisies of India realized this as an opportunity to make huge war-time profit, under the patronage of colonial rulers. Naturally, they advised the Congress party to support the British in this war. On contrary, the Congress socialists, the communists, the Kishan Sabha members were urging to unleash a huge anti-imperialist struggle, which would also accentuate the ongoing freedom struggle of India. The massive one-day strike in Bombay on 2nd October 1939, in which more than 90,000 workers took part, was the direct consequence of this. Both the colonial and comprador bourgeoisies sensed danger in this. However, to make this anti-imperialist struggle weak by dividing the working class in religious lines, the in-born enemies Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League joined hands with each other through coalition governments in different parts of the country, and started spreading communal venoms. In Bengal, the situation was ripe for Mahasabha due to the past announcements of Communal Award and Poona Pact, which together shattered the interests of the upper caste Hindus in Bengal politics. Under these circumstances, Shyama Prasad emerged as a representative of the upper caste Hindus in Bengal, and tried to paint the prolonged contradiction between the Hindu landlords and Muslim (mostly) peasants with communal colors. Undoubtedly, his “selfless” “patriotic” moves strengthened the platform for partition. Even, he secretly wrote to Viceroy Mountbatten asking for Bengal partition even if India remained united [1]. His eagerness to divide India should be seen in association with His Majesty’s endeavors in establishing few major neo-colonies across South-East Asia, in the aftermath of WW2.

Hindu Mahasabha gained momentum in Bengal after Savarkar hoisted saffron flag at a meeting in the Wellington Square in Calcutta on 27th December 1939. Shyama Prasad joined Mahasabha in the same year. At one hand, united under the banner of Kishan Sabha – the peasant front of the Communist Party of India – the Hindu and Muslim peasants were demanding the abolition of the landlord system, which after few years emerged as the historic Tevaga peasant uprising. On the other hand, Marwari businessmen of Bengal were scared of Bombay strike-like incidents. Thus, it was not at all surprising that the meeting and the subsequent activities of Mahasabha were funded by the Hindu landlords and Marwari businessmen. As per the new strategy of Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership, Shyama Prasad joined the second Fazlul Haque coalition government in Bengal in December 1941, and started showing his companionship towards His Majesty. He wrote a letter to the then Bengal Governor on March 7, 1942, that he could derive satisfaction if the Indians resisted the enemies of the British elsewhere, like the Far East, to save British prestige. On the eve of Quit India Movement (QIM), following the official decision of Mahasabha to boycott the QIM and RSS’s decision to non-participation in it, in a letter dated July 26, 1942 to the Bengal Governor, he shamelessly expressed his true colors. One cannot resist quoting a large portion of this letter. He wrote – “Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being. … The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. … You, as Governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your Ministers. … As one of your Ministers, I am willing to offer you my whole-hearted cooperation and serve my province and country at this hour of crisis.” [2]

Also, we must mention his role during the Bengal Famine of 1943-44s, which was the direct effect of the tremendous imperialist exploitation during WW2. In famine-devastated Bengal, the major concern of Shyama Prasad-led Hindu Mahasabha was the difficulties of many Hindus in having food in the government canteens where Muslims and lower caste people were employed for cooking. It is a shame that even during the grave situation of famine, when around three million Bengalis were dying out of hunger, Shyama Prasad tried to save only the interests of the upper caste Hindu feudal forces. Other allegations of communal bias and corruption in the famine relief efforts of Mahasabha were also reported by several authorities, including Bengal government. Artist (painter) Chittaprasad, who toured Bengal during the famine years and wrote series of articles, in which one article described the devastating situation in Balagor – the home village of Shyama Prasad. Chittaprasad wrote – “Just, when the floods were knocking down every house in Balagor, the sons of Ashutosh [referred to Shyama Prasad and his brothers] took it into their heads to build a brand new mansion. … The house is known all over Balagor as the only new house built in the last year and as the only house with two dhan-golas stacked with paddy. … There are strong iron gates and iron gratings on the windows to protect the richest spot in Balagor. … The whole place looks like an oasis in a desert. … The riches heaped here are an insult to the hungry thousands around!” [3] This experience of Chittaprasad perfectly reflects the real class characteristics of “selfless patriots” like Shyama Prasad and several other feudal forces that supported and funded Mahasabha and RSS during their cooperation with the British exploiters, even in the time of Bengal famine.

References:

[1] Amrik Singh (Ed.), The Partition in Retrospect (2000), pp. 249, Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd. in association with National Institute of Punjab Studies.

[2] A. G. Noorani, The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour (2000), pp. 42-43, Leftword Books.

[3] ‘Painful Sights: Chittaprasad on BJP Icon S. P. Mookerjee’s Bengal Village, Extracts published by The Wire [Retrieved on 21 November, 2018].

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