Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hailed Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee in a series of tweets and a blog post on Facebook on the 117th birth anniversary of the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the precursor of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In his posts, the Rajya Sabha MP also recalled how former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru scuttled Mookerjee’s right to speak on ‘Akhand Bharat’ through a constitutional amendment in 1951.
“As we pay homage to Dr. Mookerjee today, I recall a forgotten chapter where his advocacy of ‘Akhand Bharat’ let Pt. Nehru to amend the Constitution restricting Dr. Mookerjee’s free speech,” said Jaitley.
“Two days before the signing of ‘Nehru-Liaquat Pact’ in April, 1950, Dr. Mookerjee, who was Industry Minister in the First Cabinet as a Hindu Mahasabha representative, resigned from the Cabinet in protest and took strong public position against the ‘Nehru-Liaquat Pact’,” Jaitley narrated.
He said that Dr. Mookerjee objected to the pact and advocating his philosophy of ‘Akhand Bharat’.
“Pt.Nehru over-reacted to his criticism. He interpreted the very idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ as an invitation to conflict with Pakistan,” said Jaitley.
He said that even though Mookerjee countered Nehru’s argument by pointing out that Pakistan wanted a war and was already at war with India, the Congress leader still went ahead with the amendment containing the restriction relating to “friendly relations with foreign states” in spite of opposition from other quarters.
Jaitley said that the reason behind the Constitution amendment was the fact that “Panditji and Dr. Mookerjee were ideological opponents”.
“The major paradox today is that the essence of this amendment was that a mere speech advocating ‘Akhand Bharat’ or of united India is a threat to the country, it can be an incitement to a war and, therefore, any talk of the same could be prohibited,” said Jaitley before drawing attention to the 2016 Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy.
The BJP leader said, “In the past 70 years, this country has witnessed a change in the situation where Pt. Nehru amended the Constitution so that a demand for ‘Akhand Bharat’ could incite a war and therefore should be prohibited. On the contrary, we all were told that to advocate a breakup of the country without inciting violence is legitimate free speech.”
Jaitley’s JNU remark came a day after a high-level inquiry committee of the University upheld the rustication of Umar Khalid and a fine of Rs 10,000 imposed on Kanhaiya Kumar in connection with the 9 February 2016 incident which generated a furore across the country.
The decision against Khalid, Kumar and two others was taken in 2016 following accusation that anti-national slogans were raised in the campus during an event held to protest Afzal Guru’s hanging.