National Unity Day… Remembering Sardar Patel – The #Ironman of India
It feel nice to see the Indian government today acting on the wishes of common people of India, what I wrote in 2013 (http://wp.me/pnx59-Xf ) has already started becoming a reality as government has initiated plans on most of these action items; recently I wrote this http://wp.me/pnx59-1KW and the government has done it from this year itself. I think it demonstrate that the new Government of India is actually listening to the common people of India – I am just one of them.
Feel so good today (31st October) to celebrate the National Unity Day (Rastriya Ekta Diwas) as we celebrate the birth anniversary of freedom fighter, the unifying force for India as its first home minister after gaining independence from British colonial rule – the Iron Man of India – Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.
I was born in the 70’s so my understanding of India’s Freedom Movement and the post independence leadership is based on what I read during my school days (mostly school books); I was too young to really experience the days of Emergency under Indira Gandhi, my parents were staunch supporter of Congress Party and always voted for them, but the only Congress leaders they remembered with nostalgia were PM Lal Bahadur Shastry.
All the leaders we read in the school books and had to write essays on were Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi. I came to know about Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel only when my elder sister got to play the part of Saradar Patel in a school drama.
It was only in 1980’s that I got exposed to the Indian politics mainly through print media (books, newspaper, magazines), radio and television. By the time I reached my teens, in the mid-80’s, I understood that the most of the media is heavily controlled and manipulated by left wingers and Nehru-Gandhi dynasty sycophants in Congress party. It was then that I started reading the newspaper (Indian Express and Jansatta) and listening to radio stations from around the world (BBC, Voice of America, Radio Deutsche Welle, etc.) which were considered more neutral and didn’t toe the government diktats all the time. While trying to help the librarians in our School and later on College I got hooked on to books, Delhi Public Library, the American Center Library and British Council Library in Delhi were treasure troves books in comparison with what was available in our Govt. funded School and College.
As I got exposed to more and more neutral political voices, started studying economics, and was exposed to what was happening around the world vis-a-vis the life of shortage we were living in India that I started becoming a staunch detractor of Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty in particular and Congress / Leftist ideology in general. I used to reach school early to put up satirical cartoons before the teachers would come – these were cut out from the Indian Express and Jansatta newspapers on Rajiv Gandhi / Congress party and their corruption scandals in late 1980’s. The teachers would remove them as soon as they caught there eyes, I never got caught posting them there though.
Only those who have lived through those days would understand the satisfaction I am feeling today when leaders like Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel are getting their due respect in India. It was all about the birth and death anniversaries of only Nehru – Gandhi dynasty till now.
I can bet most people of my generation would hardly know anything about Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel more than the fact that he was the first home minister of India (under PM Nehru), that he was called Iron Man (by PM Nehru) and was responsible for creating a United India – blamed for forcing the small kingdoms within India to merge and became a part of a democratic country. We new in-depth about what kind of milk Gandhiji preferred to drink, what kind of clothes Nehruji liked to wear, from where Indiraji bought her Saris and what were the hobbies of Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi – the god’s gift to humanity in general and the common people of India in particular.
So here is a small write up on the Iron Man of India – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (October 31, 1875 – December 15, 1950)
Born born on 31st October, 1875, in a small village in Nadiad, to Jhaverbhai Patel, a simple farmer and Laad Bai, a housewife, Vallabhbhai Patel was a very hard-working individual from his early childhood. He used to help his father in farming while he was studying in a school at N. K. High school, Petlad. He passed his high-school examination in 1896. Throughout school he was considered a very wise and intelligent student. Despite the poor financial conditions, Jhaverbhai wanted to send Vallabhbhai to college but he refused. For about three years he stayed at home, worked hard and prepared for the District Leader’s examination, hence passing with very good percentage.
I am sure soon Sardar Patel will become as well known historical figure as a Gandhi or Nehru in India, who will move the people to tears whenever they will read about him. Mostly these will be tears of joy, for what he did to achieve the gigantic task of Unity of India. We may also shed some tears of sorrow for sufferings and sacrifices he had to go through to achieve that.
Sardar Patel hated to work for the Britisher Colonial Rulers. Independence was etched deeply in his soul. After becoming a lawyer, he started his own practice of law in a place called Godhara. Soon the practice flourished. He saved money, made financial arrangement for the entire family. He got married to Jhaberaba. In 1904, he got a baby daughter Maniben, and in 1905 his son Dahya was born. He sent his elder brother to England for higher studies in law. In 1908, Vitthabhai returned as barrister and started practising in Bombay. In 1909 his wife became seriously ill and was taken to Bombay for treatment Vallabhbhai had to go for the hearing of an urgent case and his wife died. He was stunned. He admitted his children in St. Mary’s school Bombay, and he left for England. He became a barrister and retuned to India in 1913.
He started his practice in Ahmedabad and soon he became aware of the local life, activities and people’s problems. He became an extremely popular person and he got elected in the Municipal Corportaion in 1917. Around 1915, he came across Mahatma Gandhi. The Swadeshi Movement was at its peak. Gandhiji gave a lecture at a place in Ahmedabad where Patel heard him and was very impressed and started actively participating in the freedom movement. The British government’s atrocities were increasing. The government declared to confiscate all the lands of farmers. He forced the British government to amend the rules. He brought together the farmers and encouraged them and hence got the title of ‘Sardar’ and thus became famous.
The British government considered him as a threat and his lectures were considered anti-government and he was imprisoned several times. In 1942, he took part in the Quit India Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He was arrested along with other leaders and was sent to Ahmednagar jail. Inspite of the British Rule, rulers of the small kingdoms were spending a lot of public money, and were having a nice time. Sardar Vallabh Bhai opposed this.
Sardar PatelWith great wisdom and political foresight, he consolidated the small kingdoms. The public was with him. He tackled the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagarh who intially did not want to join India. There were a lot of problems connected with the reunion of the numerous states into India. Sardar Patel’s untiring efforts towards the unity of the country brought success. Due to the achievement of this massive task, Sardar Patel got the title of ‘Iron Man’. ‘ He is one of the prestigious leaders of the world who became immmortal by uniting a scattered nation without any bloodshed. His enthusiasm to work for the independent nation got a big jolt when Gandhiji was murdered. Patel was very attached to Gandhiji and considered him, his elder brother and teacher. He was encouraged by Mahatma Gandhi in all his work. Gandhiji’s death left him broken. On 15th December, 1950 he died of a cardiac arrest. The news of his death spread all over the world. The entire nation plunged into deep sorrow, everyday life came to a standstill. A grateful nation paid a tearful homage to it’s beloved leader. In 1991 the grateful nation conferred upon him the honour of Bharat Ratna.
Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel – the man of steel, recognized early in his life the need to be tough. As Vallabhbhai would himself recall, his parents’ hopes seemed centered on the eldest two sons, Soma and Narsi, and their affection on the youngest two, Kashi and the only daughter, Dahiba. Being in the middle, Vallabh and Vithal, were remembered last when clothes or sweets were to be distributed, and at once when a chore had to be done. The rough schools he went to as a boy, and the courts where he defended alleged criminals as a young man, also contributed to Vallabhbhai’s mental muscle and stern appearance. Yet this tough man always kept smiling at the world and even on the gloomiest of moments, helped others to laugh. Also, he did not hesitate to step aside when the situation required him do do so – for his older brother Vithal when the latter wanted to use his passport and ticket to London, and, years later, for Jawaharlal Nehru, when Mahatma Gandhi desired that Nehru should sit in a chair of Prime Minister – to which Sardar Patel suited much more and was actually entitled to. He is known as the most competent Prime Minister India couldn’t get. And this strong man before whom Rajas and Maharajas trembled, and to whom rich men gave large funds for India’s national movement, did not allow a rupee to stick to his fingers, and he saw to it that his children, a son and a daughter, lived simple lives during and after their father’s lifetime, most of the people in India will easily remember the complete genealogy of Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi and the life story of their descendants but they wouldn’t even know the name of Sardar Patels children.
His strength of character, the sharpness of his mind, his organizing skills, and all his energy were offered up for achieving the freedom of India under Gandhi’s leadership, and after independence for India’s consolidation. We admire a man who rise to a political or financial peak, but are moved by one whose sole purpose in life is the strength and well being of his compatriots. And we are moved even more when we discover that next to the steel in his soul is a tenderness for colleagues and a readiness to accept whatever results God ordains. In successive phases of his life, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel showed the defiance of the oppressed, a trial lawyer’s brilliance, the daring to give up a flourishing career, the discipline of a soldier in freedom’s battles, the strategies of a General, indifference as a prisoner of the British Colonial Rulers, the generosity of the strong, the firmness of a patriot, and the farsightedness of a statesman. If times are depressing or daunting, Sardar Patel reminds us of India’s and Indians’ potential. When times are good, we can think of him with glad gratitude.
The Indian National Congress which morphed into a Nehru-Gandhi dynasty party post independent ignored the contribution of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for more than 6 decades now. The reason is not hard to guess, it was the jealousy and hatred of Jawahar Lal Nehru towards Sardar Patel, which was carried forward by the descendant of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, till now.
There are some interesting anecdotes which highlight aspect of our history, but they were hidden from the public eyes till now. The memoirs of some of the Indian bureaucrats serving the Indian government post Independent highlight this. One such account goes like this…
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, was insulted, humiliated and disgraced by the then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, during a Cabinet meeting. “You are a complete communalist and I’ll never be a party to your suggestions and proposals,” Nehru shouted at Patel during a crucial Cabinet meeting to discuss the liberation of Hyderabad by the Army from the tyranny of the Razakkars, the then Nizam’s private army. A shocked Sardar Patel collected his papers from the table and slowly walked out of the Cabinet room. That was the last time Patel attended a Cabinet meeting. He also stopped speaking to Nehru since then.
This was written by MKK Nair, a 1947 batch IAS officer, in his memoirs With No Ill Feeling to Anybody. Nair had close ties with both Sardar and VP Menon, his Man Friday. Though Nair has not written the exact date of the above mentioned Cabinet meeting, it could have happened during the weeks prior to the liberation of Hyderabad by the Indian Army. Operation Polo, the mission to liberate Hyderabad from the Nizam, began on September 13, 1948 and culminated on September 18. While Sardar Patel wanted direct military action to liberate Hyderabad from the rape and mayhem perpetrated by the 2,00,000 Razakars, Nehru preferred the United Nations route. Nair also writes that Nehru’s personal hatred for Sardar Patel came out in the open on December 15, 1950, the day the Sardar breathed his last in Bombay
Immediately after he got the news about Sardar Patel’s death, Nehru sent two notes to the Ministry of States. The notes reached VP Menon, the then Secretary to the Ministry. In one of the notes, Nehru had asked Menon to send the official Cadillac car used by Sardar Patel to the former’s office. The second note was shocking. Nehru wanted government secretaries desirous of attending Sardar Patel’s last rites to do so at their own personal expenses. But Menon convened a meeting of all secretaries and asked them to furnish the names of those who want to attend the last rites of Patel. He did not mention anything about the note sent by Nehru. Menon paid the entire cost of the air tickets for those secretaries who expressed their wish to attend Sardar’s last journey.