“Your goodness is impediment in your way. So let your eyes be red with anger and try to fight injustice with an iron hand.”
– Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while addressing people in Bardoli, 12th March 1928.
India is a land of diverse communities. The diversity of this land has existed since time immemorial. Travellers from different parts of the world had set foot in India and left their mark on its land. The exchange of culture and tradition can be accounted for India’s rich diversity. Many kings and emperors had invaded this land and left their imprints on the people. In the pre-independence era, India did not exist as a country like it is now. It was just a congregation of different states, each with their own rulers, internal affairs and indigenous people. The independent princely states had their own rules and code for law and order. When Gandhi Ji started the freedom movement and gradually, India was approaching to earn its independence, a major problem was faced by our freedom fighters. The problem was the integration of 500+ independent princely states into one nation as a whole. But this herculean task was handled swiftly by one person – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was born on 31st October, 1875, in Gujarat. He was a renowned barrister and statesman. Initially, he was not into politics or freedom struggle. His qualities of leadership and diplomacy were observed by his friends who urged him to contest elections in 1917. So, upon strong urging by his friends, he contested the elections and was elected as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1917. He was impressed by Gandhi Ji’s concept of ‘Swaraj’ and soon, he began to develop a keen interest on it. He started urging people ti rise and fight for India’s freedom. He played an active role when Satyagraha was organised in Gujarat. He was also an active member of the Quit India Movement.
Sardar Patel had a strong vision to integrate the princely states and make India a united nation. As India neared Independence, Sardar Patel started showing his diplomatic skills. He was assigned the task of integrating India by Gandhi Ji. Sardar Patel had the herculean task of convincing independent states to shed off their defence, foreign affairs and communication to join hands in forming an independent, united nation called INDIA. He formulated an effective plan and started working with utmost dedication. He offered an ultimatum to all the 565 independent states to be a part of India. He clearly stated the benefits of being one nation. There were instances of some states showing reluctance but he was successful in persuading and convincing them too. He carried out the task of integrating Junagadh (in Gujarat) as a skilled statesman, without which, Junagadh would have been a part of Pakistan today. He also subdued the Nizam of Hyderabad tactfully. Finally, he succeeded in integrating the independent states into one India. For this reason, he is often compared to Otto von Bismark of Germany, who did the same thing in his country in the 1860s. Sardar Patel is also known as the “Bismark of India” and “Iron Man of India” (for following his policies and strategies with an iron hand).
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s vision of national integration and unity did not just end with the integration of 562 independent states. After independence, he became the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He took charge of the States Department in July 1947 and continued to think for nation unity in future. He came up with the idea of a group of bureaucrats and professionals who would ensure nation unity with law and order in future. He can be credited to be the founder of the modern All India Services, a reason for which he is known as the “Patron Saint” among the civil servants today.
When it comes to national integration, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a name which cannot be ignored and clearly stands out high amidst the rest. For the cause of national unity, he had an action plan which he executed as a seasoned statesman. His leadership qualities and diplomatic skills empowered him to persuade independent states to stand united and save India from Balkanisation after the British crown started to collapse. Even after independence, he had taken a calculative decision of introducing the All India Services which would ensure that India always stays as an independent and united nation.
It is because of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that we can be proud of being the citizens of such a diverse and culture-rich country. Picture the situation today if there was no one called Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and all the 562 states were still independent today. How fragmented and powerless each state would have been, often prone to wars and invasion even now?
We Indians need to be proud of leaders like Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel. Such leaders are wanted even today – leaders who can lead with a vision which can actually be converted into reality. It is indeed a praiseworthy step by the Government of India that it has urged the citizens to commemorate and celebrate Sarder Patel’s birthday as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” (National Unity Day), for Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel was a man who not only integrated and united the nation, but also secured solidarity of the nation without a civil war.
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma
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Sardar Vallabhai Patel was born on the 31st of October 1875, in Gujarat. He was the son of Zaverbhai who had served in the army of the Queen of Jhansi and Ladbai. Vallabhbhai started his education in a Gujarati medium school and after middle school he switched over to English medium in the Nadiad High School. During the course of his studies his penchant towards organizing came to light. He successfully organized many events. He matriculated in 1897.
In 1891 he married Zaverbai and they had two children. But after she passed away in 1909, the following year he went to England to study law. He completed his law studies in 1913 and came back to India and started his law practice. He joined the Gujarat club and started following a western lifestyle. One day Gandhiji came to the club to give lectures. Sardar Patel was greatly influenced by this master spokesperson. As soon as he came in contact with the Mahatma he decided to discard his foreign clothes and follow the rules of Satyagraha as laid down by Gandhiji. A relationship of teacher and student began to develop in between them.
In 1918 when there was a flood in Kaira, the British insisted on collecting tax from the farmers. This time the Sardar made optimum use of Satyagraha and asked the farmers not to give in to the demands of the government. All of this was done peacefully and the farmers followed his guidance. The British got fed up and eventually returned the land confiscated by them earlier.
In 1928 the farmers faced a similar problem and Vallabhai came to their rescue again. The British were as usual demanding an unjust tax and the farmers of Bardoli under the supervision of Vallabhbhai did not budge. The government in retaliation seized the lands. This agitation took on for more than six months until Patel's brother, Vithalbhai, an important figure in the Central Legislative Assembly struck a truce. This event immensely delighted Gandhiji and the title of "Sardar" was conferred on him. When he was assisting Gandhiji in the Salt Satyagraha, he faced imprisonment for the first time
With 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.
When India became free and Pakistan attacked Kashmir, it was Patel who asked to withhold the cash balances left by the British for Pakistan. Gandhiji felt this was immoral and went on a fast until death. Sardar withdrew his argument because he could not bear to see his teacher's suffering. In independent India he held the portfolio of Home Minister, Minister of state and the Minister for information and broadcasting. One of his major achievements included the integration of the princely states into the union of India.
On 3oth January 1948, when Gandhiji was assassinated Sardar Patel was a totally shattered man. He had lost a dear friend and the guiding force of his life.
He died in Bombay in December 1950.