In case you missed it (although it is highly unlikely that APCO and other propaganda machinery, paid for by the public money of hardworking Gujaratis, would have let you miss any news about the recently appointed campaign committee chief (CCC) of the Bharatiya Janata Party), a 182 metre tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is coming up in Bharuch, Gujarat. The project is estimated to cost Rs 2,500 crore, in a state that ran a fiscal deficit of Rs 17,831 crore in 2012-13.
Sardar Patel, as we all know, is one of the tallest national leaders from the Congress party. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he joined the Congress party in 1917 and remained a member till his death as India’s Deputy Prime Minister in 1950. As a leader of the party fighting for India’s independence alongside Gandhi and Nehru, he spent several years in the prisons of British India. Of course, no comparable leader of the RSS participated in any of the major movements for India’s independence, be it the Non-Cooperation movement, the Civil Disobedience movement or the Quit India movement.
It is hard to miss the irony that the CCC of the BJP, who talks of creating a Congress-free India has to cling on to one of the tallest leaders of the Congress party for his personal gains. But what better can one expect from a person whose entire propaganda is built on such duplicity?
The CCC of the BJP is a very proud member of the RSS and the events of the last few days have demonstrated that the RSS openly controls the functioning of the BJP. Here is what Sardar Patel thought of the RSS. In his letter of July 18, 1948 to Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee after Mahatma Gandhi’s murder, Sardar wrote:
“… as[a] result of the activities of these two bodies[the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha], particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasbha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State.“(Sardar Patel’s correspondence; Vol. VI, p. 323, Navjivan-1973)
In his letter of 11 September 1948 to Sarsangh Chalak of the RSS, Sardar Patel wrote:
“The speeches of the Sangh leaders are poisonous. It is as a result of this venom that Mahatma Gandhi has been assassinated. The followers of the Sangh have celebrated Gandhiji’s assassination by distributing sweets.” (“R.S.S. Kaal, Aaj, Udyaa”, p. 71, RSS-1983)
Going even further, in his response in the Lok Sabha on 2 August 1950 to the Hindu Mahasabha members, after introducing the Defence of India Rules, 1950, Sardar Patel said:
“You must remember that when the Father of the Nation was murdered, it was by a group of people who belonged to that organisation [Hindu Mahasabha]. I am ready to prove to anybody that there was a group of people there who were determined to take his life. They were not satisfied even after taking his life. He tells me that the Magistrate did not know who was the Minister to be murdered. He wants to know it. Well, I shall meet this challenge. The Minister meant was the Prime Minister of India.” (The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches, p. 664, Penguin Books-2007)
Leave alone what Sardar Patel thought of the RSS. Certain groups have been trying to create a myth that Sardar Patel was a partisan and communal Hinduist, who acted against the Muslims during and after the partition. While Sardar was strongly opposed to the divisive and hatred-ridden politics of Jinnah (as were almost all leaders of the Congress including Nehru and Maulana Azad) and was a practicing Hindu in personal life, he was not anti-Muslim by any means.
During the days of the partition, as the Home Minister of the country, Sardar Patel visited the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah area in Delhi, where thousands of Delhi Muslims feared attacks. He prayed at the shrine, visited the people (where a couple of bullets were fired at him from a nearby building) and reinforced the presence of police in Muslim-populated areas. That the Sardar publicly warned police and government officials against partiality and neglect during that tumultuous period is on record. His iconic speech to Sikhs and Hindus at Amritsar during the same period asking them to “Pledge the safety of Muslim refugees crossing the city” is recorded in the annals of history.
Should we even compare this to what happened in the state of Gujarat in 2002 under the watch of the CCC of the BJP? Or with the speeches made by him in the aftermath of one of the worst anti-Muslim riots in independent India’s history?
We cannot also forget that Sardar Patel headed the panel on minorities in the Constituent Assembly. He pioneered Clause 18 (now Arts. 29 and 30 of the Constitution) on safeguarding the cultural and educational rights for the minorities and personally introduced it on 1 May 1947 in the Constituent Assembly. The BJP’s stance on safeguarding the cultural and educational rights of the minorities is well-known. Gujarat government has been shunning a national scholarship scheme for minorities(which has been held constitutional by the Gujarat High Court and denied a stay by the Supreme Court), allowing the central funds to lapse. So much for respect for Sardar Patel and the ideals he stood for and espoused in his life.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a national figure who cannot be allowed to be denigrated by the proponents of the same ideology he fought during his life. Sardar was never a member of the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha. He was not a communal leader. As is evident from various debates in the Constituent Assembly, he believed in a secular India. It is due to his effort that we have constitutionally safeguarded the cultural and educational rights of the minorities. Those opposed to the Sardar in ideology, thoughts, deeds and action have no right to misappropriate him for petty political gains.