After coming into power in 2014, Narendra Modi introduced Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) to celebrate the day of 31st October in each year, as a commemoration of the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. This year, on 31st October, he inaugurated the Statue of Unity – a giant statue of Sardar Patel at Gujarat’s Kevadia. The built-cost of this tallest statue of the world is Rs. 2989 crores. This is like another costly show off by Modi. However, the people of this country must know the historical truths centering Sardar Patel, and then judge themselves whether to assert this statue as a symbol of unity or as a signature of glorifying communalism.
Praising Sardar Patel is the typical characteristic of all right-wing forces. This alone is enough to give hints regarding communal background of Patel, which ranges from participating in the opening ceremony of a swimming pool built exclusively for the use of Hindus in the then British India (1945) to treating Muslim people in ‘free’ India as hostages to influence diplomatic relationship between India and Pakistan. On October 22, 1946, the then Viceroy Lord Wavell reported to the King, that Patel was “frankly communal”. This was not a false assessment by Wavell; especially, maintaining close relationship with the utterly communal Hindutva brigade clearly validates this claim. In the last days of the British Raj, Archibald Nye was appointed as Britain’s first High Commissioner to India. In one of his confidential report, which he sent to London, he wrote – “His [Patel’s] reputation as a Hindu nationalist stood him in good stead in keeping the Mahasabha and the RSS in check and he had special and secret private arrangements with the RSS leaders. … As an orthodox Hindu, he did not disguise his communal sympathies.” In reality, Patel wanted to strengthen his communal line inside the Congress party. Thus, on January 6, 1948, just three weeks before Gandhi’s assassination, Patel warmly invited swayamsevaks to join the Congress. He said – “RSS men are not thieves and dacoits. They are patriots. They love their country. Only their trend of thought is diverted. They are to be won over by Congressmen with love”. We must remember that by then the utterly communal, pro-fascist, and even pro-British stand of RSS was well-known.
Patel kept close connection with the then sarsanghchalak of RSS, Golwalkar. As the Home Minister of newly formed India, Patel solicited Golwalkar’s help while convincing the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir to merge his princely state with India. In his book “Bunch of Thoughts” (1966), which is full of communal venom, especially against the Muslims, Golwalkar praised Patel. Golwalkar was a person, who proudly instructed his disciples to follow the path of Hitler in purging Semitic races like the Muslims. Thus, we can easily understand that how the attitude of Patel was towards the Muslim community. We get to know about his level of insensitivity, even towards the Muslim riot victims in Bengal, in his letter to Rajaji on 21st August, 1946, where he wrote – “… However, this will be a good lesson for the League, because I hear that the proportion of Muslims who have suffered death is much larger”. After the partition, Patel said in a public meeting – “Those who are disloyal will have to go to Pakistan. Those who are still riding on two horses will have to quit Hindusthan”. He purposefully transformed Kashmir into a loyalty test for the Muslims. The religious intolerance we are witnessing in India today has its root in the communal attitudes of people like Patel. Thus, even after circulating false stories to establish a feeling among the common mass that Nehru stole the prime minister’s crown from Patel, Modi still needs a 597 feet tall statue as eyewash to make Patel acceptable to the general mass. Another official scheme centering Sardar Patel, named – Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat, should also be seen in the same light.
We generally blame Jinnah for the partition of India, and overlook the role of the Congress in that event. Although this deserves a separate exclusive discussion, here, we must note the role of Patel in this event. Everyone, including Nehru and Gandhi, followed the tune of partition composed by Mountbatten; however, we must remember that the first person to follow the tune was none other than Sardar Patel. Abul Kalam Azad, a staunch critic of the Partition Plan, wrote in his book “India Wins Freedom” that he was “surprised and pained when Patel in reply [to why partition is needed] said that whatever we liked it or not, there were two nations in India.” Basically, it was Patel, who has outsourced the task of procuring the accessions to Mountbatten and Menon. “I will buy a basket of 565 apples [the computed number of seats]” – behind the unification of different states, this was the simple motivation of Patel, who was often boasted as the “Bismark of India” – another exaggeration unjustly imposed on the character. Modi, who is an expert of farting fake news all the time, claims that all of Kashmir would have been India’s if Patel (instead of Nehru) had been allowed to become India’s first Prime Minister. However, it will only add to Modi’s discomforts that Patel initially was thinking of a bargain and he would not object to Kashmir acceding to Pakistan if Jinnah let India have Junagadh and Hyderabad.
Just day before the inauguration of the Statue of Unity, the government jailed nearly 300 activists for a day. Many of them are Adivasi farmers, who had planned to protest against the land and farm acquisitions for the statue and luxurious developments associated with it. Even the government completed the construction of a weir at Garudeswar, for which many villages already lost land and many more are waiting to be submerged in near future. There is no doubt that at the cost of millions of poor Adivasi lives Modi is constructing its own image by carrying on anti-people, pro-corporate ‘development’, be it Statue of Unity or Sardar Sarovar Dam. What else we can expect from the heirs of Patel, who bartered the princely states like ‘apples’, without taking any consent from the local people! Thus, every concerned citizen must raise the question today that why billions of public money are spent in building a statue, which will represent a country that holds ranks of 130 (out of 189) and 103 (out of 111) in human development and global hunger index, respectively.