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Truth vs Hype.docx

Truth vs Hype.docx

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Published by Rahul Raj
Truth vs Hype: Sardar Patel - A contested legacy
The legacy of Sardar Patel being contested by the BJP and the Congress is far more complex than either would like to believe.
Truth vs Hype: Sardar Patel - A contested legacy
The legacy of Sardar Patel being contested by the BJP and the Congress is far more complex than either would like to believe.

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Published by: Rahul Raj on Nov 07, 2013
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Truth vs Hype: Sardar Patel - A contested legacy

The legacy of Sardar Patel being contested by the BJP and the Congress is far more complex than either would like to believe.

If Patel owes his political baptism to anyone, it is to Gandhi.

Their paths crossed shortly after Patel - who broke away from his family's rustic roots in Central Gujarat to study law in England - eventually returning to a thriving practice in Ahmedabad.

Patel would spend less time in his practice, and more at the Sabarmati Ashram, from where under Gandhi's guidance he would organise a series of Satyagraha's against the prohibitive taxation of farmers.

The director of the Ashram, Tridip Suhrud says Sardar came into his own mobilising satyagrahas in Kheda, in Central Gujarat and Bardoli, near Surat.

Three years after the Bardoli satygarha, he became one of the Congress party's key organisers.

So how could someone steeped in Gandhian thought, and a Congress organisation man, come to be claimed by the Hindu?

That narrative is posited on the idea that Patel was not as squeamish about his Hindu identity, than say, Nehru.

This, say his admirers in the BJP, is borne out by his plain speaking to Muslims who stayed back in India.

In January 1948, he remonstrates a group of Muslims in Calcutta, saying, "The Muslims who are still in India, many of them helped in the creation of Pakistan. Fine, if they did but then how come in one night, their hearts changed? I do not understand that. They say why their loyalty is being questioned. That is not something for us to answer. We just say that alright you created Pakistan, good for you, we will not interfere. If things go bad then do not call us. Then they say Pakistan and India should become one, I plead them to not say that. That will be a loss for us, let them stay there. Let them create Pakistan."

I ask you why you do not unequivocally denounce Pak for attacking Indian territory with the connivance of Frontier tribesmen. "The Sardar wrapped his shawl round his neck and said 'Let us go to the saint before we incur his displeasure'. in the aftermath of Pakistan's invasion of Kashmir using Afghan tribesmen. I am grieved to think that things have come to such a pass that no Muslim can go about in Amritsar and no Hindu or Sikh can even think about living in Lahore. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS. In a January 1948 letter. In his actions. The Sardar had a bluntness of speech which sometimes unintentionally hurt. We arrived there unobtrusively. Patel's private secretary Shankar records Patel's response. the blood of Hindus. 1948 communique issued by the Home Ministry said. Like in September 1947. "I want to tell you frankly that mere declarations of loyalty to the Indian Union will not help you in this critical juncture. The February 4. He travelled to Amritsar and famously made this appeal: "Here in this very same city. I was able to assure the critics that they were wrong in isolating him from Nehru and me. he remonstrated a gathering of Muslims in Lucknow. went round the holy shrine in an attitude of veneration. not words. Sikhs and Muslims mingled in the bloodbath of Jallianwalla Bagh. on pain of dismissal that he would hold him responsible if anything untoward happened. made enquiries here and there of the inmates. "Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh." Perhaps the greatest awkwardness for the attempts by the Hindu right to champion the Sardar is his active role as Home Minister in the banning of the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhi's assassination. Gandhi wrote to Patel saying. and told the police officer of the area. saying." Later in the same month as reports came that Sikhs in Amritsar intended to attack Muslim convoys on their way to Pakistan." Patel's biographer Rajmohan Gandhi says that Patel should be judged by his actions." ." But his mentor appeared to have an insight into where these words were coming from. there was little to fault Patel. though his heart was expansive enough to accommodate all. "Many Muslim friends had complained to me of the Sardar's so-called anti-Muslim attitude. as reports emerged of threats to those taking shelter in the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in south Delhi. whom they gratuitously raise to the sky. Sardar spent a good 45 minutes in the precincts. who as Home Minister would often personally travel to communal flashpoints to ensure Muslims are not attacked. Those who want to go to Pak can go there and live in peace.In the same month.

that Patel was some sort of closet Hindutvavaadi." But the Sardar made it clear in a letter to RSS chief Guru Golwalkar. .The RSS had attempted to suggest that Patel admired the RSS. dated 11 September 1948. He said "organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men. the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. As a final result of the poison. . But equally. and was bulldozed into the ban by Nehru. it's entirely because of the gradual abandoning of the Sardar by his parent party. which do little justice to his complexity and his stature. that the Sangh created the climate that led to Gandhi's killing. and he has been neglected in the politics of memorialisation. when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji's death. It is hard to imagine what the Sardar would make of these political skirmishes over his legacy. if the Hindu right does have a greater claim on him. women and children is quite another thing. writing in February 1948. "It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through. Opposition turned more severe. The BJP points out that it took the Congress 40 years to bestow a Bharat Ratna on Patel. Patel disagreed with Nehru about the RSS's role in Gandhi's assassination." There is little to suggest then. All their speeches were full of communal poison. The facts as always are more nuanced.

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