Sardaar Patel: A Monster Or A Messiah
By Abdul Majid Zargar
13 November, 2013
The ruling political party at centre, Congress is in a mad race with BJP to own & appropriate the legacy of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Independent India’s first Home Minster also referred to as Iron Man of India. BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendra Modi has even promised to collect iron from five hundred villages of India to erect a large Statue of Patel, to which Congress’s spokesman has satirically retorted. “First they(BJP) promised us a Ram Mandir. Then they sold bricks (referring to shilanyas). Now they will sell iron”.
If Congress had lived to its ideals of secularism & democracy propagated before & at the time of partition of sub-continent, then it should be ashamed of having in it’s fold a person like Sardar patel. But alas history has been distorted to convert a communal monster into a messiah.
Patel’s communal mindset & hatred against Indian Muslims can be measured from a debate in constituent assembly. Replying to a demand of reservations for Muslims in India made by a member Naziruddin Ahmed, Patel replied “You have got what you wanted. And remember, you are the people who are responsible for Pakistan, and not those who live in Pakistan. You led the agitation. What is it you want now? We do not want the country to be divided again” (Times of India, 29 August 1947).The sarcastic tone of this reply tells you all. Instead of being obliged to Muslims who preferred to stay back against heavy odds and made this country a truly secular one, Patel blames them for partition. He easily forgot his own role along with Nehru & Gandhi in repudiating cabinet Mission plan which finally became a Raison d'etre for partition of the sub-continent.
Immediately after Independence when Congress was at the helm, there was talk of a classified circular which directed that no Muslim be appointed to senior-level positions in the defence forces. (The Hindu- 19th August 2009). This circular was issued at the behest of Patel as Deputy Prime Minister . He also instituted a policy whereby government officers were expected to report Muslim personnel who were thought to be of "questionable patriotic value". This created such a fear psychosis among Muslim officers that many were forced to leave India. Those left behind always thought of being under continuous surveillance, a syndrome they are still inflicted with. If you observe the behavior of some top Indian Muslim bureaucrats posted in Kashmir- you will notice the effects of this syndrome compelling them to overdo things which leads one to feel that Hindu officers are better than Muslim ones.
Patel is credited with integration of five hundred sixty two princely states with the Indian union. But his means of doing so were coercive, undemocratic & foul . To obtain an instrument of merger from an unwilling Raja of Alwar, Tej Singh Prabakar, Patel arrested and falsely implicated him in an assassination plot of Mahtama Gandhi until he fell in line. Other Mahraja’s took the hint & made a beeline for mergers. Once during the Kashmir debate in Constituent Assembly, Sheikh Abdullah in a mood of exasperation, walked out of parliament. Patel noticed it and sent Abdullah a message that he could walk out of Parliament but not be able to leave Delhi. Abdullah took the message & returned (Thematic Volumes on Patel-page 17).
Indian textbooks show Sardar Patel as demi-god who created a unified India. The truth is more sordid. You will not find any mention of massacre of Muslims in Hyderabad & Jammu in any standard history book. The window dressing of Patel’s misdeeds is complete. In respect of Hyderabad, which had declared independence instead of accession with India, Patel through his infamous police action is directly responsible for slaughter of around two lakh Hyderabadi Muslims. The Sunderlal commission enquiry report in this regard, which is believed to have strongly indicted Patel, has not been made public till date. Writes famous writer William Dalrymple In his book-The Age of Kali, “the Sunderlal report has been leaked and published abroad, and estimates that as many as 200,000 Hyderabadi Muslims were slaughtered.” Similar views have been expressed by Prof Cantwell Smith, in The Middle Eastern Journal, in 1950.
Being a willing partner with Dogra rulers in massacre of Muslims in Jammu in 1947 to enforce a demographic change, Patel’s visit to Jammu was meant to fastrack the pogrom. Writes Abdullah in his book Aatish Chinar at Page 312 “On November 4 1947, Patel along with Mahraja of Patiala & Defence Minster Baldev Singh visited Jammu and had a talk with Mahraja. On 5th November a proclamation was made in the city informing the Muslims desiring to go to Pakistan to assemble at police lines. In response men, women & children came in large numbers. They were herded in around forty trucks with each truck holding around sixty people. On reaching a hill side near Samba, the young women were abducted while the rest were mowed down by machine Guns already set up there”. Patel has even been accused of allowing diversion of Govt. Arms & ammunition to RSS thugs who played a havoc with such arms (see Nehru’s letter to Patel dated 30th December 1947).
Regarding treatment meted out to Muslims, Patel had few tiffs with Abul Kalam Azad. The first such tiff occurred at Patel’s refusal to replace Delhi’s Sikh Police Commissioner, when he was clearly seen siding with marauders killing Muslim men & raping their women. On another occasion, Patel ignored Azad’s request to allot properties of departing Muslims to those Muslims who had been dispossessed in other states but instead allotted these to incoming Hindu refugees.
Notwithstanding his many statements exhorting Hindu-Muslim unity, rights of minorities etc. which were all hog-wash meant for public consumption, Patel In actual life was a proverbial wolf in lamb’s clothing. Congress leaders need to revisit history before vying with BJP to own & appropriate his legacy.
(This article is dedicated to the memory of those innocents who were killed in Jammu in 1947 for no fault of theirs. The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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