Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Iron man who unified India
This iconic figure of India’s freedom movement is often referred to as the Iron Man and the Unifier of India, for playing a pivotal role in the integration of more than 500 princely states to form a new and united India post independence.
Born in Gujarat’s Nadiad city on October 31, 1875, to Jhaverbhai and Ladba, Valabhbhai Patel attended a school at Petlad. When he was in Class 10, Patel was regarded as an average student. He began to concentrate more on studies and stayed away from his family to prepare for studying law abroad. For that purpose, he saved money, collected books from friends and finally went to England in 1910. After becoming a lawyer, in 1913, Patel returned to India and began his practice in Godhra, Gujarat.
Making of a Sardar (leader)
In 1917, Patel won an election for the post of sanitation commissioner of Ahmedabad. He delivered a speech in Borsad town to motivate people about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Swaraj (self-rule) movement. Patel soon became the secretary of the Gujarat chapter of the India National Congress (INC). He began to work on a grassroots campaign to make farmers aware of the atrocities of British government and appealed to them to refuse the payment of taxes in Kheda, Gujarat. During Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation movement, Patel took to wearing only khadi clothes and condemned the British way of life. He also collected large sums of money for the Satyagraha movement. In 1922, 1924 and 1927, he was elected as the municipal president of Ahmedabad. In 1928, when the people of Bardoli town reeled under the dual burdens of a hefty tax and famine, Patel organised a massive movement and participated in negotiations with the British government, leading some British officials to tender their resignations.Therefore the people of Bardoli conferred on him the title of Sardar (leader).
Gandhi’s strong ally
In 1930, during Gandhi’s Dandi Salt March, Patel was arrested but the government’s action only further intensified the protests. After being released from jail along with Gandhi, Patel was elevated to the post of the INC interim president. In 1932, after the failed Round Table Conference in London, Gandhi and Patel were again arrested and lodged at the Yeravda Central Jail in Pune. By that time, they had struck a strong camaraderie. During the Quit India Movement in 1942, Patel, unlike other Congress leaders, supported Gandhi’s all-out campaign of civil disobedience and delivered speeches across the country, seeking people’s support for the campaign by urging them not to pay taxes and to desist from joining government service. Patel was imprisoned at Ahmednagar fort in Gujarat till 1945.
Helped integrate princely states
After India’s independence, Patel became the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister. Patel was assigned a task to integrate the 562 princely states under the Indian Dominion. He began the process of integration on August 6, 1947 and successfully completed it by the dint of his political maturity and persuasive skills. States like Jammu and Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad were initially hesitant but Patel’s efforts overcame all resistance. He is also credited with having created an All-India bureaucratic service as he observed that a systematic hierarchy or framework is required to fulfil India’s development goals.
1. Sardar Valabhbhai Patel completed his 36- month long law course in just 30 months at the Middle Temple, Inns of Court, in England and became one of the most successful lawyers of his time.
2. In 1932, after the unsuccessful Round Table Conference in London Patel was jailed Yeravda Jail in Pune with Gandhi. He learnt Sanskrit from Gandhi and discussed strategies to fight the British .
3. In 1946, during the process of appointing the president of the INC, Patel was named by 12 out of 15 committees but Gandhi recommended Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel did not challenge it.
4. The Statue of Unity is a monument to honour Patel. It was completed in 2018 and is located in Gujarat, facing the Narmada Dam. At the height of 597 feet, it is the world’s tallest statue.
5. In 2014, the Union government declared Patel’s birth anniversary, October 31, as Rashtiya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) in recognition of Patel’s role as the Unifier of modern India.
SOURCES: Sardarpatel.nvli.in, Wikipedia, Culturalindia.net