HT Archive: Sardar Patel dies aged 75 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT Archive: Sardar Patel dies aged 75

Dec 16, 2023 06:04 AM IST

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a key figure in India's struggle for independence, has died at the age of 75. He will be remembered as a great leader and builder of the new India. His funeral procession was attended by thousands of mourners.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel died on December 15, 1950, after suffering a heart attack in Bombay where he had gone on medical advice to escape the severe cold of Delhi.

A large crowd at Chowpatty in Mumbai mourns the death of Sardar Patel. (HT Archive)
A large crowd at Chowpatty in Mumbai mourns the death of Sardar Patel. (HT Archive)

Announcing his passing in Parliament, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, “The story of a great life has ended.

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“It is a great story that all of us know and the whole country knows. History will record it in many pages and call him the builder and consolidator of the new India and will say many other things about him.

“But, perhaps, to many of us here, he will be remembered as a great captain of our forces in the struggle for freedom and as one who gave us sound advice in times of trouble as well as in moments of victory, a friend and colleague and comrade on whom one could invariably rely, as a tower of strength which revived wavering hearts when we were in trouble. I who have sat here on this bench side by side with him for these several years will feel rather forlorn and a certain emptiness will steal upon me as I look at this empty bench.”

Soon after Sardar’s death, several senior leaders including President Rajendra Prasad, PM Nehru and Union minister C Rajagopalachari flew to Bombay.

During the 10 hours that Sardar Patel’s body remained with them, Bombay’s multitudes demonstrated the high esteem and great veneration in which the city in particular — his second home — and the country in general held Mahatma Gandhi’s right-hand man.

As the common people mournfully filed past in an endless stream the Sardar’s body as it lay in state, planes were arriving every few minutes from different parts of the country carrying a cross-section of the country’s leadership and condolence messages from far and near poured in.

The defence services lined the approaches to Birla House and large crowds stood behind, silently waiting for the procession to start.

Kerbs along the entire four-mile route of the funeral procession were lined with people.

As the funeral procession finally formed itself along the Napa Sea after starting from Birla House at 5pm, a contingent of armed police and motor cycles squads were in the lead.

The gun-carriage carrying his body followed this. Closely following the gun carriage was the jeep carrying the President, the Prime Minister, Rajagopalachari and other leaders.

All along the route citizens flanking the procession joined the chorus of Raghupati Raghava Rajaram, many showering flowers on the cortege, while others broke into tears.

Speaking with great emotion just before the pyre was lit, Rajagopalachari said it was his “melancholic privilege” to say a few words on the occasion as Sardar Patel’s “oldest friend”.

“Thirty-two years ago”, Rajagopalachari began in a low and heavy voice, “when Gandhiji was at Madras one morning he asked me whether I had seen Vallabhbhai, who he said, was brave and very trustworthy. You should meet him, he had said. I did see him and since then I have been seeing him without a break.

“What inspiration, courage, confidence incarnate a force Vallabhbhai was! Let us not think that the Sardar is dead. The real Vallabhbhai will survive even after Vallabhbhai we know has breathed his last.

“We have assembled here now to give vent to our grief and take courage and confidence from his ashes. We will not see the like of him again. But do not think he lived in vain. He led an honest life from which we all can take something, provided we have the character and moral courage.

“Let us be brave. Let us not shed tears. We should not give way to fear and depression. I am an old man and the melancholic privilege of addressing you all on this occasion has been given to me. Further, I am the oldest friend Vallabhbhai has left behind.

“I have seen many pass away. Now Sardar has also left us, and he has left his brother (Jawaharlal Nehru) to carry on alone. May God bless his soul.”

The Prime Minister was seen sobbing as he turned back and when asked to say a few words he was too overwhelmed with emotion to speak.

The great leader was cremated at the Sonapur Burning Ghat (Chowpatty) at 7.40pm near the spot where his brother, Vithalbhai Patel, was cremated 17 years ago.

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