H.W. Longfellow said that “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints in the sands of time”. On October 31, we are going to celebrate the 142nd Birth Anniversary of the Iron man — Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a historical figure who moves us to tears but it seems India has forgotten this precious stone because today’s young generation of India only knows him as a freedom fighter. The younger generation has little understanding of the Sardar’s monumental contribution in stitching together a united India from disparate princely States. Though Sardar Patel’s contribution in bringing the nation together was great, his memories are fading away gradually and thus he has become a silent icon.
Sardar Patel was a great political leader with exemplary qualities. Straightforward and outspoken, his commitment to secular India was true and well-defined. Blessed with extraordinary qualities of courage, integrity and an iron determination, Patel played an important role in the freedom movement. He was, thus, able to win their unstinted support in the endeavor of nation building. The genuine qualities of leadership he had shown as the leader of Satyagraha, flowered in a greater way in the administration of the country, maintenance of law and order and ensuring the stability of the country and making it invulnerable.
Here, I would like to point out that if our country is such a well built and multifarious, then one can carefully guess that Sardar Patel is the chief engineer for it. He emerged an astute leader and a perceptive statesman acknowledged as the ‘Iron Man’ and a founder of modern India. As a nation-builder, he was a key leader in the framing of the Constitution, consolidated the nascent state by integrating the Princely states and reorganising the bureaucracy. His efforts to change the Hindu religion and protect the people of other faiths reflected his longing for the right to religion. He was a person of independent nature who brought together the farmers and encouraged them and hence got the title of ‘Sardar’.
The British government considered him as a threat and his lectures were considered anti-government and he was imprisoned several times. In 1942, he took part in the Quit India Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
With great wisdom and political foresight, he strengthened the small kingdoms. There were a lot of problems connected with the reunion of the copious states into India. The impact of Gandhiji’s personality on Patel was tremendous which gave him a new mission in life.
Sardar Patel’s unrelenting efforts towards the unity of the country brought success. A man of iron will and absolute fearlessness integrated 553 princely Indian States into the Indian Union. Due to the achievement of this massive task, Sardar Patel got the title of ‘Iron Man’. He is one of the prestigious leaders of the world who became immortal by uniting a scattered nation without any bloodshed. He took over as the nascent nation’s Home Minister at a very crucial juncture in history and devoted himself wholeheartedly to ensure that the country which was already partitioned remained intact and united.
As soon as Sardar Patel came in contact with the Mahatma, he decided to discard his foreign clothes and follow the rules of Satyagraha as laid down by Gandhiji. He showed a genuine interest in the welfare of his companions, by constantly enquiring about their needs and problems and helping them as best he could.
I would like to quote one incident of Gujarat. When Hindus and Muslims rioted in Ahmedabad in 1941, Patel was in jail. On his release from jail, he told Gujaratis that on his release: “The wounds that were inflicted on me, deep down within me, when I heard of what took place during the riots in this city, have still not healed. If even 10 had been bold enough to stand up to the miscreants, this would not have happened. In the future, do not ever run away. Put up the defence. Face your enemy with a superior force: Gandhiji’s path of non-violence.”
Today, our country frantically needs a leader like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was not just an inspiration but was also a hope for our country. It is crystal clear that a person who has high moral standards is bound to take decisions, which are also in the public interest. As it is rightly said in Bhagwad Geeta that this mortal frame is perishable but the spirit within it is never dead so when we say that Sardar Patel was dead in 1950, we simply mean that he was physically dead but he is spiritually alive and his spirit must not be dead. With the statement of our PM Shri Narendra Modi, I would conclude that “Through his skill, vision and patriotism Sardar Patel integrated the nation. We can never forget his contribution in uniting free India.” It is hard to find a leader like him who dedicated himself to the service of the nation and its people. Let us hope we find a determined leader like him with depth and vision. Following up the footsteps of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to inculcate integrity in Public life, let us remember him with veneration and bow to him. Let us imitate his admirable qualities.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)