“Your goodness is impediment in your way. So let your eyes be red with anger and try to fight injustice with an iron hand.”
– Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while addressing people in Bardoli, 12th March 1928.
India is a land of diverse communities. The diversity of this land has existed since time immemorial. Travellers from different parts of the world had set foot in India and left their mark on its land. The exchange of culture and tradition can be accounted for India’s rich diversity. Many kings and emperors had invaded this land and left their imprints on the people. In the pre-independence era, India did not exist as a country like it is now. It was just a congregation of different states, each with their own rulers, internal affairs and indigenous people. The independent princely states had their own rules and code for law and order. When Gandhi Ji started the freedom movement and gradually, India was approaching to earn its independence, a major problem was faced by our freedom fighters. The problem was the integration of 500+ independent princely states into one nation as a whole. But this herculean task was handled swiftly by one person – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was born on 31st October, 1875, in Gujarat. He was a renowned barrister and statesman. Initially, he was not into politics or freedom struggle. His qualities of leadership and diplomacy were observed by his friends who urged him to contest elections in 1917. So, upon strong urging by his friends, he contested the elections and was elected as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad in 1917. He was impressed by Gandhi Ji’s concept of ‘Swaraj’ and soon, he began to develop a keen interest on it. He started urging people ti rise and fight for India’s freedom. He played an active role when Satyagraha was organised in Gujarat. He was also an active member of the Quit India Movement.
Sardar Patel had a strong vision to integrate the princely states and make India a united nation. As India neared Independence, Sardar Patel started showing his diplomatic skills. He was assigned the task of integrating India by Gandhi Ji. Sardar Patel had the herculean task of convincing independent states to shed off their defence, foreign affairs and communication to join hands in forming an independent, united nation called INDIA. He formulated an effective plan and started working with utmost dedication. He offered an ultimatum to all the 565 independent states to be a part of India. He clearly stated the benefits of being one nation. There were instances of some states showing reluctance but he was successful in persuading and convincing them too. He carried out the task of integrating Junagadh (in Gujarat) as a skilled statesman, without which, Junagadh would have been a part of Pakistan today. He also subdued the Nizam of Hyderabad tactfully. Finally, he succeeded in integrating the independent states into one India. For this reason, he is often compared to Otto von Bismark of Germany, who did the same thing in his country in the 1860s. Sardar Patel is also known as the “Bismark of India” and “Iron Man of India” (for following his policies and strategies with an iron hand).
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s vision of national integration and unity did not just end with the integration of 562 independent states. After independence, he became the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. He took charge of the States Department in July 1947 and continued to think for nation unity in future. He came up with the idea of a group of bureaucrats and professionals who would ensure nation unity with law and order in future. He can be credited to be the founder of the modern All India Services, a reason for which he is known as the “Patron Saint” among the civil servants today.
When it comes to national integration, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a name which cannot be ignored and clearly stands out high amidst the rest. For the cause of national unity, he had an action plan which he executed as a seasoned statesman. His leadership qualities and diplomatic skills empowered him to persuade independent states to stand united and save India from Balkanisation after the British crown started to collapse. Even after independence, he had taken a calculative decision of introducing the All India Services which would ensure that India always stays as an independent and united nation.
It is because of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that we can be proud of being the citizens of such a diverse and culture-rich country. Picture the situation today if there was no one called Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and all the 562 states were still independent today. How fragmented and powerless each state would have been, often prone to wars and invasion even now?
We Indians need to be proud of leaders like Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel. Such leaders are wanted even today – leaders who can lead with a vision which can actually be converted into reality. It is indeed a praiseworthy step by the Government of India that it has urged the citizens to commemorate and celebrate Sarder Patel’s birthday as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” (National Unity Day), for Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel was a man who not only integrated and united the nation, but also secured solidarity of the nation without a civil war.
© Barnadhya Rwitam Sharma