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My tribute to Sardar Patel
Our nation celebrated the National Unity Day on October 31. I had the proud privilege of observing the august day on the campus of the Galgotias University in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

Professor Dr Renu Luthra, Vice Chancellor was gracious enough to be with us throughout the soul stirring celebrations with the Faculty and students. The girl cadets of the National Cadet Corps, Senior Division, raised recently were in the limelight with fitting uniform, shiny black boots and cheerful mien. They sent me down the memory lane since I too was an NCC cadet in my student days in 1950 in the Allahabad University. Ekata Aur Anushasan – Unity and Discipline – was the mool mantra. Indeed how befitting the occasion, the National Unity Day or Rashtriya Ekta Divas.

Dr Pallavi Murghai Bansal called me a few days ago exploring the possibility of my joining the celebrations as the Chief Guest. Indeed I was happy to accept the invitation since the day happened to be birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. A distinguished national leader, a freedom fighter, a great unifier of fragmented India left behind by the British paramount power when their 190 year old suzerainty came to an inglorious end on 15th August 1947, responsibility to unify the residual India fell on the shoulders of Sardar Patel. He discharged his duty of unifying about 565 princely states with the Union of India between 1947 and 1949 magnificently well.

It fell in the domain of another nationalist leader and present Prime Minister, Narendrabhai Modi to resurrect the great legacy of Sardar Patel and prevent it from sinking into oblivion. One family that went ahead with the sole mission of glorifying its scion by demeaning other freedom fighters like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had to be cut to size and shown its place in correct perspective. Modiji did it beautifully well without any rancor by erecting the tallest statue in the world of the great Sardar in Gujarat along the Narmada river and naming it Statue of Unity. Unity is the cementing factor for the Indian Nation.

When I arrived on the august campus at about 9 AM, clad in my traditional dhoti and kurta, I was escorted by Vice-Chancellor herself to review a Guard of Honour presented by the NCC cadets whose girl cadet commander walked smartly, gave crisp word of command and was in command of the situation. I must mention that after Prime Minister Lal Bahdur Shastri, it was I who reviewed a Guard of Honour clad in dhoti and kurta. Moreover I was to pay tribute to Sardar Patel, our great Patriarch who too dressed in dhoti and kurta. Immediately after the review we walked to Devi Saraswati pratima and paid floral tribute before an impressive portrait of Sardar Saheb.

Dr Renu Luthra, Vice Chancellor administered the Pledge to faculty and students of which I too was an invitee attendant. The text of the pledge was in Hindi which was beautifully rendered by one and all. It would be befitting to write the English version of the pledge for the benefit of our readers. It runs thus:

I solemnly pledge that I dedicate myself to preserve the unity, integrity and security of the nation and also to strive hard to spread this message among my fellow countrymen. I take this pledge in the spirit of unification of my country which was made possible by the vision and actions of SardarVallabhbhai Patel. I also solemnly resolve to make my contribution to ensure internal security of my country.

Run for Unity was the next event. Dr Renu and I flagged off the Run for Unity mainly comprising enthusiastic students, both boys and girls, for a round trip to a neighbouring village where the message of the day for Unity of the Nation was delivered to our rural citizens. They were equally enthusiastic to receive the message as envisaged by Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi. It is his mission to carry both the rural and urban India with him for resurgence. I wish I too could participate in the Unity Run but it was not to be on account my limp due to an old knee injury.

Dr Renu was indeed considerate to me by shifting the venue of tributes and my talk from the high stage to plain floor in the foyer of the auditorium. I felt quite comfortable. Modesty forbids me to recount who said what about me before inviting me to address the august gathering of staff and students about the national importance of the National Unity Day.

I addressed the distinguished gathering and united myself with the audience emotionally. Let us first take the salient points of our great unifier to understand his personality. Our Iron Man was born on 31st October 1875 of peasant parents in rural Gujarat. By dint of hard work, he graduated to be a Barrister from the United Kingdom and practiced law in district courts successfully. An anecdote from the courtroom is worth recounting. He was in the midst of an argument in an important case of law when an urgent telegram was delivered to him informing about the demise of his wife. He read it but remained unmoved and continued with his legal arguments. Soon thereafter, he rushed out to organize the funeral, antim sanskar of his late wife.

Another incident of his determination and fearless character is from childhood days. He had an obnoxious boil under his armpit. Even the village barber who deputized as a doctor felt scared of removing the bleeding spot with a heated iron rod. Young Vallabhbhai took the red hot iron from him and did the operation himself. Great incident indeed it was.

Organising mass movement against oppression and injustice of foreign rulers was his strong point. He did so in organizing farmers' movement in Bardoli, Kheda and also providing relief in natural disasters. No wonder people called him a Sardar – a natural leader of men and women who could motivate them to fight against oppression and injustice.

Post Independence, Sardar Patel was the natural choice of people of different parts of the country to lead them out of the mess the British had left them in. But Jawaharlal Nehru pleaded with Gandhiji that he had promised him the top administrative job and was on the verge of shedding tears. Sardar Patel withdrew his name, just to save the Mahatma from an embarrassing situation.

Now starts the great role of the Unifier of Bharat. Sardar Patel coaxed, cajoled Maharajas and Nawabs to merge their principalities with the Union of India. Where it did not work, threat was the weapon and military action  brought glory to India. Hyderabad had spread lawlessness among the common people. Razakars killed, raped women and plundered property. Sardar Patel sent in Indian Army to restore order and called it Police Action. It was a glorious achievement of the great man.

Likewise people's support for integrating with India carried the day. The Nawab emplaned for his last and final flight to Pakistan. He was accompanied by his pedigreed dogs but left all his begums behind in India. His plea was that to wed many begums in Pakistan but pedigree canine were not to be found.

Sardar Patel and pt Nehru differed on many political and national issues. Sardar Saheb did not allow Nehru any meddling with Home Affairs and had almost resigned because of serious disagreements on Kashmir matters. Nehru, being a Kashmiri Pundit sans knowledge of Kashmiri language, wished to make the issue as his own prerogative to handle. Resultantly the issue is vexing India even today.

Summing up Sardar Patel's contribution to India before and after independence, one may say that Sardar Vallabhbhai made great contributions to making India great. It is now that his countrymen are asserting themselves to give Sardar Patel his due. It was under Prime ministership of Narsimha Rao that Sardar Patel was honored with Bharat Ratna posthumously. The greatest statue on earth erected by people of Bharat led by Modi government signifies the greatness of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a nation builder and a great Unifier.

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