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Sardar Patel: The Prophet of Peace
Hyderabad State under the Nizam was on the boil. The de facto ruler of the most loyal princely state of the British Empire was a rabble rouser named Qasim Razvi. He headed a large band of private Muslim militia named Razakars. Armed to the teeth, they were constantly on the rampage killing Hindus, raping their women at will and destroying temples like Aurangzeb.

Razakars were accountable to none because they represented a sovereign ruler, a co-religionist, after India was vivisected and given independence by the British. Lord Louis Mountbatten was still the Governor General of India, not of Pakistan, and called the shots, thanks to acquiescence of the de jure Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Believe it or not, it was a British aristocrat, Lord Louis Mountbatten who presided over important cabinet meetings where Nehru played the second fiddle.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the only man whom Qasim Razvi held in awe. In the midst of turmoil, he sought for and was granted a meeting with Sardar Patel at a private vegetarian dinner at the latter's official residence. Razvi stood up literally time and again to threaten his host of dire consequences if any harm was caused to Nizam's Hyderabad at the instance of the Sardar. Maintaining equanimity of mind Sardar Patel sent a message of peace to the ruler and the ruled provided they conducted their official activities without causing harm to the majority of the population comprising Hindus. Qasim Razvi's fire and fury had little impact on the thought process of Sardar Patel.

Lord Mountbatten wished to give a parting gift to the most loyal Vassal State of the British Empire before leaving for England for good. The last British Governor General of India that was a jewel in the British Crown wished His Royal Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad to have a special status as and when he chose to accede to the Union of India. Mountbatten called on Sardar Patel at the latter's residence imploring him to sign on an agreement under which the Nizam would maintain his status as a ruler and the Union of India would have limited paramountcy. Sardar said a firm 'No' to the proposal but Lord Mountbatten implored him to sign the agreement as a parting gift to him. Sardar signed it. When asked by friends why he changed his mind, a rare phenomenon, Sardar smiled and said that Qasim Razvi would never let Nizam sign the document and become subservient to the Union of India. How true his analysis was!

The rest as they say is history. The police action ordered by Sardar Patel as the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India saw a successful end to anarchy and established a democratic rule led by the majority population of Hindus. A photo taken at the airport of Hyderabad where Sardar is seated on a chair and the HRH Nizam of Hyderabad is standing before him with folded hands as if he were imploring for mercy and peace. Sardar Patel granted both as a magnanimous victorious general who believed in ahimsa.

Unifier of Bharat

It would be in the fitness of things to take a look at the political status of India that was granted independence by the departing British sovereign power. The British Parliament had decided to grant independence to India on 30thJune, 1948. Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy and Governor General advanced the date to 15th August, 1947 causing chaos resulting in mass scale bloodshed when India was partitioned. The two dominions created were India and Pakistan and a large part of British India ruled by princes was left to political decisions yet to be made by 565 rulers, who had become absolutely independent after the lapse of British paramount power on 15th August, 1947. The departing British power gave them three choices: remain independent; accede to the Indian Union; or merge with Pakistan.

The British logic was that the Indian rulers of the princely states had been subjugated by the British power; now with the lapse of the British power their independence was restored to them. Many princes ruling big states like Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Travancore and Cochin saw their dream come true. An independent sovereign of a State could do anything he liked. A large part of India was back to the days of medieval feudal raj.

Sardar Patel found a role cut out for him as a unifier of India post independence. He was aided and loyally supported by an ICS bureaucrat VP Menon who travelled all over the country talking to the princes and letting them see the truth of the future. Independence for them would mean incessant strife with neighbouring free states causing bloodshed resulting in drain of wealth from small revenues that they would be entitled to collect from their impoverished ryots. It would be well nigh impossible to maintain well equipped armed forces by every maharajah or nawab to defend and protect their own principality. Some foreign power like the East India Company of yore would effectively intervene in the internecine skirmishes of neighbouring princely states and gain over lordship. The history might repeat itself.

The wise rulers saw the writing on the wall. Their dewans or prime ministers gave them wise counsels. The rulers of those princely states who wished to maintain their princely life style were promised privy purses large enough to allow them to maintain their lifestyles. However, it was not hunky dory all over. There were rulers of large princely states who wished to go their way as they liked. There were some princely states where the ruler was a Hindu but majority of the population comprised Muslims. Pakistan was a kind of El Dorado – a land of gold – to the Muslim population and even the Muslim rulers where the population comprised Hindus. The picture presented a jigsaw puzzle.

The large princely states that presented major problems were Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagarh, and minor problems like Bhopal, Jodhpur and so on. Sardar Patel and his team listened to their viewpoints patiently, presented them scenarios that were neither rosy nor bleak. The discussions were in a matter of fact style. There was no hurry on either side. His Highness Maharajah Sir Hari Singh wished to have more time to think the outcome of merger or independence. His ryot comprised Hindus in the Jammu region and Muslims in the Kashmir region. Hyderabad had resorted to violence on a large scale and that problem has already been dealt with in the earlier paragraphs of this article.

Junagarh, a small ruling state with a nawab at the helm, had a dewan named Shahnawaz Bhuttoo, father of later Prime Minister and President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who leaned heavily towards Pakistan. The population comprising Hindus revolted. Violent suppression resulted in intervention by India and the Indian Army settled the matter the way it should have been done. Somnath Mandir, the most important religious place of the Hindus was a part of Junagarh. What could have been a better solution than the place amalgamating with the Union of India?

An interesting anecdote about the Nawab of Junagadh is worth mentioning. When he was fleeing to Pakistan, the aircraft at his disposal was rather small to cater to his needs. The pilot sincerely advised him to choose between a large harem of begums and a pack of pedigree dogs to take with him in the aircraft. The Nawab opted for his dogs and left the begums behind.

Jawaharlal Nehru, being a Kashmiri Pundit decided as the Prime minister to handle the situation in Jammu and Kashmir himself. The result is before us to see. The problem is in a muddle and thousands of lives have been lost unnecessarily. Nehru's fondness for Sheikh Abdullah and hatred of Maharajah Sir Hari Singh lie at the root of many unsolved problems. Had Nehru not been firmly told to arrest Sheikh Abdullah in 1953, he would have become a Sultan and India would have lost that strategically important territory. The problem State was never brought on the table of Sardar Patel, Home Minister of India. Lord Mountbatten always advised Nehru what to do. It was he who counseled Nehru to go to the United Nations. The problem is back to square one.

One more example of Nehru's pro-Muslim attitude is worth recounting. Nizam of Hyderabad who had waged war against the Union of India was made the Raj Pramukh and allowed to retain all his wealth, palaces and property. On the other hand Maharajah Hari Singh who signed on the Instrument of Accession and merged his state of Jammu and Kashmir with India was given a raw deal by Sheikh Abdullah. The latter banished His Highness from entering the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It was because Nehru had mistakenly acquiesced to the proposal of holding a plebiscite in J&K which was not required at all. Thereafter, Sheikh would use plebiscite as a stick to beat Nehru and say that if he did not banish Maharajah Hari Singh from his own State, the Muslim population would vote for a merger with Pakistan. Nehru timidly succumbed to this undue pressure of unpatriotic Sheikh Abdullah that was unwarranted.

Assessing Sardar

Born in a small village in Nadiad, Gujarat on 31st October, 1875 in a family of farmers, Vallabhbhai Patel did not have the privilege of college education. But he was a brilliant student as a school boy. He had spirit of sacrifice ingrained in his personality. When the question arose of going to England to study for qualification as a barrister, he gave precedence to his brother. He could not afford to buy expensive books of law, so borrowed them from other lawyers to be returned later.

Vallabhbhai Patel was married to Jhaverba Patel in 1893 but had a short marital life lasting just 16 years. He became a widower at the age of 33 and did not remarry. He devoted his time and energy to the legal profession, practiced at courts in Godhara and other towns. It was here that he met Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and joined the Indian National Congress. It was on Gandhiji's call that he quit the flourishing profession of law. He successfully led the Kissan Andolan at Kheda and Bardoli against the atrocities of the British Raj. Mahatma Gandhi gave Vallabhbhai Patel the title of Sardar of Bardoli.

Sardar Patel was elected President of the Indian National Congress at Karachi in 1931. Sardar and Mahatma were imprisoned in 1932 on failure of the Round Table Conference and were lodged in the Yervada Jail at Pune. The two stalwarts came close to each other in the prison.

Sardar Patel was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1991, many years after his sad demise on 15th December, 1950 at the age of 75 years.

While taking a close look at the political career of Sardar Patel, it would be appropriate to assess the political relationship of Sardar Patel and Pundit Nehru. They did not see eye to eye on many a point of governance. It would not be wrong to say that Pt Nehru was a dreamer whereas Sardar Patel was a pragmatic leader. The former flew in the air ignoring the ground realities of life and polity whereas the latter always had his feet on the ground, mixed with common man and made a sincere endeavour to solve the problems of life and not ignoring the interests of the great Indian nation.

Was Sardar Patel a leader of the Hindus only? Was Pundit Nehru a leader of Muslims only? No, not at all. Both the august personalities worked for Bharat and were never sectarians. Great men indeed! Of course, if one were to assess them pragmatically, one has to go through the major decisions that they made in connection with the governance of India. Sardar Patel was out and out a nationalist who kept the interest of the Indian nation above everything else. Pundit Nehru was always conscious of his international image. Sardar Patel made difficult decisions even if it hurt his party colleagues. In the Interim Cabinet, Liaqat Ali Khan of the Muslim League presented a budget that hurt the interests of the Hindu businessmen and supported the Muslim zamindars. Sardar Patel opposed it tooth and nail although Pundit Nehru thought that it might smack communalism.

To sum up, it may be said that Sardar Patel and Pundit Nehru had close love-hate relationship but kept interests of India above personal loss or gain.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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