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Millennium Post

Of unity and Union

Of unity and Union

The phenomenal contributions of the Iron Man of India laid the foundation of a sovereign Independent India that has, to this day, sustained the onslaught of political disasters and external threats. Modern India stands on values that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel advocated and a truly befitting tribute to him would be to keep the spirit of inclusive nationalism alive more than erecting any statues of grandeur in his honour. His birth anniversary is an apt occasion to reflect on his ideals and spare a look at the democracy and nationalism that has gained popularity today. Patel's nationalism was essentially an inclusive nationalism which was not defined by a religious lable. With belief in equal rights for all, irrespective of their religion or caste, Patel explicitly approved the idea and the text of Article 370 before it was inserted into the Constitution. In the context of Article 370, this was a temporary provision since its very inception but managed a prolonged stay in the Indian democracy owing to a set of factors. Patel's respect for minority was such that in Delhi in 1947, he moved to ensure the protection of Muslims, herding 10,000 in the most vulnerable areas to the security of Delhi's Red Fort. Inclusivity and diversity of India's were sacrosanct to him. He even banned RSS for fomenting hatred and upheld the basic ethos of India which recognises the nation's diversity and celebrates multiple ways of being Indian. For Patel, the idea of nationalism was the very locus of his thinking and action; this comes clearer in the backdrop of the rise of the nationalist movement against the British colonial rule and the emergence of a free India. Patriotism and nationalism were the foundation of the Indian state and democracy, stability, national security, pluralism and social justice were the cornerstone of nationalism. He was against the discriminating factors of communal difference coming in the way of building a nation state. Civil liberties, to him, were the bedrock of a democratic polity. Respect for individual rights and liberty was considered indispensible in the development of a nation and Patel's idea of nationalism was also prominently guided by an emphasis on communal harmony, and Gandhian principles of truth, and non-violence. With respect to governance, his ideas reflect in his political journey and the various capacities in which he functioned. His method and style of working, irrespective of the level of operation was guided by an understanding of people's needs and finding solutions for them. He was of the belief that a strong Central government, well-equipped armed forces, and economic stability were fundamentally important for proper administration.

The birth anniversary of Sardar Patel is commemorated with a major political decision of the government of India pertaining to the special state of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 5, the Central government announced to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and to bifurcate the northern state into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Abrogating the special status of the state granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution has definitely been a bold and spectacular move but what followed in the wake of that is what makes one question if Patel's values are truly upheld in spirit. Patel's role in critical areas such as transfer of power, the Partition of India and merger of the princely states, the making of the Constitution, the making of foreign and economic policy, reorganisation of the states and the arduous task of setting up a modern administrative structure were all done with a view of betterment and general welfare of the local people. He espoused a more robust and practical nationalism and laissez faire economic policies. But as Jammu and Kashmir stands bifurcated from October 31, some thought must be spared to this act of disintegration of the former Princely state, the integration of which was left to fate at the time of India's Partition. The strife-torn state loses its status of considerable autonomy and splits into two Union Territories which will be governed directly by the Central government. The Centre will be in direct control of the police and the law and order in J&K from as it becomes a UT while the land will be under the elected government there. Ladakh will be under the direct control of the Central government which will administer the high-altitude region through a Lt. Governor. This change is formalised after 86 days of announcement of the decision and these 86 days meanwhile were fraught with restrictions of myriad kinds for the common citizens. A historical event as this is the very first time that a state has been downgraded and split into two Union Territories, the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and the Ranbir Penal Code ceased to exist in celebration of 'National Unity Day' to mark the birth anniversary of the India's first home minister Sardar Patel, who is credited for the merger of over 560 states into the Union of India. It is only ironical that the birth anniversary of the founding father who set the contours of a united India is marked with the disintegration of a state of much sensitivity. Sardar Patel's legacy is an inclusive nationalism that seeks the unity of common people without any discrimination. It cannot a subjective ideology of political possession, one to be claimed by any political establishment.

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