Of dates and political fancies
Here was an ‘iron man’, born 139 years ago in 1875 who struggled with Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle for our country- Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. He played the instrumental role of ensuring a unified India after independence.
And, here was an ‘iron lady’, born 97 years ago in 1917 who fought for the unity, integrity and development of our country and whose life was snatched by her own bodyguards on a Wednesday morning in 1984- Indira Gandhi. She was the only prime minister assassinated in the line of duty.
The iron man was born on 31st October and the iron lady martyred on the same date. Sardar Patel and Indira Gandhi shared this date in history for and nation had been remembering both of them with great respect and affection for last so many years for their contributions.
But this Friday, on 31st October, our newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi chose not to go to Shakti Sthal to pay homage to Indira Gandhi who sacrificed her life for the nation’s unity. He rather preferred to offer his ‘shradhanjali’ to Indira Gandhi through a tweet. But we should be grateful to Modi for his large heartedness that he did not forget another national icon who worked in the Congress party throughout his life and went to Sardar Patel’s statue to wish him, a happy birthday and even joined the ‘Run for Unity’, which Modi piloted in Vadodara in Gujarat last year where he was the chief minister. He has also declared 31st October as ‘Rashtriya Ekta Divas’.
During an address at Rajpath before he opened the run, Modi told us that how Mahatma Gandhi was incomplete without Sardar Patel and conveniently forgot to tell that how Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru were the right and left hands of Mahatma Gandhi. Modi also reminded us, ‘Let us not forget that a nation that disregards its history can never create one…Don’t divide history, legacy in narrow confined of ideology.’ We surely must congratulate him on this realisation of truth. Modi cannot be unaware of the fact as he himself is a proud pracharak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the body that Sardar Patel, a staunch Congressman and India’s first home minister, had to ban RSS after four days of Nathuram Godse’s assasination of Mahatma Gandhi. Patel signed the banning orders on 4 February 1948 and RSS chief Mahadev Sadashiv Golwalker was sent to jail after few days.
The ban notification issued then, read, ‘in practice, members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not adhered to their professed ideals. Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh...individual members of RSS have indulged in the acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military. The activities have been carried on under a cloak of secrecy...’
The government, of which Sardar Patel was the home minister, demanded RSS to reform itself. Patel wrote two important letters in this connection. One to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and another to Golwalker. On 18 July 1948, Patel wrote to Mookerjee saying, ‘The activities of RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state.....as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities....in an increasing measure....’
Sardar Patel wrote a letter to Golwalker on 11 September 1948 in which he outlined the ‘objectionable part’ of RSS activities which ‘arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmaans...’ This letter mentions how ‘As a final result of the communal poison the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji...’ Patel further said that people’s opposition to the RSS grew when ‘the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.’
Even two months after the letter to Golwalker had been written, the Home Ministry headed by Sardar Patel issued a press note on 14 November 1948 saying that Golwalker wanted the ban on RSS to be lifted without agreeing to the government’s demand. The press note also quoted information received from the provincial governments saying, ‘the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be anti-national and often subversive and violent and persistent attempts are being made bt the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past...’
Celebrating Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary could have been a welcome sign if there was no mischievous blink in the eyes of Narendra Modi and he would not have ridiculed the assassination of a serving prime minister by saying, ‘But it is unfortunate that 30 years ago, an event occurred that threatened India’s unity.’
We all love Sardar Patel. Whole country salutes him for his contribution. But, I can say for sure that Modi’s recently found love for Sardar Patel is impure. We can have the world’s tallest statue to remember Patel at a cost of 2,979 crore rupees, but why Narendra Modi failed to release even one crore rupees for the Sardar Patel Memorial Trust at Patel’s birth place Karmasad when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and in that capacity was the ex-officio trustee of that trust? Modi apparently took no interest when the trust celebrated 135th birth anniversary of Patel in 2010. Even simple needs of the trust were not taken care of by Modi government in Gujarat for full 15 years.
The Congress-led union government gave a grant of rupees 22 crore in 2009 for the activities for running the activities of Sardar Patel Memorial Trust and to protect and maintain Patel’s ancestral house in Karamsad.
Sardar Patel must have been sulking by watching the petty politics played by the government on the ‘Day of Iron Man and Iron Lady’ only because prime minister belongs to an outfit called Bhartiya Janta Party that is a political mask of its mother-organisation- RSS, whom Patel had asked to make provision in its constitution and declare that it would not indulge in politics. Article 4-B of RSS constitution was included after this. But, who cares?
The author is editor and CEO of News Views India