I convey my heartfelt tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 65th Death Anniversary. He was an Indian barrister and statesman, one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress and one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India. He was a social leader who played a leading role in the country’s struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation. In India and elsewhere, he was often addressed as Sardar, which means Chief in Hindi, Urdu and Persian.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a historical figure who moves you to tears. Mostly these are tears of joy, for he achieved a thrilling Indian unity. Yet some are tears of pity, for the Sardar suffered and sacrificed much. Sardar Patel hated to work for anyone especially the Britishers. He was a person of independent nature. He started his own practice of law in a place called Godhara. Soon the practice flourished. He saved money, made financial arrangement for the entire family. He got married to Jhaberaba. In 1904, he got a baby daughter Maniben, and in 1905 his son Dahya was born. He sent his elder brother to England for higher studies in law. In 1908, Vitthabhai returned as barrister and started practising in Bombay. In 1909 his wife became seriously ill and was taken to Bombay for treatment Vallabhbhai had to go for the hearing of an urgent case and his wife died. He was stunned. He admitted his children in St. Mary’s school Bombay, and he left for England. He became a barrister and retuned to India in 1913.
He started his practice in Ahmedabad and soon he became aware of the local life, activities and people’s problems. He became an extremely popular person and he got elected in the Municipal Corportaion in 1917. Around 1915, he came across Mahatma Gandhi. The Swadeshi Movement was at its peak. Gandhiji gave a lecture at a place in Ahmedabad where Patel heard him and was very impressed and started actively participating in the freedom movement. The British government’s atrocities were increasing. The government declared to confiscate all the lands of farmers. He forced the British government to amend the rules. He brought together the farmers and encouraged them and hence got the title of ‘Sardar’ and thus became famous.
The British government considered him as a threat and his lectures were considered anti-government and he was imprisoned several times. In 1942, he took part in the Quit India Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He was arrested along with other leaders and was sent to Ahmednagar jail. Inspite of the British Rule, rulers of the small kingdoms were spending a lot of public money, and were having a nice time. Sardar Vallabh Bhai opposed this.
With great wisdom and political foresight, he consolidated the small kingdoms. The public was with him. He tackled the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagarh who intially did not want to join India. There were a lot of problems connected with the reunion of the numerous states into India. Sardar Patel’s untiring efforts towards the unity of the country brought success. Due to the achievement of this massive task, Sardar Patel got the title of ‘Iron Man’. ‘ He is one of the prestigious leaders of the world who became immmortal by uniting a scattered nation without any bloodshed. His enthusiasm to work for the independent nation got a big jolt when Gandhiji was murdered. Patel was very attached to Gandhiji and considered him, his elder brother and teacher. He was encouraged by Mahatma Gandhi in all his work. Gandhiji’s death left him broken. On 15th December, 1950 he died of a cardiac arrest. The news of his death spread all over the world. The entire nation plunged into deep sorrow, everyday life came to a standstill. A grateful nation paid a tearful homage to it’s beloved leader. In 1991 the grateful nation conferred upon him the honour of Bharat Ratna.
This man of steel learnt early to be tough, for he was born as a middle child in a family of impoverished peasant proprietors. As Vallabhbhai would himself recall, his parents’ hopes seemed centered on the eldest two sons, Soma and Narsi, and their affection on the youngest two, Kashi and the only daughter, Dahiba. The ones in the middle, Vallabh and Vithal, were remembered last when clothes or sweets were to be distributed, and at once when a chore had to be done. The rough schools he went to as a boy, and the courts where he defended alleged criminals, also contributed to Vallabhbhai’s mental muscle and stern appearance. Yet this tough man smiled at the world and at gloomy moments helped others to laugh. Also, he did not hesitate to step aside for another –for his older brother Vithal when the latter wanted to use his passport and ticket to London, and, years later, for Jawaharlal Nehru, when Mahatma Gandhi desired that Nehru should sit in a chair to which Patel seemed entitled. And this strong man before whom rajas and maharajas trembled, and to whom rich men gave large funds for India’s national movement, did not allow a rupee to stick to his fingers, and he saw to it that his children, a son and a daughter, lived simple lives during and after their father’s lifetime.
His strength of character, the sharpness of his mind, his organizing skills, and all his energy were offered up for achieving the freedom of India under Gandhi’s leadership, and after independence for India’s consolidation. We admire a man who rises to a political or financial peak, but are moved by one whose sole purpose in life is the strength and wellbeing of his compatriots. And we are moved even more when we discover that next to the steel in his soul is a tenderness for colleagues and a readiness to accept whatever results God ordains. In successive phases of his life, Vallabhbhai Patel showed the defiance of the oppressed, a trial lawyer’s brilliance, the daring to give up a flourishing career, the discipline of a soldier in freedom’s battles, the strategies of a General, indifference as a prisoner of the Raj, the generosity of the strong, the firmness of a patriot, and the farsightedness of a statesman. If times are depressing or daunting, Sardar Patel reminds us of India’s and Indians’ potential. When times are good, we can think of him with glad gratitude.