Thursday, July 30, 2009

THE IRON MAN OF INDIA

Inspiration

As a child, I always heard the stories of atrocities of Razakars from my grandmother and wondered how tough was it to survive the post partition period in Hyderabd. People had to leave their homes and run for shelter. That is when I realized that the magnitude of problems would have been unthinkable had there not been a Sardar Patel who almost single-handedly unified India on the eve of independence. He was a hero among heroes, a lion among men

Early Life

Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Iron-man of India was born on 31st October, 1875 in Nadiad, Gujarat. His father Jhaber Bhai Patel was a farmer and had fought bravely againt British in 1857 as a young man. His mother Laad Bai was a simple lady. Vithalbhai, Vallabhbhai's elder brother, was also a well-known patriot. From his childhood itself, Patel was a very hard-working individual. He used to help his father in farming and studied in a school at Patelaad. He passed his high-school examination in 1896. Throughout school he was a very wise and intelligent student. In spite of poor financial conditions his father decided to send him to college but Vallabh Bhai refused. For around three years he stayed at home, worked hard and prepared for the District Leader’s examinaton, hence coming through with flying colors.

He started his own practice of law in a place called Godhra. Soon the practice flourished. He saved money, made financial arrangement for the entire family. He got married to Jhaverba. He became a barrister in England and returned to India in 1913. After his return, he setup a lucrative practice in Ahmadabad. Around this time the struggle for freedom was gaining a lot of momentum.

Endless Public Service

In 1915 he met Mohandas Gandhi and within a short time became one of his closest associates, a staunch nationalist and a supporter of the Indian National Congress. He became an extremely popular person and he got elected to Municipal Corportaion in 1917. Patel came to prominence as the organizer of the Kheda satyagraha (1918) in which peasants sought exemption from land tax. A talented organizer, he successfully directed the civil-disobedience campaigns of the 1920s and 30s; several times he suffered imprisonment. In 1920, the Congress started the non-cooperation struggle and Vallabhbhai gave up his practice. He setup the Gujarat Vidyapeeth where children could study instead of attending Government schools. In 1928 he successfully organized the landowners of Bardoli against British tax increases. It was after this that Vallabhbhai was given the title of Sardar.

He was mayor of Ahmedabad (1924–28) and was elected (1931) president of the Indian National Congress. Later he joined M. K. Gandhi in the Salt satyagraha and was jailed for sixteen months. In 1942 he was imprisoned again, with other Congress leaders, for refusing to support the British war effort in World War II.

Patel played an important role in the negotiations that led to independence and the partition of the subcontinent into the two states of India and Pakistan. It was India's good fortune that in 1947 he was made deputy Prime Minister of India and Minister of State affairs. Holding these offices until his death, he affected the complex and difficult feat of integrating the many princely states into the new Indian political structure. As Minister for Home Affairs Patel was responsible for law and order and the rehabilitation of refugees displaced by the partition. He proved an able administrator and reorganized the public service with the launch of the Indian Administrative Service to replace the colonial Indian civil service.

The Architect of India

Patel's lasting achievement was the integration of 562 Indian (princely) states into the Indian Union. In this task Patel acted ruthlessly using force and persuasion alike. He successfully completed this tough task when most of the rulers were dreaming of becoming independent rulers once the British quit India. Those 600 states would have been 600 sores in the body of India. There would have been many Kashmirs by now. Because of Patel’s efforts most of the states joined Indian Union before 15th of August. The way he handled rulers of Junagadh and Hyderabad who were plotting secretly to join Pakistan by sending the army shows the resolve of this mighty man. It is because of these strong steps that earned him the title of "The man of steel". Patel's decisiveness on the partition of Punjab and Bengal had won him many supporters and admirers amongst the Indian public, which was tired of the Muslim League's tactics.

However, neither he nor any other Indian leader had foreseen the intense violence and population transfer that would take place with partition. Patel would take the lead in organizing relief and emergency supplies, establishing refugee camps and visiting the border areas with Pakistani leaders to encourage peace. His address to the massive crowd of an estimated 200,000 refugees who had surrounded his car after a meeting in Amritsar had such an effect that no further attacks occurred against Muslim refugees, and a wider peace and order was re-established soon over the entire area.

Death of the Bharat Ratna

Soon after Gandhi’s death in 1948, Patel suffered a major heart attack; Speaking later, Patel attributed the attack to the "grief bottled up" due to Gandhi's death. However on the morning of 15th December, 1950 Sardar Vallabhbhai passed away in Bombay. He died of a cardiac arrest. The news of his death spread all over the world. The General of Bardoli, Friend of the peasents, The servant of the people, The Iron Man, the Lion of Gujarat, India's Man of Steel, the Sardar of the country's fight for freedom, the Mighty Architect of the integrity of India, the Vallabhbhai Patel of rock-like will power, was no more. He was then seventy-five.

Finally

One day Vallabhbhai had to appear in a very important case. He was arguing before the judge with the utmost concentration. He was still on his feet when an urgent telegram was handed to him. He glanced at the contents and folded and put the paper in his pocket, and went on with the argument. It was only after he concluded his speech and sat down that even those near him learnt the contents of the telegram -his wife was dead! Such was his sense of duty.

As long back as on the 7th of November 1950, Patel wrote a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru and declared that China was not to be trusted. He wrote: 'The Government of China speaks of its desire for peace and is trying to mislead us. Hereafter, in planning the defense of our country,we must remember the intentions of Communist, China.' Five weeks later Patel passed away. About twelve years after his death China attacked India. Such was Sardar Patel’s foresight.

When in England, the glitter and luxury of fashionable life did not tempt him. He stood first in the Barrister-at-Law Examination. With a will of iron he completed whatever task he had under taken. The way he organized relief to flood & famine victims in Gujarat made the world realize that he was not only a great fighter but also a superb organizer. However he was plain in speech and action. He did not believe in making speeches. He was a man of very few words and was honest in word and deed. In 1991 the grateful nation conferred upon him the highest civilian honour of 'Bharat Ratna'

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