Encomium for the Life of Sardar Patel

Rose petals flutter as the Indian flag is unfurled as part of Independence Day celebrations at Parade Grounds in Hyderabad on Aug. 15. (Photo: Noah Seelam/ AFP-Getty Images)

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's compatriots will long remember him for his multi-dimensional personality and great national works. Sardar Patel was a matchless leader and organizer. Moreover, he was an internationally renowned administrator and statesman, a unique integrator and the maker of United India.

Sardar Patel played a vital and historical role in the three mass actions launched by Mahatma Gandhi to liberate India from the yoke of British imperialism--Non-Cooperation (1920), Civil Disobedience (1930) and Quit India (1942). His contribution in awakening and connecting the masses to the non-violent national liberation movement of India in the Gandhian era was noteworthy. Furthermore, the flag Satyagraha in Nagpur (1923), the people's struggle against anti-social elements at Borsad (1924) and the peasant's movement at Bardoli (1928), which were successfully carried out under the direct leadership of Vallabhbhai Patel himself, became permanently etched in the pages of Indian history.

Sardar Patel made the commitment to maintain discipline and unity within the organization, with emphasis on working in a democratic manner. This can be observed from an event of 1946 when, despite his great respect for C. Rajagopalachari, he did not support his aspiration to elevate him to the post of the Chief Minister of Madras because he was not enjoying support of the majority of members of the provincial legislative assembly. In fact, the majority was in favor of T. Prakasam. Sardar Patel's influence could change the mind of legislators in favor of Rajagopalachari, but he allowed members to decide themselves.

Patel accorded unprecedented strength to the administration at a time when most of the English officers, after taking voluntary retirement from civil services, had left for their native country, England. Soon after the freedom of India, he instituted two all-India-level services: the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police service, which saved the country from serious problems whose origin lay in the disastrous consequences of the country's division. Under his own observation and able officers like V. P. Menon, Patel made use of the newly selected officer's abilities during the unification process, and to maintain law and order in every part of the nation. Hence, he ascertained the unity and integrity of India, and enlisted himself as one of the few great administrators and statesmen of the world.

Patel integrated more than 550 scattered princely states into the Union of India within a few weeks, and thus became a matchless hero. There was no other example of such a feat prior to this in the entire history of India. As Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, "The great tasks that Vallabhbhai Patel accomplished have no other example in the history of our nation, not even in the history of other nations of the world."

It was the Sardar, who, besides accomplishing the troublesome task of the unification of the States of Hyderabad and Junagarh into the Indian Union, played a vital role in saving the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir from intruders and oppressors by taking firm and quick action in 1948. The way he worked with Pandit Nehru and walked with him for the cause of the country was an extraordinary example, not only for India but to anyone concerned with national interests.

Sardar Patel's achievements are gigantic, difficult to imagine a man accomplishing them in one life. His ideas and work for the unity, integrity and prosperity of the nation were, and are, ideal; they will remain so in the future as well. He left an exceptional legacy for generations to come. He encouraged people of different religiouns, classes, castes and sub-castes to work wholeheartedly for the solidarity and prosperity of India. He pushed his compatriots to open the door for equal welfare and progress for all without discrimination or prejudice.

Defending Sardar Patel's legacy and bringing it into practice in the above perspectives should serve as an exemplary introduction of nationalism. Paying homage to this great departed soul means following in his path, working to strengthen the unity and integrity of the nation. As Patel said, "I make earnest appeal to people to wipe out from their minds and memories of the past, treating it as a terrible nightmare, and look forward with single-minded purpose to make India strong, prosperous and happy. This can only be done by hard work."

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an Indologist and former vice chancellor of C.C.S. University in Meerut, India. He is the editor-in-chief of Global Peace International Journal of Philosophy, Peace, Education, Culture and Civilization.