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Monday, July 19, 2010

Sardar and his tenacity

Sardar Vallabhai PatelMy respect & admiration for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel gets reinforced every time I read about India's struggle for independence, especially the enormity of challenges faced by a post-independence India & the situation prevailing at that time.

Faced with the prospect of inheriting an India pockmarked with more than 500 independent princely states within its national boundary, it fell upon Sardar Patel, independent India's first Home Minister to ensure that rulers of these kingdoms see light & integrate with the Indian Republic.

With dogged determination & perseverance, he set about the unenviable task of trying to persuade the rulers of these kingdoms, often whimsical & illogical characters, pampered into subservience by the British Raj - none of which would be possible in the Indian Republic, to merge with India for the greater good of all. When all else failed, he was, on occasions, forced to send in the Armed Forces to effect an integration. His use of force as the last resort did make him unpopular amongst certain sections within the Congress party, but thanks to his lack of interest in winning any popularity contest, we in India enjoy a contiguous India, free of any of such aberrant independent states within our midst.

His immense powers of persuasion, however, would alone suffice in getting most of these princely states within the Indian fold. While reading an amazing book written by J.N. Dixit India - Pakistan in War and Peace, I came across one such example of Sardar Patel's power of persuasion [Page 101],

"The maharaja of Indore decided briefly to declare his state independent and not to accede to India or Pakistan. The story goes that Sardar Patel invited him to come to Delhi to finalise the decision. His Highness Maharaja Malhar-Rao Holker got into his special train at Indore to travel to Delhi. The moment it entered the territory of the Indian Dominion, it was stopped at Ratlam, neither allowed to proceed to Delhi nor to go back to Indore. Then a message went to him that if he could not even move out of the limits of his state without the Government of India’s cooperation, how was he going to manage a viable independent status? He came to his senses. Indore acceded to India."

If only the Iron Man had put his foot down, disregarding Chacha Nehru's fascination for the newly created United Nations [UN], and carried on with the task of driving the Pakistani Army & the marauding tribal Lashkars back into their moth-eaten territory [as Pakistan was described by its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself], the situation in India could have been so much different, in a positive manner. Instead, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in all his wisdom, decided to place this matter in the UN, who ordered an immediate ceasefire. As a result, instead of a properly authenticated International Border in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, we ended up with a notion called the Line of Control [LoC], for the control of which India has been enduring the needless blood letting of the brave Indian soldier at the hand of Pakistan. 63 years after Pandit Nehru placed a problem, that was on the verge of being resolved, in front of the UN, the UN has failed to deliver a verdict & the matter continue to be contested by both countries.

I, admittedly, have the benefit of hindsight while criticising Panditji's decision, something he did not - there was no way then to predict how toothless a tiger UN would turn out to be. Also Sardar Patel, pursuing with driving the Pakistani invaders out of India against Chachaji's wishes would have amounted to insubordination - clearly unlike anything Sardar stood for. He gave up his rightful & strongly-backed claim to become the Prime Minister of independent India on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi - such was his devotion to the Motherland.

Shath Shath Naman to the Iron Man for his gift we call India.

P.S: India - Pakistan in War and Peace is an absolutely unputdownable book. Started reading the 500+ page book in the evening & finished 101 pages. Doing an all-nighter today and stop only after I finish reading it - awesome stuff.

Godspeed

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