Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel always remained bound to constitutional and democratic values. History has borne witness to his commitment to these principles. Vallabhbhai Patel was a born Satyagraha-a seeker of Truth. It was in his nature to launch Satyagraha-the pursuit for Truth-to ensure justice would be served. In his childhood, youth and even in the declining phase of his life, we see his struggling nature. Even so, he was a true follower of Gandhian principles. Gandhiji was his ideal.
There was an incident when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was struggling with the merger process of the princely states into the Union of India. The matter was a complex issue related to 18 princely states whose inhabitants were Kannada-speaking, while their rulers were Marathas. The Marathas wanted their states to join Dakshini Rajya-Sangh [the Union of Southern Indian States], and it appeared that their wish would be fulfilled. But the inhabitants of these states were opposed to such a step. To further complicate matters, the three prominent leaders of the Indian National Congress-B. Pattabhi Sitaramaiya, R. R. Diwakar, and Shankarrao Dev-were under the influence of the Maratha rulers, leaving the people in a perilous situation.
The hero of the merging process was Sardar Patel. He had the ultimate say, and everyone would accept his final decision. Late S. Nijalingappa, one of the members of the Congress Committee was aware of this fact, and, therefore, he approached Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and asked him to honour the wish of the people.
In those days, Vallabhbhai was putting in endless efforts to establish the unity of India; he was committed to this cause. But he was also committed to ensuring that no ruler of a princely state should do injustice to the people during the merging process. Vallabhbhai analyzed the geographical status of these 18 princely states. He also examined public opinion in the matter. Furthermore, he gave deep thought to the possibility that the situation might be impractical; and if so, whether the reactionaries would gain strength during the merging process.
According to the standards set by Vallabhbhai while establishing the unity of India, it was his goal to see that the country should not have smaller provinces. He was in favour of the least provinces. He also wanted to make sure that no one should be allowed to take undue advantage in the name of regionalism, regional language or separatism.
Still he deeply analyzed the situation and asked the following a question to S. Nijalingappa:
“Are you ready to go for a Satyagraha to secure justice for the people of these states?”
“Yes Sardar Saheb, I am in a position to do so for justice,” S. Nijalingappa replied.
“Alright then,” Vallabhbhai replied, “you go ahead with this work.”
Thus, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel himself inspired to launch a Satyagraha for justice. Was this not a special thing? For through the pathway of Satyagraha, which is the pursuit of truth, the people of those 18 princely states could be saved from injustice. Such was the practice of Sardar Patel to save people’s independence. He was a great man, a recognized public leader, well-wisher of the masses and always concerned for the common man’s problem.
A Marathi friend of this author, who was known to be an intellectual politician of the country once said, “Sardar Patel merged the princely states into the Union of India by applying Kautilya’s policy of peace, cost, punishment and dividing policy. He adopted every method, whether anyone liked it or not. He neither compromised nor thought of any other thing at the cost of the unity of the country.”
I shared the above event related to the 18 princely states with him and said, “The Sardar was a saviour of the unity of the country. But he never ignored the wish of the people.” All through this life he remained a Satyagrahi and a true Satyagrahi never thinks ill of anyone.
Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a former vice chancellor of CCS University, Meerut [India]; he is the editor of Global Peace International Journal.