Letter to BS: Sardar Patel is being remembered because of his giant statue

Kevadiya: Final touches being given to the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya Colony, about 200 kilometers from Ahmadabad, Thursday, October 18, 2018. Photo: PTI
This refers “Sardar stands tallest” (October 31). Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is being remembered because of the unveiling of his giant statue, an engineering feat. I am not sure whether he would have liked such a costly way to perpetuate his memory. I remember him for his sternness, coupled with softness and simplicity. I had the occasion to watch him once.

It was early in 1948, a few days after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. I was living in Alwar, the then capital of a princely state. The Maharaja was claiming that he was a sovereign monarch and not under the authority of the government in Delhi. An impression was created that he had a hand in the ghastly act of the murder of Gandhi. He was summoned to Delhi and placed under virtual house arrest while the administration of the state was taken over by a Central government officer. The feudal elements in the state protested and brandished their swords. Hearing all that, Patel paid a visit to Alwar.

The first thing he did after arriving there, was to send a message to the Maharani (Maharaja’s wife) to not worry, her husband was safe and comfortable in their hands in Delhi. And after that, he addressed a public meeting (which I attended). His address was soothing and full of humour rather than an expression of anger or threats. He asked the gathering why they got agitated. “I am told that some of you took out your swords and brandished them. In today’s world, swords are ineffective. They are not as good as even the brooms, which can at least clean your toilets. Swords can’t do even that. Forget all that has happened and feel proud to be citizens of a great country.”

A few days later, the Maharaja was exonerated but his state merged into the Union of India. He returned to Alwar after losing his sovereignty. This was Sardar Patel's way of doing things. Maniben Patel's diaries show that the ex-Maharaja of Alwar was frequently calling on her father (Sardar Patel) during his last days.

R C Mody New Delhi
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