By Ashok Kumar
Sydney, November 1: The 141st Birth anniversary of India’s first Home Minister,
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was celebrated at the Indian Cultural Centre, also celebrated as National Unity Day. Patel was born on October 31, 1875 and died on 15 December 1950.
Consulate General of India, Sydney yesterday evening with Consul General of India, Mr. B. Vanlalvawna, leading the community in paying rich tributes to the Sardar. Mr. Vawna recalled Sardar Patel’s glorious contribution to freedom struggle under the able guidance of Mahatma Gandhi.
Sardar Patel was raised in the countryside of Gujarat. He saved money to study law in London but following the desire of his younger brother Vithalbhai, he gave him all the money to study in England. However, later he managed to go to England to study law. On his return, he was employed in successful practice as a lawyer. He, later, became associated with Gandhi and gave up all he had to join the freedom struggle. Patel was born on October 31, 1875 and died on 15 December 1950.
He subsequently organised peasants from Kheda, Borsad and Bardoli in Gujarat in non-violent civil disobedience movement against oppressive policies imposed by the British Raj; in this role, he became one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat and earned the title of Sardar. He rose to the leadership of the Indian National Congress, in which capacity he would organise the party for the elections held in 1934 and 1937, as well as continue to promote the Quit India movement.
As Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Patel took charge of the task
to forge a united India by integrating into the newly independent nation those 565 British Colonial provinces “allocated” to India. Patel would persuade almost every princely state to accede to India, through both, frank diplomacy as well an option to deploy military force. Patel’s commitment to national integration in the newly independent country was total and uncompromising, earning him the sobriquet “Iron Man of India.”
Another speaker, Mr. Jaydutt Nayak of the Gujarati Samaj, revealed another reason why Patel was called iron man. He said when Patel was very young, he developed a pimple in his armpit that was very painful. He warmed up an iron rod and put it at the spot of the pimple to relieve himself of the pain.
Mr. Neville Roach, former Australia India Business Council Chair, narrated how his father, a police officer in Saurashtra region became associated with Patel and was instrumental in unification process of the region with the country. He also recalled Patel’s role in freedom struggle.
Mr. Rajeev Kumar of the Consulate recited a poem penned by him as mark of tribute to Patel and Mr. S. Marathe and Ms. Moumita Bannerjee readout excerpts from the works of Sardar Patel. Another staff, Neha Rebello ably emceed the event.
A documentary on the life of Sardar Patel was played to showcase his struggles and travails. The film contained some views of Patel’s close associates that depicted the simplicity with he spent his life. His daughter Maniben Patel devoted all her life in service of her father. She would maintain his diary, keep a record of his activities but did not complain about herself. Surprisingly, it was revealed that Sardar would only talk to her in the morning to ask how she was. She went on to author an account of the freedom struggle as a book on her father’s life in the years following Indian Independence.
An annual commemoration of Patel, known as the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day), was introduced by the Government of India in 2014 and is to be held annually on his birthday, 31 October.