Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Biography: Unknown facts & Role in freedom struggle

31 Oct 2022  Read 3341 Views

“Many were prepared to follow me, but I could not make up my mind as to who should be my deputy commander. Then I thought of Vallabhbhai."

 - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, born on October 31, 1875, in Nadiad, Gujarat, was an Indian barrister & one of the leaders of the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence struggle. A lesser-known fact about him is that he became the first deputy Prime Minister and first Home Minister of India. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991. It was for the man who worked extensively for the rights of minorities & women and against untouchability that the statue of unity in Gujarat was built as an ode to the Iron Man of India. Sardar Patel is also appreciated for uniting all 562 princely states of the country to build the Union of India. 

So, Let’s discuss in this article his journey; when did Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was born? why is he known as Sardar Patel?  his contributions to the Indian freedom struggle, what is National unity Day and why National Unity Day is celebrated? achievements and many more.

Vallabhbhai Patel’s Biography

Talking about the biography of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he hailed from a farmer’s family. In his early years, many considered Patel an unambitious man destined for a job. However, Patel proved them wrong. He passed the law examination with borrowed books & practised law at Godhra, Borsad, and Anand in Gujarat. With his dream to study law in England, he did manage to go to England. 

That is, in 1911, two years after the death of his wife, Patel enrolled at the Middle Temple Inn in London & finished at the top of his class even without having any previous college background (he completed the 36-month course in 30 months). Returning to India, Patel settled in Ahmedabad & became one of the best barristers.

Who gave the title of  “Sardar” to Vallabhbhai Patel?

 The title Sardar was bestowed by the women of Bardoli Satyagraha for the first time in 1928, which in Gujarati and in some other Indian languages means Chief or Leader. What happened was that  a Bardoli Satyagraha was held in Gujarat, which is considered a major episode of civil disobedience and revolt in the Indian Independence Movement.

1. The farmers of the said region faced serious financial issues after suffering from years of floods & famines. As a result, they appealed to the Governor of the Bombay Presidency to reduce their taxes, but instead, they were asked to pay 30% more taxes.

2. After this injustice and with nothing left to feed themselves and their families, the farmers appealed to Vallabhbhai Patel to lead them to revolt. However, Patel first made them aware that refusing to pay taxes may lead to confiscation of their lands and property.

3. As guided by Patel, the farmers of Bardoli were prepared for the worst, & they stood united and were ready to fight this injustice in a completely non-violent manner. So, when the farmers stopped paying their taxes, the British Raj declared they would crush the revolt.

4. Sending in collectors to scare them off or forcibly seize property from the farmers, the Government soon began to auction lands and houses. But no one from Gujarat or anywhere from India came to buy the lands.

5. However, there was one village that broke the unity and paid taxes, so they were boycotted. And even if someone did buy these confiscated lands of farmers, they could no longer find the labour to work on these lands.

6. When Indian members of the Government in Bombay and across India started resigning offices and supporting the farmers, the British Raj had no choice but to agree to the terms of the farmers.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s role in freedom struggle

  • First of all, Patel was never interested in politics, but the meeting with Gandhiji in Godhra (1917) fundamentally changed Patel’s life & he joined the Congress and became the secretary of the Gujarat Sabha which became a Congress stronghold later.

  • The Congress had accepted its aim of Purna Swaraj for the country, but on the other hand, the British Raj, through their policy was trying hard to stifle the voice of freedom with constitutional tricks and doing everything they could to reinforce their rule.

  • Simon Commission was also boycotted, followed by the launching of the famous Salt Satyagraha by M.K Gandhi. 

  • Patel, though he had not breached any provision of the Salt Law, still was the first of the national leaders to be arrested. He was in fact arrested on March 7, 1930 - a few days prior to Gandhiji’s set out on the march to Dandi. Then, he was released in June.

  • On March 12, 1930, the civil disobedience movement was the first nationwide movement, while the rest were restricted to urban areas. This movement gave a chance to people in rural areas the opportunity to participate. The motto of this movement was Non-violence.

  • But by then, Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders were sent to jail, and the freedom movement was rising., in a few months, Vallabhbhai was again back in prison.

  • In March 1931, Vallabhbhai presided over the 46th session of the Indian National Congress, which was called upon to ratify the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, which was just concluded.

  • This was a very difficult task, especially as Bhagat Singh and a few others had been executed on the very day the Congress session opened and the delegates, that is the younger sections, were very angry; Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose were not happy with the terms of the Pact.

  • But Congress finally put its seal on the Pact with one voice. Civil Disobedience was suspended, political prisoners were released, and the Congress agreed to participate in the Round Table Conference, which failed.

  • Did you know? On September 3, 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany, without even consulting the Central or the Provincial Legislatures, the Viceroy proclaimed India as having entered the war as Britain’s ally, which Congress highly criticized in India.

  • Gandhiji launched Individual Civil Disobedience against India's participation in the war, and the Congress leaders started court arrests. Vallabhbhai Patel was arrested on November 17, 1940, & then released on August 20, 1941.

The All India Congress Committee passed the Quit India movement on August 8, 1942, and Patel, along with the other members of the Working Committee, was arrested on August 9, 1942. Sardar Patel at this time, was in jail for about 3 years. When, at the end of the war, the Congress leaders were freed, Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the chief negotiators of the Congress & the British Government agreed to find a peaceful constitutional solution to the Indian Independence issues.

Sardar Patel’s contributions to Post-Independence India

After Indian independence, Patel became India’s first Deputy Prime Minister. On the first anniversary of Independence, he was appointed as the Home Minister of India & also in charge of the States Department & Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

Patel dealt with the problems of state integration into the Union of India in less than a year's time by reducing the princely states from 562 to 26 administrative units and bringing democracy to nearly 80 million Indian people, comprising almost 27% of India's population. 

Hence, he worked tirelessly to build a consensus with the princely states but proudly used Sama, Dama, Dand and Bhed where ever necessary.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel contributions as Congress President

After Gandhi–Irwin Pact was signed, Patel was elected as the Congress President for its 1931 session (Karachi). Patel advocated for establishing a secular nation, ensuring the minimum wages for workers & the abolition of untouchability.

Most importantly, Patel used his position as Congress President to return the confiscated land to farmers in Gujarat.

Was Patel against the partition of British India into India and Pakistan?

Initially, Sardar Patel opposed the partition of British India. However, he accepted the partition by December 1946. Abul Kalam Azad was a critic of Partition until the very end. However, that was not the case with Patel and Nehru. In his memoir India wins freedom, Azad says that he was ‘surprised and hurt when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, in reply to why Partition was needed, said that ‘whether we liked it or not, there were two nations in India’.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's death anniversary

Discussing Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel death date, he passed away on December 15, 1950, at Birla House in Bombay due to a heart attack. Posthumously, he received India's highest civilian honour, the "Bharat Ratna" in 1991.

Conclusion

Describing Sardar Patel in Gandhiji’s own words “… not Rajaji, not Sardar Vallabhabhai, but Jawaharlal will be my successor…When I am gone, he will speak my language”.  He being the man who has always been admired for his contributions and works, is paid tribute on October 31st (his birthday) every year as “Rashtriya Ekta Diwas” or “National Unity Day” especially to honour his work in unifying India. 

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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