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The statue of our perdition

Why the self-appropriation by the PM of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was in every way an antithesis of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Story: Sajla | Chawla | 05th November 2018, 03:08 Hrs

If I were to install a large size statue of Savarkar in my front yard, people might infer that I have some link to his philosophy of Hindutva, or I am a member of RSS. Wrong inference!

I cannot claim Savarkar in appropriation, when all my life I have been espousing secularism and liberalism.

Similarly, if Narendra Modi erects a giant size statue Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, people might infer that he stands for the same principles of socialism, secularism and liberty, which Patel stood for. Wrong inference again!

Modi cannot claim Patel as his own, when all his life Modi has been a RSS, BJP man, winning on the wave of Hindutva, while Patel lived and died a socialist secular Congress party loyalist and stalwart.

Why then this self-appropriation, by Modi, of the Iron man, who was in every way an antithesis of Modi?

Now we enter the murky waters. Lynching of Muslims, killings of journalists like Gauri Lankesh, M M Kalburgi, killing of Judge Loya, who was presiding over the CBI court case in which Amit Shah was the prime accused, badly executed demonetization, dipping economy, downslide of small and medium business sectors, the Indian media, apart from few strong voices, languishing in acquiescence, and many more, are instances of a government that is out to either coerce or silence.

So much so, that for the first time in Indian history, four senior most Supreme Court judges held a press conference, announcing in no uncertain words that “Indian Democracy is at stake”.

How then will such a government self-aggrandize itself? Chinese writer Lin Yutang once wrote, “When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set”.

But the shadows of these two men, Patel and Modi can never mingle or resonate… for their lives, their stories and their conduct have been entirely different. Like Modi in 2002, Sardar Patel had to deal with communal violence in 1947. However the parallel ends there.

Sardar Patel took immediate action by moving thousands of Muslims to the protected sanctuary of Red Fort. As the Home Minister of India, Patel went to Nizamudin to offer prayers to make it clear that Islam would continue to have an honored place in India. He also went to Amritsar and was effectively able to control rioting mobs which were disrupting the safe passage of Indian Muslims to Pakistan.

Modi did not do anything similar when the Muslims in Gujarat were being massacred in 2002, even as the state machinery cruelly gave a blind eye to the victims, and in many cases aided the rioters.

Sardar Patel was a man of the masses, who valued his simple life and worked among peasants protesting against unjust British taxes. He had no megalomaniac fetishes of wearing suits with his own name woven into its cloth and he would have perhaps been embarrassed by an over sized statue of himself.

As for the BJP claiming that Sardar Patel was a great leader, neglected by Nehru, well why don’t we see Patel’s own point of view which he makes avidly clear in a letter on Nehru’s sixtieth birthday, after almost a lifetime of being together, first as freedom fighters and later as colleagues in the running of a newly independent country.

Patel writes, of Nehru, “No one knows better than myself how much he has labored for his country in the last two years of our difficult existence. I have seen him age quickly during that period, on account of the worries of the high office he holds and the tremendous responsibilities that he wields. His thoughts have sometimes a depth which is not easy to fathom, but underlying them all is a transparent sincerity and a robustness of youth which endear him to everyone, without distinction of caste, creed, race or religion”.

Patel certainly doesn’t seem disgruntled but it seems that BJP, 71 years later, is disgruntled and wants to settle scores with the Nehru family.

But who bears the cost of the Rs 3000 crore statue of disgruntlement and one-upmanship? All of us!

Nehru and Patel built this country together, created institutions, at a time when it was totally in shambles, economy ravaged by the British, and reeling after the bloody partition. We would be more impressed if the leaders of today could speak of what they have done for the country, rather than harangue for or against leaders of the past.

As for the supporters of the statue who claim that it will bring revenue for the local people in terms of tourism, well think again. India is not a developed country which can construct a statue and be proud of it in an overdrive of nationalism, when 30% of India lives below poverty line. We need to choose wisely which sector we spend on. Snatching away a farmer’s land and consoling him with a promise of tourism seems dubious. Couldn’t such a poor country spend Rs 3000 crores on something more worthy and essential for its people?

As for national pride, if that were to come from giant statues, many other countries, richer than ours, would have installed such statues. But they haven’t. Because they know that national pride comes from education, women safety, employment, health services, high standard of living, etc.

If we derive national pride and glory only from mammoth statues, then we, Indians, have completely lost it.

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