Minority-appeasers can't be secularists

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Minority-appeasers can't be secularists

Monday, 11 November 2013 | Balbir Punj

The Prime Minister’s misplaced effort to reclaim Sardar Patel's secular legacy is ridiculous. The Iron Man would have been horrified by this regime's stand that Muslims have the first right on national resources

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a recent function in Ahmedabad that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was secular, he, in fact, disowned the entire edifice of secularism put together by the secular pack of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, since independence.

There is a vast difference between the concept of secularism that the Sardar professed and the one that has been practiced by the Nehru-Gandhi clan for the last 60 years. While the common goal of attaining independence for the country did bind Sardar Patel  and Nehru together, the two leaders represented contrasting strains of the independence movement.

Sardar Patel was realistic and drew inspiration from the pluralistic sanatani traditions of India while Nehru, a romantic, was cut off from reality and influenced by Fabian socialism. The latter was also not a natural leader for India. He was foisted on the country by Mahatma Gandhi. Barring two Pradesh Congress Committees, the rest favoured Sardar Patel as Prime Minister.

Instead, Sardar Patel became the Home Minister (apart from being Deputy Prime Minister) and in that position, the Kashmir issue was his responsibility. But Prime Minister Nehru took away the Kashmir issue from the Home Ministry and tagged it on External Affairs, giving a handle to India’s opponents that New Delhi itself did not believe that Kashmir was an integral part of India.

This eventually also led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution which underlined the ‘separateness’ of Jammu & Kashmir from other States. Then, despite the stormy opposition of Sardar Patel, Nehru took the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council. Sardar Patel, records say, tried even at the last moment to dissuade Nehru from announcing his UN plans for Kashmir on All India Radio but could not get through to the Prime Minister in time.

Between 1958 and 1962, Nehru was proved wrong again on China as a result of which Tibet was written off without any credible counter-guarantee costing India its internationally recognised place in the Himalayan plateau. By that time, there was no Sardar Patel even (he died on December 15, 1950) to restrain Nehru and his confidant VK Krishna Menon, an acerbic and cantankerous cryto-communist.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should brush up his history before accusing others of communalising Sardar Patel’s legacy. It was Nehru who first charged the indomitable Sardar of being a “total communalist” when his Deputy Prime Minister was advocating in the Cabinet meeting that military action be taken against the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was conspiring to accede to Pakistan.

Nehru’s reaction to Sardar Patel’s suggestion of military action was so shocking that the latter simply picked up his papers and left the meeting. That the Prime Minister was refusing to read the subtext of extremist pro-Pakistan Razakars, who the Nizam had unleashed on innocent Hindus, throws light on the type of secularism that the Congress followed under Nehru and later.

After Nehru’s demise, this  brand of secularism has led his party and its fellow travellers (the CPM and the Muslim league) to hold a special session of the Kerala Assembly, on a Government holiday, to hail a known militant like Abdul Nasser Madani, who was in prison as an accused in the Coimbatore bomb blast case which claimed about 60 innocent lives and left scores injured.

Prime Minister Singh’s misplaced effort to reclaim Sardar Patel’s secular legacy is ridiculous, to say the least. Sardar Patel would have been horrified by the incumbent regime’s declaration that Muslims have the first right on national resources. He would have never allowed differential treatment to terror suspects because of their religious identity. Sardar Patel’s commitment to secularism would not have permitted him to use state funds to subsidise the Haj pilgrimage and madarssas. He would have been on the side of martyred Delhi Police inspector MC Sharma of Batla House fame, and not his killers.

Following are excerpts from a speech Sardar Patel made in the Constituent Assembly. The issue under consideration at that time was the system of reservations for minorities in legislatures.

“Here a proposal was brought forward by one friend from Madras, for reservation and for communal electorates. Now when the separate communal electorate motion was moved, it was supported by the great Muslim leader, who swore loyalty to the Constitution in this House and immediately after packed off to Karachi. He is now carrying on the work of the Muslim league on that side. He has left a legacy here — a residuary legacy perhaps in madarssas.

“Those who claim that in this country there are two nations and that there is nothing common between the two, and ‘that we must have our homeland where we can breath freely’, let them do so. But those who still have that idea that they have worked on it, that they have got it and therefore they should follow the same path here, to them I respectfully appeal to go and enjoy the fruits of that freedom and to leave us in peace.

“There is no place here for those who claim separate representation. Separate representation, when it was introduced in this unfortunate country, was introduced not by the demand of those who claim to have made those demands, but as Maulana Muhammad Ali once said, it was a ‘command performance’ that has fulfilled its task and we have all enjoyed the fruits of it.

“A minority that could force the partition of the country is not a minority at all. Why do you think that you are a minorityIJ If you are a strong, well-knit and well-organised minority, why do you want to claim safeguards, why do you want to claim privilegesIJ It was all right when there was a third party: But that is all over. That dream is a mad dream and it should be forgotten altogether. Never think about that, do not imagine that anybody will come here to hold the scales and manipulate them continuously. The future of a minority, any minority, is to trust the majority.

“We are changing the course of history. It is a very heavy responsibility that is on us and, therefore, I appeal to every one of you to think before you vote. The future shape of this country as a free country is different from the future that was contemplated by those who worked for partition. Therefore, I would ask those who have worked for that to note that the times have changed, the circumstances have changed and the world has changed and that therefore they must change if they want salvation.” 

On all the major issues —Kashmir, China, Hyderabad and status of minorities in independent India, the Sangh parivar was on the same page as Sardar Patel and continues to be so. Naturally, he is an icon for the parivar. No wonder Narendra Modi is building his statue, billed to be the tallest in the world, in Gujarat.

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