December 27, 2017

India: Sardar Patel on the RSS ...

Daily O

[Book extract] The address was delivered in Madras in 1949 where Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first deputy prime minister referred to threats from the Left as well as from the Right.

Excerpt from Indian Nationalism: The Essential Writings, edited by S Irfan Habib, Aleph Book Company

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

For unity, we must forget differences of caste and creed and remember that we are all Indians, and all equal. There can be no distinction between man and man in a free country. All must have equal opportunities, equal rights and equal responsibilities. This is difficult for achievement in practice, but we must continuously strive towards that end.

There is one more thing that we have to do to maintain peace and order in this country. For a few years at least, till we are able to stand on our own legs, we must forget that we can every now and then threaten the government. We cannot function if the government is to be challenged day after day by groups of people who want to have their own way. What they want may be, according to their own honest thinking, very good; but Gandhiji has put before us the ideal of obtaining what we want by peaceful methods and through truth and non-violence. If people begin to threaten and challenge government's authority and try to overthrow it to gain their objectives by force, the latter would not be able to do anything constructive. Forces are existing in this country which would create chaos and disorder, which would weaken the country instead of strengthening it…

...We in the government have been dealing with the RSS movement. They want that Hindu Rajya or Hindu culture should be imposed by force. No government can tolerate this. There are almost as many Muslims in this country as in the part that has been partitioned away. We are not going to drive them away. It would be an evil day if we started that game, in spite of partition and whatever happens. We must understand that they are going to stay here and it is our obligation and our responsibility to make them feel that this is their country. It is, of course, their responsibility, on the other hand, to discharge their duties as citizens of this country.We must all understand that partition is behind us. It has to come to stay. I honestly believe that it is good for both the new nations to be rid of a perpetual source of trouble and quarrels. In 200 years of slavery, the administration created a situation in which we began to drift away from each other. It is good that we have agreed to partition in spite of all its evils; I have never repented my agreeing to partition.

From the experience of one year of joint administration when we have not agreed to partition, I know we would have erred grievously and repented if we had not agreed. It would have resulted in a partition not into two countries but into several bits. Therefore, whatever some people may say, I am convinced and I remain convinced that our having agreed to partition has been for the good of the country.

...People are impatient; they want more wages for labour. Do they think we want to starve labour? Are we foreigners? Some people say we are capitalist agents. One thing I learnt from Mahatma Gandhi is that a public man should not have any property, and can challenge any government or any Communist to play this game with me. But my quarrel is what those who, contrary to the second part of Mahatmaji's advice to us, want to use violence. There should be no terrorism amongst ourselves. So long as people were playing that game when we were under a foreign power, we made allowance for it; we are paying for it also, because an evil once tolerated grows. That is what we see in Hyderabad.

Why are these Communists creating trouble there? How did they grow? It was because the Hyderabad government was foolish enough to allow them to grow for its own ends and we had no control over them then to be able to suppress them. And what is it that we see there now? In three or four months' time, 200 or more young Congressmen, their own brothers, have been murdered. Is it a sign of freedom that in the first year of freedom you have 200 Congressmen killed in cold blood in a small area? Once these terrorists are driven out from that area, where will they go? Inside your border. They will harass you; they will play the same game with you. To the Communists, my appeal may be in vain, because they do not listen. I told them immediately after my release from jail last time that I was prepared to take all the Communists into the Congress, to forget the past and keep the doors open provided they give up violence and cease to draw their inspiration from foreign countries.

Even now our offer is open, but if terrorism is the only method they want to employ, because they cannot defeat us at the polls and separate us from the masses of India, then it is our misfortune that we have to put our own dear young men and women into prison or to drive them underground.

... That is one section of the people, with whom we have to deal; the other is the RSS. I have made them an open offer: "Change your plans, give up secrecy, eschew communal conflict, respect the Constitution of India, show your loyalty to the Flag and make us believe that we can trust your words. To say one thing and to do another is a game which will not do." In one year of freedom we have experienced many things and learnt many lessons. Whether they are friends or foes, whether they are our own dear young children, we are not going to allow them to play with fire, so that the house is not set on fire. It would be criminal to allow young men to indulge in acts of violence and destruction, to let the lessons that our neighbouring countries have learnt be wasted on us.

Thus I have spoken to the RSS and to the Communists. Then you have our Sikh friends. Some of them, have also begun to threaten us and throw challenges. They are the only community in India which is allowed, with the unanimous voice of the Constituent Assembly, to keep arms. No other community is allowed to keep a sword or a kirpan. Why did we do this? Not in order that they might threaten the government with the use of force. Government is prepared to hand over power to anybody who can take people with him. But if anybody is going to play false and threaten the popular government, the latter will not fail the people...

[Book editor S Irfan Habib's note: Soon after independence, India confronted challenges from both the Left and the Right. The Left had ideological issues and proclaimed soon after independence that "yeh azaadi jhooti hai" and thus began a critical tirade against the newly elected government. Being the home minister, Sardar Patel confronted these forces and even exhorted the communists to join the Congress and be part of the nation building project. The idea of India or Indian nationalism was not ideologically or otherwise sectarian for Patel. He was threatened by the RSS from the Right, and this threat was more serious as it was clothed in the nationalist garb. Patel questioned their definition of nation and nationalism and even warned them saying, "They (RSS) want that Hindu Rajya or Hindu culture should be imposed by force. No government can tolerate this." The address included here was delivered in Madras in 1949 where Patel referred to threats from the Left as well as from the Right. Those were difficult early days and Patel categorically said that India as a new nation belongs to all, we are all Indians without any discrimination.]

(Excerpted with permission from Aleph Book Company)