And Barrister Vallabhbhai Patel becomes Sardar Patel

                                                    Bhikhiben of Akoti called Vallabhbhai Patel the Sardar for the first
                                                    time in April 1928. Also seen is her husband Somabhai Patel.

Plainly Speaking by Dr. Hari Desai


HMG concedes Victory of ‘Lenin’ Patel  
·        For the first time  Bhikhiben addressed Vallabhbhai as “Sardar”
·        Lord Winterton told, “Patel has met with a measure of success”
In the last installment, we discussed the climax in the Bardoli Satyagraha and Gandhiji preparing to go to Bardoli as “a solder of Vallabhbhai”. Of course, before the Mahatma reached Bardoli on 2 August 1928, many dramatic events were to take place on Ground Zero. By May end, the Members of the legislature started resigning their membership. K. M. Munshi resigned on 17 June, five days after the nation-wide celebration of the Bardoli Day on 12 June. Barrister Vithalbhai Patel, the elder brother of Vallabhbhai and the President of the Central Legislature, wrote to Gandhiji attaching a cheque of Rs.1,000 with a promise to send Rs.1,000 every month till the  Bardoli Satyagraha would be on. The action of Vithalbhai embarrassed the Government. On the Ground Zero, Vallabhabhai virtually paralysed the Taluka’s revenue administration. Eighty Village Patels (Head-men) and nineteen Talatis had resigned. Among the other Government employees, the most were sympathetic to the cause of the peasants and the Satyagraha.
To enlighten the people about the Bardoli Satyagraha and raise funds for it, it was decided to celebrate Bardoli Day on 12 June throughout the country. Narhari Parikh describes the celebration and collection of Rs. Two Lakh in these words in “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel”: “12th June celebrated throughout the country with great enthusiasm as Bardoli Day. The people of Bardoli fasted for 24 hours and offered prayers. The young men in Bombay went from house to house and collected anna each and collected 1,500 rupees. The office of the Bardoli Satyagraha Ashram was inundated with cheques and money orders.”
Some Parsi gentlemen including a Parsi who did not belong to Bardoli Taluka purchaged some land. People of  their own community and of the town to which they  belonged resolved to boycott them. On Bardoli Day, the Sardar served a warning to those who had purchaged or might purchage the forfeited land: “So long as a square foot of land belonging to any agriculturist or to any participant in this fight remains forfeited, this fight will continue. For the sake of such land, thousands of agriculturists are ready to die. This is not a charity performance for the Government to hand over land to some kerosene merchant from Bharuch. He who buys such land drinks the life-blood of agriculturists. Whoever does that will do well to give thought to the retribution which will be meted out to him by God in this life.”
“The first limb of the establishment to concede Vallabhbhai’s ascendancy in the conflict was the Times of India. After touring the Taluka, its special correspondent described Vallabhbhai as a “Lenin” who had “instituted a Bolshevik regime” in Bardoli, and held him responsible for the suffering of the peasants “herded in their miserable windowless dwellings” and their cattle with “festering sores all over their bodies,” describes Rajmohan Gandhi in “Patel: A Life”, adding: “All the same, the correspondent’s reports suggested that the Raj’s writ no longer ran in the Taluka but Vallabhbhai’s did.”
On the side, the Commissioner of the Northern Division, Mr. Wilfred Smart, who had gone to the sea-side for rest, was ordered to proceed to Surat and to camp there. The Collector was also resting in the neighbouring state and he was ordered to come down. “It was surprising that while so much was happening in the Taluka, the District Collector had not thought it necessary even to visit Bardoli,” notes Narhari Parikh. He   adds, “He was content to see everything through the eyes of his deputy.” Even when the Collector went to visit Bardoli, he found all shops shut and the doors of all the houses locked. Not a man was to be had to wait on him. Then he thought he would go to some smaller village. The policeman went to hire a taxi. The taxi-driver said that the car was already engaged. So his license was taken away. With great difficulty, he reached the village Sarbhon. As he approached it, the young men immediately beat the drum, so that by the time the Collector entered the village, the doors of every single house were shut and the streets were completely deserted. The Collector sent for the Patels who replied, “The people will not listen to us. The people are indifferent about forfeitures and confiscations.”
The Collector started making false statements, transferring the weak Mamalatdar to another Taluka and bringing stricter one to act for the seizures. Some times in April, in one of the public meeting a tribal lady named Bhikhiben addressed Vallabhbhai as “Now onwards you are our Sardar” and Patel earned the title “Sardar”. Though Rajmohan says, “It was during April 1928 that someone, no one knows who, first referred to Vallabhbhai as the peasants’ Sardar, Maganlal I. Patel of Bardoli College in his Ph.D. thesis submitted to the South Gujarat University in September 1990, clearly states: “During the Bardoli Satyagraha in a meeting of peasant men and women at Nani Palsod, in the presence of Sardar Patel, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Mahadevbhai Desai, Mohanlal Pandya etc., one lady of Aakoti named Bhikhiben told after floral reception of Vallabhbhai, ‘Vallabhbhai, now onwards you are our Sardar.’ Uttamchand Shah, the Secretary of Swaraj Ashram, Bardoli along with his wife Santokben, was also present in the meeting.”
During the hot summer of May 1928, even when the agriculturists were warned that land once taken in possession of the Government would not be returned, the Sardar was making fun of the Raj, asking them whether they would carry the land with them to England? The Government declared that it had disposed of 1,400 acres of land and was keen to disposed of another 5,000 acres. “How much land does a man requires? Six feet at the most, and the Hindus not even that, except for a couple of hours, after which they make room for others,” the Sardar would address the public.
Following the Times of India report, even while replying the discussion in the House of Commons, Lord Winterton, a member of His Majesty’s Government had to admit:“It is true that Vallabhbhai Patel has met with a measure of success.” The Governor of Bombay, Sir Leslie Wilson, declared his intention to rush to Simla for consultation with Lord Irwin, the Viceroy. All eyes were set on the Raj’s further action. But Vallabhbhai was informed by Commissioner Smart that the Governor was willing to receive him at Surat. The Raj had been compelled. Gandhiji wrote to Vallabhbhai: “The next two weeks are a very critical period during which no such words be uttered on our side as is likely to impede a settlement.” Patel agreed with Gandhiji. (To be continued)
(13 June 2019)

And Barrister Vallabhbhai Patel becomes Sardar Patel And Barrister Vallabhbhai Patel becomes Sardar Patel Reviewed by Dr.Hari Desai on June 12, 2019 Rating: 5

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