Calcutta Congress welcomes the Sardar

Plainly Speaking by Dr.Hari Desai

Calcutta Congress welcomes the Sardar  

Bardoli Satyagraha victory charged the country-wide movement:
Rajaji felt Vallabhbhai Patel spoke  Lokmanya Tilak’s language

The Bardoli Satyagraha under the leadership of Vallabhbhai Patel leading to the situation where the Raj was compelled to reach a compromise. Gandhiji preferred to be at Bardoli on 2 August to take over as “Vallabhbhai’s soldier” in case Patel was arrested. On 3 August itself, the Government of Bombay sent the confidential telegram to New Delhi intimating “it would be desirable to have troops in readiness in Surat to be used only in case of urgent necessity”.
Earlier, in the House of Commons, Lord Winterton confessed the success of Vallabhbhai in Bardoli. Fretted and fumed Sir Michael O’Dwyer insisted that the law should be enforced with full vigour. On the 13th July, the Governor of Bombay went to Simla to see the Viceroy. Lest the people might say that the Government was surrendering in any way, the Information Department continued to talk about the hardship caused to large number of people due to the Satyagraha. When the Governor was in Simla, the Sardar was attending Ahmedabad District Conference at Ahmedabad. He received an invitation from the Governor through the Commissioner saying that the Governor was arriving in Surat on the 18th morning and that the Sardar together with 12 representatives of the Bardoli Satyagrahis should meet him there.
On 18 July 1928, the Sardar along with Abbas Tyabji, Shardaben Mehta, Bhaktilakshmi Desai, Mithuben Petit and Kalyanji Mehta met the Governor. For three hours in the morning, the talks went on in most cordial atmosphere. Afterward the Governor talked to Patel in private expressing his eagerness to resolve the deadlock. He was keen on returning the land to the original owners and release the prisoners. But the Governor insisted that the peasants must make the payment of the revised revenue tax or somebody should deposit the amount with the Government followed by immediate withdrawal of the agitation. Neither Gandhiji nor Sardar could accept the conditions put forward by the Governor.
The Sardar insisted on the Government appointing an Enquiring Committee and five points be conceded by the Government: (1) All the Satyagrahi prisoners should be released. (2) All forfeited lands, whether sold or unsold, should be returned to their lawful owners. (3) Proper market price should be given to the owners of cattle and other movable property which, it was contended, had been sold at ridiculously low prices. (4)All dismissals and other punishments of Government servants during the struggle should be cancelled or remitted. (5) As regards the enquiry, even an official Committee would be acceptable so long as it was made clear that the enquiry would be open, impartial and judicial in character, before which it would be open for people to appear by counsel, if they chose.
The Sardar went to Pune to negotiate with the Government. The obstacles to a settlement were removed on 6 August 1928 following long talks in Pune between Vallabhbhai and Sir Chunibhai Mehta, Finance Member of the Bombay Government, who negotiated on behalf of the Governor. Vithalbhai Patel, K. M. Munshi and others actively supported the efforts to reach the settlement. On 1 November, the two members of the Enquiry Committee, the Judicial Officer, Mr. Broomfield, and the Revenue Officer, Mr. Maxwell, commenced their work. On the 5th, Bhulabhai Desai, an eminent lawyer, set out the case on behalf of the people of Bardoli. The enquiry brought out the fact that “the Government records could be inaccurate and misleading”. Not only the Government revenue was revised, even the method of the land revenue assessment was revised. It also gave confidence to the people in their own strength.
After the victory of Bardoli Satyagraha, while the Sardar was touring from north to south for the awakening of people for the freedom, C. Rajgopalachari, who was to be the first Indian Governor-General after the last British Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, who was to leave for England in 1948, drew resemblance between Vallabhbhai and Lokmanya Tilak, the father of the Indian freedom struggle. Mahadev Desai could not resist mentioning the discovery by Rajaji when the Sardar was once speaking in Tamil Nadu.
“On close association with Vallabhbhai and after  watching his manner of speech, his smile and his laughter, his anger and his impatience, one cannot but be reminded of Tilak Maharaj. Both of them created an impression regarding themselves which was the exact opposite of what they in fact were. Both appeared at first sight to be arrogant and stand-offish, whereas in fact they were humble and gentle. Both gave the impression of being very complex, obstinate and stern, whereas in fact they were simple, straightforward and friendly….If we look at the many speeches that the Sardar made at Bardoli, we shall find in them the echoes of those historic speeches which Tilak Maharaj made in Ahmednagar or Belgaum.”
By his third victorious Bardoli Satyagraha after Borsad Satyagraha(1923-24) and Nagpur Flag Satyagraha(1923), Vallabhbhai laid solid foundation for the freedom movement. Following the victory of Bardoli Satyagraha, the Indian National Congress under the Presidentship of Motilal Nehru (December 1928-Calcutta) and Jawaharlal Nehru ( December 1929-Lahore) respectively got geared up to launch Purna Swaraj (complete independence) movement  declaring 26 January 1930 as Independence Day. Mahatma Gandhi took up the Dandi March (12 March – 6 April 1930) for which Vallabhbhai was instrumental in preparing the ground work. He was arrested at Ras village of Borsad Taluka of Charotar for the speech he did not deliver. He was arrested on 7 March 1930 and was  sent to the Sabarmati Jail till 26 June 1930. The Sardar was to preside the Indian National Congress convention in March 1931 at Karachi. Bardoli Satyagraha could bind the northern Indian leaders like Lala Lajpat Ray, who unfortunately died in November 1928, and the southern Indian leaders like Rajaji alike.
Even the Bengal leaders including Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had all praise for Sardar Patel’s leadership leading to Bardoli peasants’ victory, though they decried the usage of  a  feudal title “Sardar” in the resolution unanimously passed by the Calcutta Congress convention in December 1928. Vallabhbhai preferred to be the Hanuman of Mahatma Gandhi throughout his life time. He devoted himself to Gandhiji from the day he met the Mahatma at Godhra for the first time in November 1917. He could become such an important lieutenant of Bapu that the Mahatma had to confess: “Whatever I could do was thanks to Sardar Patel. But for his support, it was not possible at all.” Hence, the least the Sardarpremis world-over should do is to celebrate the Bardoli Day i.e. 12 June which brought a turning point in Indian Independence movement!
(14 June 2019)

Calcutta Congress welcomes the Sardar Calcutta Congress welcomes the Sardar  Reviewed by Dr.Hari Desai on June 14, 2019 Rating: 5

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