Vallabhbhai Patel, popularly known as Sardar Patel, was one of India’s towering leaders, whose contribution to the Indian Republic is immense. This book, Selected Speeches and Writings of Vallabhbhai Patel, showcases this great man’s commitment to develop this nation – his staunch belief in communal harmony, benefits of freedom for all citizens and in peace and cooperation between different regions.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter, Build a Strong India Speech at Island Grounds.
YOU WANT ME TO TALK TO YOU IN ENGLISH. I shall obey your command; but take it from me that it will not be long before you yourselves will have to speak in our national language. If you do not do that, you will drag the country backward. We have to exert our maximum effort to go forward. Unless you do that, I am afraid, you will suffer.
After a prolonged struggle the country has secured freedom, but it is not freedom of the kind that we wanted. It is not freedom of the kind that the deliverer of the country expected, and to our shame we have to confess that by our folly we have lost him. Now after his going we must do penance and try our best to deserve the freedom that he obtained for us.
Free India is only a child of a year and a half. It has yet to learn to walk; it has to grow, to be strong, and its future depends upon how we build today. Therefore, we have to nurse it carefully; we have to feed, clothe and strengthen it properly. It is our great good fortune that we have here a rare opportunity to build our own country in our own fashion. History will record what we are doing today.
The first requisite for building a strong, free India is unity and peace. If there is no unity in the country, it is bound to go down. Therefore, we must first of all adjust our differences and behave in such a manner that there is complete harmony and peace in the country. You cannot expect the Government continuously to maintain peace by force. It would be an evil day when in this country the Government has to use repressive measures permanently. Today we are passing through a period of crisis and our young men have, in their impatience, not realised that the freedom which has been obtained with great difficulty is likely to be lost or likely to give no benefit, no advantage, if we do not appreciate that our present duty is to unite and consolidate our freedom.
We lost our leader because we forgot the very first lesson. If we do not realise even after his going that in unity lies our strength, then greater misfortune will befall us.
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 other 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 R.S.S. 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 two hundred 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.