RAFIQ ZAKARIA DEMOLISHES MYTH THAT SARDAR WAS ANTI-MUSLIM

December 24, 2013

I am happy to find that my blogs relating to recent political history are, generally speaking provoking a worthwhile discussion in the media also. It happens that of the blogs I have written this year quite a few relate to integration of princely states, and so centre round Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon. Some of these draw pointed attention to the Sardar’s differences with Pandit Nehru.

 

patelOut of the leading English dailies in the country I have generally regarded The Hindu Group of Chennai as reasonable and balanced, both in its news presentation as well as in its editorials and choice of articles. That these may be in sharp variance with my party’s stand or even with my own views does not affect the esteem in which I hold this Group. So I have been surprised to see this month an issue of FRONTLINE (December 13, 2013) which has photographs of Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel on its cover along with this comment: “Historical record reveals Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as a man rabidly communal in outlook and Jawaharlal Nehru as symbol of secular nationalism. That explains why the Sangh Parivar worships one and hates the other.”

 

I, for one, would never expect any journal of The Hindu Group to describe Sardar Patel as  “a man rabidly communal in outlook.” It is only when I looked inside the journal that I saw that it was an article written by A.G. Noorani. The surprise therefore need not be about its authorship but simply about the fact that such a perverse article should have been made the cover page feature.

 

When Sardar Patel passed away in December 1950 he was not only Deputy Prime Mnister and Home Minister in the Cabinet, he was also in charge of the Information and Broadcasting portfolio. Doordarshan was not born as yet. All India Radio was at that point of time the only official mass medium in existence. AIR decided to institute the Sardar Patel Lectures, to be held annually.

 

In 1956, when Rafiq Zakaria was approached to deliver the Lectures, the subject he chose was “Sardar Patel and Indian Muslims.” In his preface to the book based on these Lectures Zakaria writes:

 

“The subject I chose was rather controversial; at first I was somewhat apprehensive about it. I had, both as a student of and a participant in Indian politics, enough knowledge about the life and times of Sardar Patel and his monumental achievements in different spheres. But like many of my co-religionists, I too was under the impression that he did not like Muslims; in fact, I thought he was unabashedly anti-Muslim. Should I, therefore, I wondered, venture on a theme in lectures organised in his memory, which may be critical of him. I consulted my friend S. Ramakrishnan, who knew the Sardar intimately; he also worked as his Personal Secretary after the Sardar’s release on June 15, 1945, from the Ahmednagar Fort prison, during the historic Cabinet Mission parleys leading to the Transfer of Power and for a few months after the Sardar assumed the office of Deputy Prime Minister and settled down in Delhi. He was a valued colleague of K.M. Munshi and has been mainly responsible, after the founder’s death, for consolidating and expanding Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan not only in India but also in many important places in different parts of the world. A poem in self-effacement, his life has been a saga of quiet and dedicated service to the cause of national integration. He prevailed upon me to take up this subject, because he felt that the truth must be told, whatever the consequences, He was confident that Patel would come out of it unscathed.

 

The more I researched, the more I was convinced that the iron man had been misunderstood in many respects and there were cobwebs about his attitude towards Indian Muslims, which needed to be removed. I am glad I was able to do so to my satisfaction.

 

Fali Nariman, former Solicitor General of India, wrote to me that he enjoyed listening to the lectures; so did the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Chapalgaonkar of the Mumbai High Court. Many others also felt that I was able to present an objective analysis of Patel’s attitude to Indian Muslims, which was sorely needed in the present situation which is so vitiated by communal poison.

 

Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan has published the book by Rafiq Zakaria based on his two Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures. The book published in 1996 is titled “Sardar Patel and Indian Muslims.”

 

The book contains an Introduction by Nani Palkhivala. In this Palkhivala comments:

 

“I congratulate Dr. Rafiq Zakaria on his most timely decision to revive the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in this well-researched and well-written book based on his Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures, 1996, sponsored by the Government of India. He authentically demolishes the myth built up by vested interests that the Sardar was anti-Muslim.”

 

In this book Zakaria uses K.M. Munshi’s book End of An Era to describe at some length how Qasim Razvi whetted the Nizam’s ambitions and created a situation in which Sardar Patel finally used the Army to bring about Hyderabad’s integration with India.

 

Zakaria writes:

 

Hyderabad, which was the biggest state, with His Exalted Highness the Nizam as its head, and consisting of about 80 per cent Hindus, presented the knottiest problem to the Sardar; the procrastination of its ruler further vitiated Hindu-Muslim relations, especially because of the inflammatory and even abusive utterances of Qasim Razvi, an upstart firebrand, who took upon himself to save the kingdom from the clutches of “the Hindu brigands”.  He, with his passionate oratory, had created such a hold on the Muslims that they looked upon him almost as a messiah. He strutted about throughout the state with such arrogance and bluster, that even the Nizam was scared of him. K.M.Munshi, who was sent by the Sardar as the Agent-General to Hyderabad on behalf of the Government of India, has given a picturesque accout of Razvi’s frolics, larks and mischief.  In his book The End of an Era, Munshi describes Razvi as “a tireless worker;” though a fanatic, he was cunning. He could persuade and overawe; when necessary, he could smile, be humorous, or exercise charm”.

 

“The Nizam continued to be duped by Razvi who moved in the corridors of power with fiery eyes and his peculiar gait. He assured the ruler that he had been sent by God to rescue him and his state.  He averred, “The day is not far off when the waves of the Bay of Bengal will be washing the feet of our sovereign.” Further, that the green flag with the crescent would fly once again on the Red Fort of Delhi. Walter Monckton, one of the ablest British lawyers, who had almost succeeded with the help of Mountbatten to reach an amicable settlement with the Government of India on behalf of the Nizam, was so fed up with the tactics of Razvi and the council of ministers, who were terrorized by him, that he gave up the brief in sheer disgust and returned to London. The Nizam was caught between contradictory pulls. He had neither the understanding nor the will to decide. He kept shifting his stand. One day he was for confrontation, the other for conciliation. Chhatari had already warned him that neither Pakistan nor Britain was prepared to come to his rescue. He then leaned towards a settlement with India. On hearing of it, Razvi whipped up such mob frenzy that the Nizam hurriedly backed out of his commitment. Once, the Nizam lost his cool, weary of Razvi’s harangues. He asked his councilors to stop “that blackguard, that hapenny-tuppenny man, who has gone mad”. But it was a temporary outburst. He surrendered as soon as Razvi, who had grown into a Frankenstein, thundered and shrieked; he could not be subdued by anyone. His speeches contained nothing but tirades against Hindus and India.  He was confident that the Indian Muslims would rise to a man to stand by the Nizam.’

 

His followers, known as Razakars harassed innocent Hindus; his organization, called Ittihadul Muslemeen, ruled the roost. On March 31, 1948, he celebrated a “Weapons Week”, to procure arms and ammunition to fight India. His speech, as reported by The Times, London, was full of hate and venom. He declared war on India and urged Indian Muslims to work as his “fifth column.” He asked them to take inspiration from the example of his followers, whose “unsurpassed heroism and courageous vision” should be their guiding star.  He told them, “I may be here today, and perhaps not tomorrow.  But I can assure you, my brethren, if you want to see Qasim Razvi in the midst of our life and death struggle, look for him not in the palatial buildings of Banjara, or in pleasant tea parties, but in the battlefield.” After the “police action”, when the Indian forces marched into Hyderabad, they met with no resistance; his bravado had alas proved to be so much sound and fury, signifying nothing. He ran away to Pakistan and died unheard and unwept. His followers, who remained behind, had to bear the brunt of his short-term lunacy.”

 

TAILPIECE

This book quotes the Sardar’s clinching dialogue with Qasim Razvi thus:

 

‘Why don’t you let Hyderabad remain independent’ asked Razvi.

 

‘I have gone beyond all possible limits. I have conceded to Hyderabad what I did not concede to any other state,’ replied Sardar.

 

‘But I want you to understand the difficulties of Hyderabad,’ insisted Razvi.

 

‘I don’t see any difficulty, unless you have come to some understanding with Pakistan,’ the Sardar answered.

 

‘If you do not see our difficulties, we will not yield,’ cried Razvi working himself up to a state of excitement. ‘We shall fight and die to the last man for Hyderabad.’

 

‘How can I stop you from committing suicide if you want to?’ was the Sardar’s cool and blunt response’

 

L.K. Advani

New Delhi

24 December, 2013

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