Architect of Swaraj – 4

He   accepted   the   invitation only when pressed by Gandhi. Many talukas of Maharashtra were threatened with increase in land revenue and the  people sought the opinion of Vallabhbhai Patel. He told them plainly that such campaigns could be successful if the peasants had no fear of the Government and were prepared to suffer.

Next  Patel  was  invited  by  C.  Rajagopalachari   to  be  the President of Tamil Nadu Political  Conference. Sensing the reluctance of Vallabhbhai Patel, he requested  Gandhi to  intervene. Sardar agreed at the instance  of  Gandhi. The Conference was held at Vedaranyam in August. After  the  Conference  he  toured  along with Rajaji all over the province  and  spoke in every village he visited. In almost all his speeches he stressed  the need for constructive work and the futility of shouting slogans, passing resolutions and making speeches. He asked the people to unite and forget their quarrels and bickerings. And when he noticed the controversy between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins in that province, he was greatly perturbed and said, "Why are you so envious of Brahmins ? What harm have they done ? Do you not know what harm  those other  Brahmins (the British) have done both to you and to these Brahmins ? Those people have come from 5.000 miles to rule over this country and have become the real" Brahmins. They have no caste and yet both you and the Brahmins worship them as if they were Brahmins."

From Tamil Nad  Patel went to Karnatak at the instance of Gangadhar Rao Deshpande who was trying hard to establish a Peasant League there. In all he addressed ten meetings. The main theme of these speeches was that people should give up the fear of Government officers and of jails. He exhorted them to give up foreign cloth and drink and petty quarrels.

When he was delivering these speeches Gangadhar Rao felt as if B.G. Tilak himself was speaking. Earlier, Rajaji too had felt like that. After Karnatak, Patel toured  Bihar for about a fortnight. He was pained to see the peasants suffering endlessly at the bands of zamindars.

Asking them not to fear death, he said, "Why are you afraid of death? Is the zamindar immortal?  One has to die but once. But it is neither for the Government nor the zamindar to say when you are to die. That is in the hands of God."At a meeting he castigated the people of Bihar for having kept their women in purdah. He said "Are you not ashamed that you keep your women in Purdah? Who are these ladies. Your mothers, your sisters, your wives. Do you really believe that only by keeping them in Purdah you can look after their chastity?" He further added, "If I could I would say to these ladies: Rather than be wives to such cowardly husbands, divorce them."

Patel's tours proved very useful. Everywhere he exhorted people to face tyranny and become fearless and thus prepared the masses for the next satyagraha. It also made Patel very popular. When the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress was to be held he was tipped for Presidentship. But he politely declined the offer as Mahatma Gandhi wanted Jawaharlal Nehru to be the President. So Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President though ten provinces had recommended the name of Patel and only three had recommended the name of Nehru.

Patel was not tempted by the lure of office. He devoted his time and energy to educating the people for the forthcoming Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhi was to commence his Satyagraha March on 12th March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi along with 78 other followers. Patel was going ahead of Gandhi to rouse the people and prepare them for Civil Disobedience. He told them not to be afraid of jails, not to join the struggle in large numbers and to fill the prisons. When he had gone to address one such meeting at Ras on March 7, he was restrained by Magistrate from addressing the meeting. As he insisted on making the speech he was arrested before he had uttered a sentence and was sentenced to three months and there weeks imprisonment. Patel was released on 26th June and again devoted his time to infusing new spirit in the people. He told them that they would feel more happy in such times to be inside the jail than outside. Patel was again arrested on 1st August for participating in procession to mark Tilak's death anniversary. He was released in November, 1930 and was served with a prohibitory order against making speeches. He delivered a harmless speech on the opening of a khadi bhandar at Bombay. This was quite a good excuse for the Government and they arrested him and sentenced him to 9 months imprisonment. But before he could complete his term he was released in March along with other members of the Congress Working Committee so that they could be in Delhi for consultation with Gandhi who was holding talks with the Viceroy. The outcome of these talks was the Gandhi Irwin pact which was signed on 5th March. According to this Pact,  all political prisoners were released. The Congress agreed to take part in the Second Round Table Conference and called off the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Patel become the President of the Congress session which was held in Karachi at the end of March, 1931. The youth of the country were agitated, for, a day before the Congress session commenced, Bhagat Singh had been executed with his two associate, Raj Guru and Sukhdeo for having murdered a police officer, Mr. Saunders. Bhagat Singh was at that time at the pinnacle of his glory and people had asked Gandhi to exercise his influence with the Viceroy and save his life. Gandhi had tried his best but failed. People resented this and asked Gandhi how, if he could not save Bhagat Singh, he could expect to gain anything with his non-violence.

In his presidential address which was brief, concise and to the point, he said, "You have called a simple farmer to the highest office to which any Indian can aspire."

The most difficult task of the session was to get the Gandhi Irwin Pact approved. Patel told the youth that he was aware that many young friends were deeply hurt by this agreement. He assured them that "if nothing comes out of the Conference the struggle would be resumed. That might mean that we allow six months to slip away." He counselled patience to the youth and said, "Gandhiji is now almost 63 years old, I am 56. Should we, the old,be anxious for Independence or you, the young? because we are interested in seeing India Independent before we die, it is we who are far more anxious, and in a greater hurry than you--why all this impatience."

The young men saw reason and passed the resolution approving Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Strangely enough, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was deadly against this pact, himself moved the resolution. Thus ended the Karachi Session.

As anticipated, nothing came out of the Round Table Conference. Gandhi returned to India on 28th December, 1931 and found that repressive measures had been started in his absence. Both Gandhi and Patel were arrested in Bombay on 4th January, 1932 and both were lodged together in Yeravda Jail.

When Patel was in jail a conference was held at Delhi by the Congress leaders who favoured Council-entry under the chairmanship of Dr. Ansari. Gandhi did not want to stand in their way and issued a statement on 7th April, 1934 suspending Civil Disobedience Movement. Once the Movement was suspended the Government gave up repressive measures and released all political prisoners and also lifted the ban on the Congress.



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