Monday, October 23, 2017

Sardar Patel on Gandhi, India and the World

The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Volume XIII, (1st January 1948 - 31st December 1948)
Chief Editor: P. N. Chopra

(emphasis as in the book, footnotes inserted inline)

Sardar Patel on Gandhi, India and the World
In Tune with the Millions

1 October 1948

[In this marvellous and deeply touching speech before officers and men of the Royal Indian Air Force on 1 October 1948, Sardar in the context of world affairs, and in the context of Gandhiji’s teachings and India’s civilization, projects this true and objective picture of the demands of his time.]

Officers and Members of the Royal Indian Air Force, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The first thing that I inquired about was whether I can talk to you in our own language because we have won freedom after a hard struggle after many years of slavery and bondage; and if we do not begin to talk in our own language now, there is a danger of harboring the remnants of slavery which may grow again into a tree; and, therefore, at least the Armed Forces in India must learn to talk in our own national language.  But I am told that there are many South Indians here who will not be able to understand our national language.   I find the same difficulty in the Congress also; and our Assemblies occasionally, we have to talk, largely or, we have to talk in the foreign language because of the South Indian block in the Congress lagging behind in spite of their great efforts to learn the Hindi language. You must make up quickly because if you go to South India also, you will not be able to talk to the common man except in the provincial language or in the national language.  We have to make rapid progress in that direction.  For the present, I will abide by your desire and say a few words in the language which you say you can understand.

I have been a soldier all my life.  I am not a statesman nor am I a politician.   I have joined the armed forces of India which after a hard struggle—a prolonged struggle—got the country emancipated from bondage and although the Commander-in-Chief1
1Mahatma Gandhi
of our armed forces departed from the transitory world this year; and you and we all paid our homage to him when he left us as orphans.   It was he who had really started the real struggle for freedom.  Freedom’s struggle which we fought was a different kind of struggle and in that struggle there were rules of honor, rules of conduct and rules which governed the struggle in which we were all engaged and which has no parallel in the history of the world’s struggle for freedom.

Mahatma Gandhi came to India in 1915.   For one year, he kept himself secluded in his own temporary abode in Ahmedabad to see what is happening in the country.  According to the advice of his leader or guru2
2Preceptor, teacher, adviser
Gopal Krishna Gokhale3
3Gandhiji’s political guru, a most distinguished moderate leader, contemporary of Tilak, founder of the Servants of India Society, President, Indian National Congress, 1905.
who brought him here from South Africa and advised him to stay in India, one year, without doing or involving himself in any public life.   Unfortunately, his guru died during that year; but as soon as the first year was over, he started his experiments in different fields.

The first was in Champaran4,
4In 1917
in Bihar, where the indigo planters who had settled themselves in Bihar for several years were exploiting the poor peasants.   Their history of sufferings and sorrows are written in the history of that Struggle5.
5This story of distress and sorrow of the Champaran peasants and Gandhi’s unique work among them has been very graphically and objectively recorded in Satyagraha in Champaran by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pub. Navajivan, Ahmedabad.
That was the foundation of the struggle for freedom.  In a short period without any weapon in his hand—except the weapon of the soul-force—he made the planters surrender; he made the Bihar Government and the Government of India surrender; and since many years, you see no planters in Bihar; they have all disappeared. There was no slavery as bad as the slavery of the laborers in those plantations in Bihar. 

After that, he started the struggle in Kaira and simultaneously with Kaira, he started the great labour organization in Ahmedabad when no Trade Union movement was born in India.   It was he who laid the foundations of labour movement in India and that Organization 6
6The Majdur Mahajan of Ahmedabad had its birth in the wake of Gandhiji’s fast in 1917 to secure a just wage for the Ahmedabad mill-hands and under his protecting care it soon blossomed into a mighty tree as the most formidable and disciplined labour organization in the country.
today is the best and the most well-organized organization in this country and yet the movement was of such a nature and the organization was built on such foundations that there has been the least friction between capital and labour in that city.  So the industry there has thrived to an extent that it is the most well-organized industry in India and the laborers the best-paid in the country.   That was because he avoided friction and laid the foundation of settlement by arbitration for any dispute that arose between labour and capital.

It is not so in Europe.  The movement of Trade Union in Europe or in the West is based on the principle of collective bargaining in which there is an element of coercion and force which always result in bitterness.   Now when he first started this movement he had to fast for several days in support of labour which could not stand the organized opposition of the industry.  And at the end of his fast there was a settlement which made industry and labour accept the principle of resolving all differences and disputes by independent arbitration.  

His one principle in all his movements was that we must not always claim to be in the right although we know that we are in the right.  We must not insist on our point of view being the final thing.  The opponent would also claim the same thing; and therefore, the best solution between the two warring elements was to refer the matter to an independent arbitration.  If that principle today is accepted in the world, there will be no trouble.

But you know what is happening in the United Nations’ Organization.  People assemble there; the big powers, who of all countries, have laid the foundations of world unity, are not able to resolve their own differences and they meddle with the other peoples’ differences.   Those who are not able to compose their own differences have no right to meddle with the differences of other people.

We have seen what price we have paid in Kashmir by going to that organization.  We wen to the United Nations’ Organization in order to bring the dispute to an early end.  For six months, we were maligned all over the world by the representatives of Pakistan.  And people who had never seen this country and who did not understand what the problem of India and Pakistan or Kashmir was, — they began to hear our case from people who had no bone in their tongue.  They, therefore, went on talking anything that came to their mouth and for six months it went on like that.   After that, their delegation came here.  They visited Kashmir, they visited Pakistan, they visited India, and had long and prolonged conversations and discussions.  Eventually, they made proposals for a cease-fire.  We accepted the proposals for a cease-fire. The other party did not.   Yet we are where we were.  If we were to fight this out by armed forces and if the United Nations’ Organization is not able to do anything, then instead of calling it the Security Council, it must be termed the “insecurity council” which disturbs the security of the law.

You have seen what is happening in Hyderabad.  The Nizam says: “I do not want my case in the United Nations’ Security Council.”   But the Security Council says: “We are seized of it.”  It is so because they have no other thing to do.   Therefore, anything that comes before them they go on discussing it which disturbs the security here or which is likely to disturb the security here and thereby it disturbs the security of the world and thus it is a proper and fitting thing to call this organization an “insecurity council”.  How far it is advisable to be a member of that august organization is a question which has to be seriously considered.

You have seen that we have performed the operation in Hyderabad with the least amount of blood.  But has the above Security Council solved any problem which they have handled after its establishment?   Take Palestine, take Indonesia, take any question that has been referred to the Security Council.   It has not been able to dispose of them and bring about peace; and they are all problems which they are not able to settle.    So, in one way, the League of Nations was more or less a harmless organization.  This organization if it does not improve itself is going to land the world into a terrific slaughter and destruction.   In that context, if the Security Organization would have been based on the principles on which Gandhi led his struggle, the world would be happier and there would be no struggle at all.  There would be peace.  But we all pay our lip-sympathy and homage to that great leader which this country in its degraded state, in the state of slavery of several hundred years, produced.  Now it is a free country.   If a slave country produced such leaders, why should not India produce such  greater leaders who would raise its head amongst the nations of the world.

That is our ambition.  We do not want to have armed forces to have aggression on any country in the world.   That is not India’s history.  Its civilization is entirely different.   India has never made any encroachment on any country throughout its history by sword.  It has done so by its culture, by its civilization, by its force of the soul.   That is how it has spread its message in the past, right up to Japan, Afghanistan and other places.  When the world hardly knew what civilization was, our civilization, without any air force, without any fighting force, spread the message of peace, love and goodwill.

That was the message which Gandhiji gave to us, and wanted us to fight with that force— that weapon.  We started the struggle.  After a hard struggle for a prolonged period in which I had the honor to share his sorrows, his miseries, his joys, in every struggle, and pass prolonged periods of seclusion in jail with him, we got our liberty and the fruits of which we have now to enjoy.   Whether we are fit for it or not, the future history can tell.

But the world has progressed fast and it has changed.   Some people in the foreign countries criticize us saying, “These people are not following Gandhiji’s ways.”  As if they know more about Gandhiji’s ways that we who have passed our life with him.   Gandhiji knew that the world was not following him.  He knew very well that India was not following him.  And if India had followed him, the world would also have followed him.  Therefore, he knew India’s limitations and he knew and he appreciated the work of the armed forces also.  His ambition was that the world should have no armed forces and all countries should disarm themselves.

That is what the United Nations’ Commission7
7On Kashmir
also says.  When will it be fulfilled? If one country says: “I must have monopoly of the atom bomb or the atom energy,” the other country says: “I must find its antidote. . . .” How is the world going to disarm itself?   If it is not going to disarm itself, India would not do it also even though it accepts the principles of non-aggression.   We have never done it; we shall never do it in the future also.  But Gandhiji never advised us to be cowards.  He never advised us to forsake our country or not to protect the country’s honour and the country’s liberty.  Therefore, we shall not fail to arm ourselves with the requisite armed force whatever it may cost for the protection of this land.  We would be unworthy of the inheritor of liberty.  We would be unworthy of the great soul who released the country from bondage if we did not provide sufficient armed strength to protect its borders and not for its internal troubles.
My note: Sardar Patel means India has an adequate police force. See below where Sardar Patel says: You need not trouble yourselves any more with internal troubles.   I shall manage it with my Police because I do not want to degrade the profession of the Indian soldier to shoot down his own brothers.

The internal troubles are all solved now.  So far as India is concerned, in the Indian Union, nobody will raise his head again.  The last ghost8
has been buried recently.  We have pricked the bubble which created frightening shadows and pictures all over; there will be massacres of Hindus and Muslims; there will be a big invasion from Pakistan; oh! you do not know what war is; don’t do this; don’t do that.  But we said we shall see.  We shall perform this operation at the proper time when there will be least amount of bleeding; and, thanks to you all, we did it, and we are free.

We have now the only question of Kashmir; and God willing, if the Security Council releases us from that embarrassment, we shall perform that operation with the least amount of bleeding.  But we are involved in may cobwebs of that problem and I do not which to enter into it at present. 

We must remember that outside India there is no peace.  Take Burma.  When was its liberty won? Burma got its liberty simultaneously with us.  But if you go ten miles out of Rangoon, there is no Government.  In one year, the liberty that they won is very nearly going.   It is touch and go.   So take Indonesia, take Burma, take China where trouble is going on continuously and we have our friends— the neighbors in the North9.
They are not very friendly to us.  They talk of friendship; they look like friends.  We want to be friends.   We have so often told them: “You often talk of enemies; your enemies, whoever they are, they are within yourselves and not outside.”  We do not wish to be enemies of anybody.   We wish to be friends with everybody; that was the legacy that our leader has left us.   For years we have learnt at his feet not to harbour ill-will for anybody.  But at the same time he has taught us: “Do not be cowards.  Learn to fight bravely.  Defend every inch of your country.”  We shall not fail to preserve that legacy that has been given to us.

Only you, the Air Force, the Defence Force and the Navy— you have all to work together and see that day and night we keep a watch on our borders.   You need not trouble yourselves any more with internal troubles.   I shall manage it with my Police because I do not want to degrade the profession of the Indian soldier to shoot down his own brothers.   It is not good for us.

When people talk of aggression on Hyderabad, they either deliberate misrepresent the thing for whatever motives they may have or they do not understand what aggression is.   How can we have aggression on our people?  What is Hyderabad?  Is the Nizam Hyderabad?  If the people of Hyderabad is Hyderabad it is part of India.  The British people still think that Hyderabad is a British preserve.  It is one year10,
10Since achievement of Independence
yet they do not understand that they have no claim here.   And I trust that this will be the last debate in Parliament11
11British Parliament
in which reference is made about India’s business.   Otherwise, we do not want to be forced into friendship.   If friendship is not wanted, we have self-respect enough to stand aloof against the whole world.  Because if violence is the order of the world, and we have not got sufficient organized violence, we have enough non-violence by which we know how to die.  

But we know how to preserve our self-respect.  Therefore, I wish we have no more sermons from people who still believe that they are trustees here—the trustees of the world.   They must know that they had enough mismanagements in all parts of the world.  They must now leave us alone.

Therefore we, members of the Air Force, members of the Army, members of the Navy— we have learned these lessons of modern warfare from the West.   Let us not degrade it in any manner.   I am glad and I am proud of you that although the Air Force has been born recently and is a baby, yet it is a very healthy and very beautiful, good-looking baby of which India can be proud.  Do nothing to disfigure it.   Observe and concentrate on the rules of discipline and chivalry and do not forget that in the Armed Forces there can be no community— only one community.  Whether it is a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Sikh, we are all brothers.  It should be so in India, but at least in the Armed Forces, it should be the first.  You have to lay an example.  We politicians have inherited a very bad legacy.  We have, you had also, but we had particularly, communal representation.   Everything that we did, every action that we took, was weighed on communal scales.  You had also the Mahratta Regiment, the Jat Regiment, the Sikh Regiment, etc. But we wish to forget all that.  We must now rewrite our history because we are making a beginning and we have a clean slate now.

In one year you have seen that India’s map has been considerably changed.   The proud princes have also realized the changed atmosphere; and, in one year, they have accommodated themselves in such a manner that without firing a shot, without any trouble, except in the two States, we rearranged the whole map of India.  It is an achievement of which we can all be proud; and therefore, I always congratulate our princes for showing wisdom and sense of patriotism.

Let us forget the past.  Let us see what they are doing now.  The were themselves not free; they are free today.  So you see the Maharaja of Bhavnagar12
12Shri Krishnakumar Sinhaji
being the Governor of Madras.  It is a great change; it is a great thing.  He is a common man.  He has abandoned his title of “His Highness” and became a protector and a trustee of the people of Madras.  Thus princes and people must learn to be equals and share the fates, sorrows, miseries and the pride and well-being of our nation.  In that, let us all put together in a common boat and begin sailing safe in the ocean of the world.

I still want to preserve the little energy that is left to me at this age to see that India takes its proper place not merely by winning the freedom but by raising the status and strength of India in such a manner that the people who are preaching sermons will begin to respect us and say that they have also something to learn from us.   That is my ambition.  For that, we must all put our heads together and go ahead.

I am proud of the Air Force, for their doings in the short period, both in Kashmir and Hyderabad; for their work for the relief operations, for removing the refugees, for supply the necessities of the army in Kashmir.  While people talk of our failing to follow Gandhiji’s teachings, I wish to give you one example which I remember from his conversation.  When Srinagar was touch and go, when we wanted to put our Army in Srinagar and when the Air Force was asked that they had to carry the Army and all its requirements quickly, they did it with wonderful speed; and if we had been late by twenty-four hours the whole game would have been lost.   That is the work which you have done, which is written in letters of gold in the history of Freedom.  We are proud of you.   But what Gandhiji said to me was “I feel so proud when I hear the noise of these airplanes.   At one time, I was feeling very miserable and oppressed when I heard this.  But when this Kashmir  operation began, I began to feel proud of them and every airplane that goes with materials and arms and ammunition and requirements of the Army.  I feel proud.”  Because he felt injustice over Kashmir by the raiders.  And he said: “Any injustice on our land, any encroachment on our land should either be defended by violence, if not by non-violence.”  “If you can defend by non-violence, by all means do it; that is the first thing I should like.   If it is for me to do, I would not touch anything, either a pistol or revolver or anything.   But I would not see India degrading itself to be feeling helpless.   Therefore, when the Air Force has performed this miracle of saving Srinagar by its organized strength and the co-operation it gave to the Army, I feel proud of them and I feel happy.”  That is what he said.

Therefore, those who say that we do not follow the preachings or teachings of the Mahatma, we tell them: “Perhaps you from a distance know better about Mahatma’s teachings than we who have all our life with him know.  Thank you very much.  We will not take our lessons from you, but we will go our own way.  We must go our own way.   We have got small lights.  We must work according to our own lights.

We have seen what is happening in Europe, what degradation, what destruction the world has faced from the Western civilization!  With all your pride and pomp, God forgive us from that civilization!  We want to be spared of it.  Let us go our own way.

That is what we want to tell them.  And for that purpose, we must not forget our foundations, our civilization, although we may copy the best from the West.   And, therefore, when we take lessons in the Army, in the Navy, or in the Air Force, in modern warfare, we must not degrade ourselves.

May God give us enough sense not to do anything which could bring dishonour to our country.   The departed soul13
13Mahatma Gandhi
takes account of our doings.   He watches us from the heavens.   Whether we deserved his leadership which he gave us for a prolonged period and freed the country— whether we deserved it or not — he takes account.   Let us not forget it.  Let us not do anything which would make him unhappy.   We have, when we cremated his last remnants of the frail body, paid our homage to him, but that is all worldly.   The real homage that we can pay to his memory is to try to follow his footsteps as far as we can.   His life is an open book.   We know his teachings.  We must try to follow that.

Never forget that unity is your strength.    If one of your colleagues gets a better job do not feel jealous of him rather be proud of him.  If one below you is promoted, try to obtain enough merit to get your proper place, but do not be disgruntled.  Do not feel unhappy because your colleague has been better off than you.  Feel happy because after all he is your comrade.

Therefore, learn more of discipline, comradeship and unity in your Force.  In thirty or thirty-five years of struggle, we have also learned the rules of struggle, of chivalry, of discipline, of comradeship and of unity which are more or less common in both the non-violent struggle as well as the violent struggle.   The rules of struggle or fight are all common because they are all based on a moral standard.  Therefore, do not do anything which would bring discredit to you.  I wish you success and godspeed in your career. 

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