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HomeOPINIONSardar Patel - a mythical Hindu icon?

Sardar Patel – a mythical Hindu icon?

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Sardar Patel - a Hindu icon?

Critical histories have been written about all our national heroes, from Nehru to Gandhi to Netaji and even Ambedkar, and there is thus no reason why Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel should not be subjected to scrutiny too.

Undoubtedly, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a nationalist, a patriot, a freedom fighter, an able administrator, and the most important political person after Gandhi and Nehru in the 1940s. He was at the helm of affairs during the critical period of modern Indian history.

Many people believe that Gandhi wronged Patel by preferring Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India. His role as Union Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the political unification of India by integrating 562 princely States in contrast to Nehru’s failure to smoothly integrate even one princely state of Kashmir, made Patel a superhero for nationalists. They, therefore, hypothesize that had Gandhi chosen Patel over Nehru as the PM, the country could have been spared of most, if not all, of its present-day problems. It is in this popular imagination that ‘Patel was the best Prime Minister that India did not have’, he is celebrated as the ‘Iron Man of India’.

It is debatable whether Gandhi had that kind of clout on the eve of independence where he could personally anoint a PM of his choice, but one should certainly ask whether Patel’s India would have been any different if he had been Gandhi’s choice.

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Patel has been lionised by the Sangh Parivar, and it has been their constant refrain that Patel was a victim of Gandhi’s indifference and Nehru’s machinations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, built the world’s tallest statue called the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Patel’s honour on the banks of the Narmada River overlooking Sardar Sarovar Dam which is also named after him.

Unquestionably, Patel was a great man. I too admire him. However, mistakes made by great men can be catastrophic for communities. In this article, I will focus on the untold aspect of Patel’s role in the framing of the Constitution, which has proved to be detrimental to the interests of Hindu civilisation. The question we can ask is whether Patel, who seemed more rooted in our civilisational ethos than Nehru, did as much as he could have done to protect at least basic Hindu interests when the Constitution was framed.

Subjugation of Hinduism and relegation of Hindus as 2nd class citizens:

On 24th January 1947 Patel became the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas of the Constituent Assembly. It was by far the most important Committee that was charged with the responsibility of formulating the core and soul of the Constitution of India that would decide the future course of our ancient civilisation that has hitherto been primarily informed by Sanatan Dharma.

Patel submitted his Committee’s Preliminary Report to the Constituent Assembly in his letter dated 23rd April 1947. Portions of it concerning religious, cultural and educational rights, are reproduced hereunder.

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“SIR, On behalf of the members of the Advisory Committee appointed by the Constituent Assembly of India on the 24th of January 1947, I have the honour to submit this interim report on fundamental rights. In coming to its conclusions, the Committee has taken into consideration not merely the report of the Sub-Committee on fundamental rights but also the comments thereon of the Minorities Sub-Committee.

Rights relating to religion

13.  All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience, and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion subject to public order, morality or health, and to the other provisions of this Chapter.

Explanation 2.–The above rights shall not include any economic, financial, political or other secular activities that may be associated with religious practice.

Explanation 3.–The freedom of religious practice guaranteed in this clause shall not debar the State from enacting laws for the purpose of social welfare and reform.

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14.  Every religious denomination shall have the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion and, subject to the general law, to own, acquire and administer property, movable and immovable, and to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.

15.  No person may be compelled to pay taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated to further or maintain any particular religion or denomination,

16.  No person attending any school maintained or receiving aid out of public funds shall be compelled to take part in the religious instruction that may be given in the school or to attend religious worship held in the school or in premises attached thereto.

17.  Conversion from one religion to another brought about by coercion or undue influence shall not be recognised by law.

Cultural and Educational Rights

18. (1)  Minorities in every Unit shall be protected in respect of their language, script and culture and no laws or regulations may be enacted that may operate oppressively or prejudicially in this respect.

(2)  No minority whether based on religion, community or language shall be discriminated against in regard to admission into State educational institutions, nor shall any religious instruction be compulsorily imposed on them.

(3) (a)  All minorities whether based on religion, community or language shall be free in any Unit to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

(b)  The State shall not, while providing State aid to schools, discriminate against schools under the management of minorities whether based on religion, community or language.”

The Constituent Assembly animatedly debated the report from 29th April to 2nd May 1947 with many members expressing serious reservations about religious conversion, a ban on religious instructions etc. Therefore, the Constituent Assembly referred back to the Committee for re-examination of Clauses 16, 17 and 18(2).

Sardar Patel in his letter dated 25th August 1947 submitted a Supplementary Report of his Committee more or less reiterating their earlier recommendations, the relevant portion of which is quoted hereunder:

“4.  The Constituent Assembly had referred back to us clauses 16, 17 and 18(2) of our previous report. We have re-examined the clauses and our recommendations are as follows:–

Clause 16: “No person attending any school maintained or receiving aid out of public funds shall be compelled to take part in the religious instruction that may be given in the school or to attend religious, worship held in the school or in premises attached thereto” 

We recommend that this clause be accepted by the Assembly in its present form.

Clause 17: “Conversion from one religion to another brought about by coercion or undue influence shall not be recognised by law.” 

It seems to us on further consideration that this clause enunciates a rather obvious doctrine which is unnecessary to include in the constitution and we recommend that it be dropped altogether.

Clause 18 (2): “No minority whether based on religion, community or language shall be discriminated against in regard to the admission into State educational institutions, nor shall any religious instructions be compulsorily imposed on them.”

We recommend that the latter portion of the clause, namely “nor shall any religious instruction be compulsorily imposed on them” be deleted in view of clause 16 above which we have recommended for retention. We recommend that the rest of the clause, be adopted by the Assembly.”

On 30th August 1947, the Constituent Assembly debated it and in spite of the reservation of some members, Patel got Clauses 13 to 16 and 18 approved which later became Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution. Had Clause 17 not been dropped by the Patel Committee it would have gone a long way in preventing religious conversions.

I have discussed in my piece The Constitutional Subjugation of Hinduism: A Hindu Cry for Equal Rights how articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution subjugate Hinduism and relegate Hindus as second-class citizens by denying equal religious, cultural and educational rights to Hindus on par with those of minorities.

Let me illustrate the consequence of the denial of formal religious education to Hindus, which I did not discuss in my above-referred article. Thanks to articles 28 and 30, a Christian and a Muslim student get anywhere up to 1000 hours each of formal education in his religion by the time he attains 18 years of age, whereas a Hindu student does not get even a minute of formal education in Hinduism.

Consequently, while an average Christian and Muslim is fairly knowledgeable about the basic tenets of his religion, an average Hindu knows almost nothing about Hinduism, unless his parents separately arrange this knowledge or he picked it up on his own. In the mould of the famous adage, that fools are full of confidence and geniuses are full of doubt, such religious illiteracy makes many Republican Hindus super confident in falsely assuming, nay claiming, equality of all religions. In contrast, no Christian or Muslim ever makes outlandish claims that all religions are the same because he is aware of the basic tenets of his religion which are different from others. Sitaram Goel had poignantly said, “A belief in equal truth of all religions is equal ignorance of all religions.” Such ignorance of Hindus naturally leads to their lofty unconcern about existential dangers to themselves and Hinduism.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the indirect anti-Hinduness of our Constitution is encapsulated in these six articles 25 to 30.

Minority appeasement:

Patel in his letters dated 8th and 25th August 1947 submitted his Committee’s two reports on minorities to the Constituent Assembly, the relevant portions of which are reproduced hereunder. Worryingly, his Committee parroted Jinnah’s nefarious idea of including the scheduled castes among the minorities

“DEAR SIR, I have the honour to submit this report on minority rights. It should be treated as supplementary to the one forwarded to you with my letter dated 23rd April 1947. That report dealt with justiciable fundamental rights; these rights, whether applicable to all citizens generally or to members of minority communities in particular offer a most valuable safeguard for minorities over a comprehensive field of social life. The present report deals with what may broadly be described as political safeguards for minorities and covers the following points:

Joint versus separate electorates and weightage

4. In order that minorities may not feel apprehensive about the effect of a system of unrestricted joint electorates on the quantum of their representation in the legislature, we recommend as a general rule that seats for the different recognised minorities shall be reserved in the various legislatures on the basis of their population. This reservation should be initially for a period of 10 years, and the position is to be reconsidered at the end of that period. We recommend also that the members of a minority community who have reserved seats shall have the right to contest unreserved seats as well.

5. We accordingly classified minorities into three groups ‘A’ consisting of those with a population of less than 1/2 per cent in the Indian Dominion excluding the States, group ‘B’ consisting of those with a population of more than 1/2 per cent but not exceeding 1 1/2 per cent. and group ‘C’ consisting of minorities with a population exceeding 1 1/2 per cent. These three groups are as follows-

Group ‘A’: 1. Anglo-Indians, 2. Parsees, 3. Plains’ tribesmen in Assam.

Group ‘B’: 4. Indian Christians, 5. Sikhs.

Group ‘C’: 6. Muslims, 7. Scheduled Castes.

6. Anglo-Indians: …..there shall be no reservation of seats for the Anglo-Indians but the President of the, Union and the Governors of Provinces shall have power to nominate representatives of the Anglo-Indian community, to the lower house in the Centre and in the Provinces respectively if they fail to secure representation in the legislatures as a result of the general election.

7. Parsees: …..Parsees would remain on the list of recognised minorities and if it was found that the Parsee community had not secured proper representation, its claim would be reconsidered and adequate representation provided…..

8. Plains’ tribesmen in Assam: The case of these tribesmen will be taken up after the report of Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee is received.

9. Indian Christians: They were willing to accept reservation proportionate to their population in the Central Legislature and the Provincial legislatures of Madras and Bombay. In the other provinces, they would have the liberty of seeking election from the general seat.

10 Sikhs: In view of the uncertainty of the position of the Sikhs at present, pending the award of the Boundary Commission in the Punjab, the committee decided ‘that the whole question of the safeguards for the Sikh Community should be held over for the present.

11. Group ‘C’–Muslims and Scheduled Castes: ……it is recommended that seats be reserved for these communities in proportion to their population….

Representation of minorities in Cabinets

13. We recommend accordingly that a convention shall be provided in a schedule to the constitution on the lines of paragraph VII of the Instrument of Instructions issued to Governors under the Act of 1935 and reproduced below:

“VII.  In making appointments to his Council of Ministers, our Governor shall use his best endeavours to select his Ministers in the following manner, that is to say, to appoint in consultation with the person who in his judgement is most likely to command a stable majority in the legislature those persons (including so far as practicable members of important minority communities) who will best be in a position collectively to command the confidence of the legislature. In so acting, he shall bear constantly in mind the need for fostering a sense of joint responsibility among his Ministers.”

Also Read: Who would have been a better Prime Minister – Nehru or Patel?

Representations in Services

14. …… it is necessary for the State to pay due regard to the claims of minorities in making appointments to public services. We recommend, therefore, that, as in the case of appointments to Cabinets, there should be in some part of the constitution or the schedule an exhortation to the Central and Provincial Governments to keep in view the claims of all the minorities in making appointments to public services consistently with the efficiency of administration.

15. ….the Centre and for each of the Provinces to appoint a Special Minority Officer whose duty will be to enquire into cases in which it is alleged that rights and safeguards have been infringed and to submit a report to the appropriate legislature.

16. We wish to make it clear, however, that our general approach to the whole problem of minorities is that the State should be so run that they should stop feeling oppressed by the mere fact that they are minorities and that, on the contrary, they should feel that they have as honourable a part to play in the national life as any other section of the community. In particular, we think it is a fundamental duty of the State to take special steps to bring up those minorities who are backward to the level of the general community. We recommend accordingly that a Statutory Commission should be set up to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes, to study the difficulties under which they labour and to recommend ….. steps that should be taken to eliminate their difficulties and suggest the financial grants….”

Providentially, the Patel Committee’s recommendations such as separate electorates for religious minorities, reservation for religious minorities in cabinets and in services, the appointment of special minority officers to look after the minorities’ interests etc did not find a place in the final Constitution.

Vivisection of Hindu civilisation:

Sardar in his letter dated 4th March 1948 submitted his Committee’s report on Tribal, Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas to the Constituent Assembly. This report in its essence is a harsher version of sections 91 and 92 of the Government of India Act, 1935 and Orders-in-Council issued thereunder and the colonial evangelical philosophy behind it. Based on the recommendation of Patel’s Committee these were paraphrased and expanded into Article 244, and 5th and 6th Schedules of the Constitution.

A brief background may be helpful. The British developed various templates to categorise, isolate, delegitimise and subjugate Hindu communities that were rebellious against colonial rule. Some of these templates were Agency Tracts, Hill Tracts, Frontier Areas, Scheduled Districts, Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas etc. Inner Line Permits and other systems were put in place severely restricting other Indians from entering those areas or having social intercourse with the segregated communities. The mischief to isolate the rebellious Hindu communities from the neighbouring Hindu society became evident from the religion-neutral synthetic ascriptions to them such as animists, tribes etc in successive Censuses. Soon these became captive catchment areas for soul harvesting of the isolated Hindu communities. 

This British evangelical project of destruction of Hindu society is analogous in its intent, purpose and scale to the medieval Chinese project of altering the religious demography of South East Asia from Hindu to Muslim with a view to permanently cut off Hindu civilizational roots and influence. I have discussed this in my article, “Scheduled Tribes: Who are they? How to mainstream them?”.

The fact that the vast majority of Hindu vanvasis living in Scheduled areas under the 5th and 6th Schedules of the Constitution have been converted out of the Hindu fold in the last 73 years is proof of the resounding success of the British evangelical project.

How is it that a man of Patel’s intelligence and experience did not see the obvious? Or was he not far-sighted enough to see the problems that could arise in future? Or was he couldn’t careless? If he had seen through the machinations of British divide-and-rule laws evident in these instances, he could have recommended socially, economically, politically and religiously integrative arrangements for people in these areas. And such inclusive constitutional provisions would have stopped the British evangelical mischief of vivisection of Hindu civilisation and strengthened the unity and integrity of India.


This is not about being unduly critical of the Patel, who surely was only Chairman of the Committee which comprised of many members of the Constituent Assembly. But Sardar was not an ordinary person. Given his high stature and power, comparable only to that of Nehru, within the Congress and the government, surely, he could have convinced the others about how the Constitution cannot be loaded against Hindus. Instead as the debates of the Constituent Assembly show, he was pushing the recommendations of his Committee which indicates that they were as much his ideas.

It is also possible to argue that Patel may not have had any wrong intentions, or he was merely appeasing the minorities without foreseeing the consequences, or he was too much English in dhoti and kurta, or any combination thereof or of other reasons. But that is of no help to the victimised Hindus, battered Hinduism and dismembered Hindu civilisation. Nor can that undo the devastation.

Sadly, the supreme sacrifices of crores of our ancestors for 1300 years in protecting Hinduism under extremely adverse circumstances are seemingly wasted in the 73 years of a flawed Constitution.

In a nutshell, while politically unifying India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel inadvertently paved the way for the evisceration of Hindu civilisation. He could have at least guaranteed equal rights for Hindus on par with minorities.

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M Nageswara Rao, IPS (Retd)
M Nageswara Rao, IPS (Retd)
M. Nageswara Rao IPS (Retd) - a 1986 batch, Odisha cadre IPS officer retired as Director, CBI. The views expressed are his own.


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