Appropriating an icon 23 July 2013
The BJP and RSS’s proposed ‘statue of unity’ in memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will go against the very deals that the Iron Man represented.
By now it is clear that the BJP, functioning as the political arm of the RSs, is back to its basics in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. The RSS’s project of establishing a rabidly intolerant fascist ‘Hindu Rashtra’ was defeated during the freedom struggle. Independent India established itself as a modern secular democratic republic. This, however, has never prevented the RSS from continuing to pursue its efforts to metamorphose the modern Indian republic into its vision of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Its objective was defined by the RSS’s supreme guru, MS Golwalkar, who said, The foreign races (read non-Hindus) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, ie, of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country only subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment-not even citizen’s rights”.
Such rewriting of history is also necessary to appropriate some of the giants of our freedom struggle in their pursuit of the RSS’s project. The Gujarat chief minister, the RSS/BJP’s current poster boy, Narendra Modi announced recently a nationwide campaign to collect iron from farmers for building a ‘statue of unity’ in memory of Sardar Vallbhbhai Patel. “To reinvigorate his memory as a fitting tribute to the Iron Man of India, we are building this statue which will be double the height of the Statue of Liberty in New York”, he said. Further, this statue is being projected as “encapsulating the unity and integrity of India along with its rich culture and heritage”. The mobilization will be akin to the collection of bricks for the construction of the temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya that spread communal hatred and mayhem devouring many lives and catapulted the first ever BJP-led government to the Centre. It is precisely this vision of Sardar Patel’s unity and integrity of India” based on the commonality among the rich diversity that bonds us together that is sought to be undermined by the RSS’s project.
It is necessary to recollect that it was this very Sardar Patel who banned the RSS following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. A government communiqué dated February 4, 1948, drafted by Sardar Patel, announcing the ban of the RSS reads: “The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. . The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.
Sardar Patel was, after all, a leader of the Indian freedom struggle and a Congressman. The condition of the Congress party today is, indeed, pitiable that it is unable to prevent or even resist this effort by the RSs/BJP to appropriate the Sardar. However, in the interest of India’s future, it is imperative to consolidate the secular democratic foundations of modern India. This requires that such efforts to rewrite history and to appropriate the symbols of our freedom struggle by the RSS/BJP must be resoundingly defeated.
Extract of an article by Sita ram in HT 02 July 2013
The proposed ‘Statue of unity’ and the triumph of the RSS’s project of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ will only signal the death of the ideals for which Sardar Patel worked all his life-the Unity and integrity of India, preserving and enriching its immensely rich socio-cultural-religious diversity. SP was a ‘Gandhiwadi, Rashtrawadi don’t degenerat him as a “Hindu Rashtrawadi’.