Sabarimala: Words of Sardar Patel on religion and state must be invoked now

When people talk of precedence of faith over law, they should be mindful of Sardar Patel’s example, who didn’t hesitate to foil attempts of Travancore rulers to invoke a Hindu deity to not join India

PTI photo
PTI photo

SN Sahu

At a time when the deity of Ayyappa and faith associated with that eternal celibate God, Naishtika Brahmachari, is summoned by several people and public figures to frustrate the implementation of the Supreme Court judgement allowing women to enter Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala, it is worthwhile to recall that the deity of Lord Padmanabha in the sacred Ananthasayanam temple in Thiruvananthapuram was cited before Sardar Patel by Dewan of Travancore of the princely State, Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer, to frustrate Sardar's attempts to unify India and make Travancore an integral part of the Indian Union. He told Sardar that the it was not in the realm of possibility to merge Travancore with the Indian Union as the sovereign authority of the princely State rested with Lord Padmanabha who could not be subordinated to the Indian Union.

The wise Sardar countered him and asked a sharp question as to how the mighty rulers of Travancore allowed Lord Padmanabha to occupy an insignificant position owing allegiance to the British authorities. President of India late KR Narayanan while unveiling statue of Sardar Patel in front of the Central Hall of the Parliament on 14th August 1998 stated that the arguments and methods adopted by Sardar Patel for integration of princely States were manifold and effective and insight fully observed that when "Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer, held out the argument that no one could negotiate a merger of the State with India as Travancore was ruled "in the name and on behalf of the tutelary deity, Sri Padmanabha", the Sardar snapped with a twinkle in his eye "Is that so? Then please tell me how Travancore rulers could allow Lord Padmanabha to become subservient to the British Crown?".

When people talk of precedence of faith over statecraft, governance and rule of law one should be mindful of the splendid example of Sardar Patel who being a Hindu never hesitated to foil the attempts of Travancore rulers to invoke a much-revered Hindu deity not to join the Indian Union. All those who swear in the name of Hindutva should take inspiration from Sardar, who paid heed to Mahatma Gandhi's appeal to eschew the initiative to use state resources and instead use people's resources to rebuild Somnath Temple, not to employ religion and faith against the governance process and might of the Republic based as much on our composite culture as on law and jurisprudence.

It is instructive to recall Sardar Patel during his visit to Trivandrum, now Thiruvananthapuram, on 15th May 1950, a year after the integration of Travancore to the Indian union addressed a conclave of one lakh people and appealed to them not to be carried by “the false cry of Hinduism in danger” raised by a section of people there. He assured that Hinduism would never die in India

The present Government headed by Prime Minister Modi is celebrating Sardar Patel's birth anniversary in a big way and has declared the birthday of Sardar as national Unity Day. Amit Shah, BJP President and a Member of Rajya Sabha, who has taken oath to uphold the law and Constitution juxtaposed the efforts of the Kerala government to implement the Supreme Court order on Sabarimala temple with the tenets of Hindu faith and said that BJP would not allow the Kerala government to gamble with Hindu faith and destroy Hindu traditions.

It is instructive to recall Sardar Patel, during his visit to Trivandrum, now Thiruvananthapuram, on May 15,1950, a year after the integration of Travancore to the Indian union, addressed a conclave of one lakh people and appealed to them not to be carried by "the false cry of Hinduism in danger" raised by a section of people there. He assured that Hinduism would never die in India.

He added that he heard for the first time people talking about danger to Hinduism and observed with anguish "There was one Hindu who made reputation for India all over the world. That was Gandhiji. And yet it was a Hindu who killed him. Is that Hinduism? Do you preserve Hinduism by that method?....Hinduism can never be in danger in India. Shankaracharya never raised the cry of Hinduism in danger."

Again while addressing another meeting in Kerala in 1950, the indomitable Sardar faced a question on the Hindu Code Bill which was moved by Ambedkar and faced stiff opposition from some right wing formations and Hindu members of the Congress party including first President of India Rajendra Prasad.

Sardar firmly said in his reply, "Times have changed and it is not possible for any group of people to shelve a progressive legislation in these days."

On another occasion when he moved a Bill as the Home Minister of India to appoint an administrator to run the affairs of shrine of Ajmer Sharif by removing those who were causing problems many members opposed it. In response to that opposition Sardar replied and asserted, "If the Government received any complaints from pilgrims to Gaya or any other place about the extortion of the Hindu pandas the Government would be prepared to take action and clear them also." He firmly maintained that "Cleaning of sacred places had to be done quickly in these days of revolution. Slow process will kill the cleaner himself."

Wise words indeed. The days of revolution Sardar talked about in 1950 needs to be recalled in twenty first century India which is confronting the counterculture of reaction and regression in the name of Hinduism. All those who swear in the name of Sardar Patel should live up to that benchmark of revolutionary legacy set by him at the time of the formative period of nation building.

(The author was OSD and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri KR Narayanan)

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