Towering tribute to a towering leader, the Statue of Unity is a befitting offering to Sri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the leader par excellence whose historical contribution in uniting the embattled state owners post independence is carved in stone. The depth of his wisdom and his dedication to the cause made scores of kings and landlords come together to re-build Bharat. Searching the generally ignored pages of India’s history one can find clear evidences of how it was Sardar Vallabhbhai who materialized what seemed impossible after the British left a communal mess in the country.
While Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, born in 1875 in the state of Gujarat and known as the iron man of India, needs no introduction, what people do need to know is his many achievements that outshine many others’ in India and abroad. This is a reason, critics say, why there have been attempts to sideline him all these years. The strikingly massive 182 metres (597 ft) tallest statue of the world is an attempt by the present Indian government to let the Indians, and the world, know how great Sardar Patel actually was.
Located on river Narmada’s island in Kevadiya, the truly gigantic monument along with its surroundings cover more than 4.9 acres (2 hector) of land which extend further with a newly developed lake stretching to almost 12 square kilometers. The country is spending around INR 3000 crore (approximately USD 425 million) for the project which started on 31st October 2014 and was completed in just about four years. On 31 October 2018, which marked Sardar Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary, the Statue of Unity was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi in a grand, national level ceremony. For obvious reasons, the project and its lavish inauguration ceremony saw criticism by some political leaders. Better for them would have been to participate in the function in a statesman’s spirit.
Will the statue of unity bring unity in India?
Like everything else in the world, unity also has its own chemistry. A molecule is formed by a combination of atoms which can live together. Their combination is possible not necessarily because they are like-minded but because they can work together. In other words, they understand each others’ chemistry and live in unity. Likewise, the answer to this question depends on whether the ingredients used in the making of this project can work together. By ingredients I am referring to desire for giving a befitting tribute to a national leader, appreciating freedom fighters, national pride, communal harmony, political interest, and so on. Ironically, not every good initiative brings about good results.
Flaunted as an icon of freedom, did the Statue of Liberty bring freedom in the United States? No, if we understand freedom in its real sense, and Yes, if we think of freedom as “anything goes” kind of thing. In any case, the statue of unity brings to the world a much more meaningful message than it may appear to politicians.
The critics of the statue of unity project need to broaden their vision beyond their narrow-minded views based solely on political benefits. Digging out the history of India’s so-called independence, the debate whether the previous government of India, namely the Indian National Congress, deliberately sidelined Sardar Patel seems to have some merits. On the contrary, every honest observer would agree that the present government, namely the BJP, has worked hard to highlight such sidelined leaders and created awareness of their contribution to the rebuilding of this great nation.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is another person who has been sidelined for decades but the present government has made concrete efforts to accentuate his terrific contribution in India’s independence movement. Although Netaji Bose brought tremendous pressure on the British, the British had strategic reasons not to acknowledge the threat they faced from Netaji and his international alliance. Nonetheless, they very well knew what was coming if they didn’t quit India. Hence it is understandable that they pretended to ignore Netajis’ achievements and diverted the public attention to M K Gandhi, J L Nehru and a few others. But why even the Indian government did not acknowledge Netaji’s contribution all these decades is another debate that holds definite merits so far history is concerned.
This shows the Indian citizens are not allowed to recognize and appreciate some of their own leaders and well wishers who worked tirelessly for the present generation. I wouldn’t mistake this as mere party politics. Sardar Patel was a Congress leader but the BJP built the Statue of Unity and unleashed his glories. So the deliberate concealing of the contribution of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and many others, seems to carry a murkier purpose than just party politics.
This is more serious from India’s integrity and security point of view. Why is a section of country’s own citizens reluctant and even oppose to glorifying leaders like Sardar Patel and Netaji Bose? What is there in these leaders that bother them? Are they afraid of losing prominence of other leaders, which in turn would reduce their own prominence? Or is there something more worrisome that is yet to be revealed?
True unity cannot be purchased or imposed. It can only be inspired. Under the present circumstances and the ongoing nasty attempts by political parties to break the social fabric of India for winning votes, whether the statue of unity will bring unity remains a tough question. Nonetheless, God helps those who help themselves.
Read the time-tested wisdom on how to bring unity and peace:
“This is the secret. People are trying to bring in peace and prosperity in the world by so many activities—philanthropism, altruism, nationalism, socialism. And so-called religion also, they are trying to bring in. The whole idea is the human society should remain in peace and prosperity. And the vivid example is the United Nations in your country. America invited all nations that “Let us form a community of United Nations,” but the America herself is fighting. You see? Because the idea was there to unite, but they do not know the basic principle, how to unite.” (Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles, June 7, 1972)
“There is United Nations, but what they are doing? Let them study Bhagavad Gita, how to make United Nations. That will be perfect. Not these short-sighted men, with politics and diplomacy in the heart, they can bring all the nations united. That is not possible. Let them discuss Bhagavad Gita. Let them discuss how perfect society can be established. Then there will be peace.” (Srila Prabhupada in Stockholm, September 7, 1973)
If the people of India can be educated in the right direction and encouraged to develop a true national spirit, it is certainly possible to bring unity in the country and rebuild Bharat beyond expectations. Why only India, the formula mentioned above can bring unity and peace to the whole world. That will be an even taller tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.