Sardar Patel and Hindu Dhimmitude
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 a most important political person after Gandhi and Nehru in the 1940s. He was at the helm of affairs during a 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.
The Sangh Parivar has lionised Patel, and it has been their constant refrain that Patel was a victim of Gandhi’s indifference and Nehru’s machinations. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he commissioned the world’s tallest statue in honour of Patel, the ‘Statue of Unity,’ on the banks of the Narmada River, overlooking the 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 an 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 is whether Patel, who seemed to be more rooted in our civilisational ethos than Nehru, did everything he could to defend at least basic Hindu interests when the Constitution was drafted.
The 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 tasked with developing the core and soul of the Constitution Of India, which would determine the future trajectory of our ancient civilisation, which had previously been principally informed by Sanatan Dharma.
Patel submitted the Preliminary Report of his Committee to the Constituent Assembly in a letter dated April 23, 1947. Its passages on religious, cultural, and educational rights are reproduced below.
SIR, On behalf of the members of the Advisory Committee appointed by the Constituent Assembly of India on the 24th 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.
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 the 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.
From the 29th of April to the 2nd of May, 1947, the Constituent Assembly debated the report vigorously, with many members expressing serious reservations regarding religious conversion, the prohibition on religious instruction, and other issues. Therefore, the Constituent Assembly referred back to the Committee for the re-examination of Clauses 16, 17 and 18(2).
Sardar Patel, in a letter dated August 25, 1947, submitted the Supplementary Report of his Committee, in which they not only reiterated their earlier recommendations but also withdrew Clause 17 proposed earlier, which said that conversion under duress or fraud was to be unrecognisable by law. The relevant portion is quoted as follows (emphasis mine):
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 it 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.
The Constituent Assembly debated it on August 30, 1947, and despite reservations from some members, Patel was able to get Clauses 13 to 16 and 18 passed, which ultimately became Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution. If the Patel Committee had not removed Clause 17, it would have gone a long way toward 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 consequences of Hindus being denied official religious education, which I did not address in my aforementioned piece. Articles 28 and 30 ensure that a Christian or Muslim student receives up to 1000 hours of formal education in his religion by the age of 18, whereas a Hindu student receives not even a minute of formal education in Hinduism.
Consequently, although the average Christian or Muslim is fairly knowledgeable about basic tenets of his religion, the average Hindu knows next to nothing about Hinduism, unless his parents arrange for him to learn it separately or he picked it up on his own. In the spirit of the adage that fools are full of confidence and geniuses are full of doubt, such religious illiteracy inspires many Republican Hindus to mistakenly assume, nay, claim, equality of all religions. In contrast, no Christian or Muslim ever makes the absurd argument that all religions are the same because he is aware of fundamental doctrines of his religion that differ from those of others. It is hardly an exaggeration to state that the indirect anti-Hinduness of our Constitution is encapsulated in these six articles 25 to 30.
Patel submitted his Committee’s two reports on minorities to the Constituent Assembly in letters dated August 8th and August 25th, 1947, the pertinent portions of which are reproduced below. Worryingly, his Committee regurgitated Jinnah’s malicious plan to include 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 of 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, the position 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.” 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 and 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 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 which are backward to the level of the general community. We recommend accordingly that a Statutory Commission should be set up to investigate into 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, reservations for religious minorities in cabinets and services, and the appointment of special minority officers to look after the interests of minorities, did not make it into the final Constitution.
Vivisection of Hindu civilisation
Sardar submitted his Committee’s report on Tribal, Excluded, and Partially Excluded Areas to the Constituent Assembly in a letter dated March 4, 1948. In essence, this report is a harsher version of sections 91 and 92 of the Government of India Act, 1935, and Orders-in-Council issued thereunder, as well as the colonial evangelical philosophy that undergirds them. 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 quick rundown may be helpful. The British devised different templates to categorise, isolate, delegitimize, and control Hindu communities that rebelled against colonial rule. Some of these templates included Agency Tracts, Hill Tracts, Frontier Areas, Scheduled Districts, Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas, and so on. Inner Line Permits and other protocols were implemented, severely limiting other Indians from entering certain areas or having social interactions with the separated populations. The aim to isolate the rebellious Hindu communities from the neighbouring Hindu society became evident from religion-neutral synthetic ascriptions to them such as animists, tribes, and so on in subsequent Censuses. Soon after, these became captive catchment sites for soul harvesting of 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 72 years is proof of the resounding success of the British evangelical project.
How could a man of Patel’s intelligence and experience have missed the obvious? Was he not prescient enough to anticipate such problems? He could have recommended socially, economically, politically, and religiously integrative arrangements for people in these areas if he had seen through the machinations of British divide-and-rule laws. And such inclusive constitutional provisions would have put an end to the British evangelical mischief of vivisection of Hindu civilisation while strengthening India’s unity and integrity.
It is not my intention to be completely dismissive of Patel, who was, after all, only the Chairman of the Committee, which included several members of the Constituent Assembly. Sardar, on the other hand, was not an ordinary man. Given his great status and power within the Congress and the administration, comparable only to Nehru’s, he could have easily persuaded the others that the Constitution cannot be loaded against Hindus. Instead, as evidenced by the Constituent Assembly debates, he was championing the recommendations of his Committee, suggesting that they were equally his views.
It is also possible to argue that Patel did not have any bad intentions, or that he was simply appeasing minorities without considering the repercussions, or that he was too much English in dhoti and kurta or any combination of these or other reasons. That, however, is of no help to the victimised Hindus, battered Hinduism, and shattered Hindu civilization. Nor can that undo the devastation.
Sadly, the supreme sacrifices of crores of our ancestors over 1300 years in defending Hinduism in the face of extreme adversity appear to have been squandered in the 72 years of a flawed Constitution.
In a word, while politically unifying India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel inadvertently paved the way for the evisceration of Hindu civilization. He could have at the very least guaranteed Hindus equal rights with minorities.
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