Dear Brij Mohan,

I also feel happy that the announcement of June 3 at least settles things one way or the other. There is no further uncertainty. I quite agree that Bengal leadership is very problematic, but that is a question largely for Bengalis to solve. I do not think it will be possible to consider Hindustan as a Hindu State with Hinduism as the State religion. We must not forget that there are other minorities whose protection is our primary responsibility. The State must exist for all, irrespective of caste or creed.

Yours Sincerely
Vallabhbhai Patel
June 10, 1947

India is one and indivisible

…The Congress had pledged to rid the country of foreign domination; and, after making considerable sacrifices and bearing prolonged sufferings, it has now succeeded. But the Congress has also strived for United India and a union of all communities. Unfortunately, it could not lay claim to success on that count. This was due to factors beyond its control. Their joy on August 15 would have been fuller and greater had not India been divided! I would make no efforts to explain away the responsibility of the Congress to divide the country. We took these extreme steps after great deliberation. In spite of my previous strong opposition to partition, I agreed to it because I was convinced that in order to keep India united it must be divided now. My experience in office during the past year showed that it was impossible to do anything constructive with the Muslim League in. The League Representatives during their continuance in office did nothing but to create deadlocks and their role was entirely an obstructionist one. Besides, I found that the Muslims, save for a few exceptions, engaged in all capacities in the Government, were with the Muslim League. Thus the rot that had set in could not be permitted to prolong any longer except at the risk of a disaster for the whole country.

Indeed, at one stage, things had become so bad that with the killings at Calcutta riots spread all over and it became a perilous adventure for Hindus and Muslims to visit one another’s localities. The economic life of the country was paralysed and there was little security of life or property. The only way out of the sickening situation the Congress realized, lay in the elimination of the third party-the British Power. The British, on their part, declared that they would quit by June 1948. But the period was long. Also their Statement promising to hand over power to the authorities in the Provinces gave rise to a vigorous effort to dislodge the Ministries in Assam, the Punjab and the Frontier Province. The League succeeded in the Punjab. Even though they failed in the Frontier Province and Assam, the League movement caused great misery and bloodshed. In order to settle the issue immediately and prevent the slaughter of innocent people, the Congress decided to agree to the division of the country and demanded the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. This was no surrender to the League threats or the policy of appeasement. Today the partition of India is a settled fact and yet it is an unreal fact! I hope, however, that partition would remove the poison from the body politic of India….

India is one and indivisible. One cannot divide a sea or split the running waters of a river. The Muslims have their roots in India. Their sacred places and their cultural centres are located in India. I do not know what would they do in Pakistan and it would not be long when they would like to return. Despite the division, it must be remembered, we have 80 per cent of the country with us which is a compact unit with great potentialities. The main task before India today is to consolidate herself into a well-knit and united power…. The need of the hour is to increase the wealth of the country and this can only be done by putting in more and more work and thus increasing production. This necessitates preservation of peace in the country. For one year now, there has been disorder in the country. Now that Pakistan has been established, there should be no more fights between Hindus and Muslims. If, unfortunately, there would be a recurrence of strife, it would not be the cowardly killings of innocent people, but it would be between two armies of the two States…. India has nothing but goodwill towards all. But if her safety is endangered she must have strength to defend herself; and, for that, people must work hard.

Delhi, 11 August 1947

Why should not a member of any community be the Prime Minister of this country?

There is no place here for those who claim separate representation. Separate representation, when it was introduced in this unfortunate country, was introduced not by the demand of those who claim to have made those demands, but as Maulana Mohammad Ali once said, it was a “command performance” that has fulfilled its task and we have all enjoyed the fruits of it! Let us now, for the first time, have a change of chapter in the history of this country and have a “consent performance”. I want the consent of this House and the consent of all the minorities to change the course of history. I hope and trust that the step that we are taking today is the step which will change the face, the history and the character of our country.… For a community to think that its interests are different from that of the country in which it lives, is a great mistake. Assuming that we agreed today to the reservation of seats, I would consider myself to be the greatest enemy of the Muslim community because of the consequences of that step in a secular and democratic State. You have a separate interest. Here is a Ministry or a Government based on joint responsibility, where people who do not trust us, or who do not trust the majority cannot obviously come into the Government itself. Accordingly, you will have no share in the Government. You will exclude yourselves and remain perpetually in a minority. What advantage will you gain? You perhaps still think that there will be some third power who will use its influence to put the minority against the majority and compel the majority to take one or two Ministers according to the proportion of the population. It is a wrong idea. That conception in your mind which has worked for many years must be washed off altogether.

Here we are a free country; here we are a sovereign State; here we are a sovereign Assembly; here we are moulding our future according to our own free will.… I remember that the gentlemen who moved the motion here last time, in August 1947, when asking for separate electorates, I believe, said that the Muslims today were a very strong, well-knit and a well-organised minority. Very good! A minority that could force the partition of the country is not a minority at all. Why do you think that you are a minority? If you are a strong, well-knit and well-organised minority, why do you want to claim safeguards, why do you want to claim privileges? It was all right when there was a third party; but that is all over. That dream is a mad dream and it should be forgotten altogether. Never think about that and do not imagine that anybody will come here to hold the scales and manipulate them continuously. All that is gone. So the future of a minority, any minority, is to trust the majority.

…It will be a misfortune to this country if the majority does not realise its own responsibility. If I were a member of a minority community I would forget that I belong to a minority community. Why should not a member of any community be the Prime Minister of this country? Why should not Mr Nagappa, who today challenges the brahmin be so. I am glad to hear that the ownership of 20 acres of land does not entitle him to be a scheduled caste man. “That is my privilege;” he said, “because I am born a scheduled caste man. You have first to be born in the scheduled caste.” It gladdened my heart immensely that that young man had the courage to come before the House and claim the privilege of being born in the scheduled caste. It is not a dishonour; he has an honourable place in this country. I want every scheduled caste man to feel that he is superior to a brahmin; or, let us say: I want every scheduled caste man and the brahmin to forget that he is a scheduled caste man or a brahmin respectively and that they are all equal and the same.…

Now the other case is that of the Sikhs. I have always held the Sikh community in considerable respect, regard and admiration. I have been their friend even though sometimes they disclaimed me. On this occasion also, I did advise them that if they insisted, I would give it to them and induce the Committee to agree. But I do feel that this is not in their interests. It is for them to decide. I leave it to them. To ask for this concession for the scheduled caste Sikhs does not reflect credit on the Sikh community. They are not people who keep kirpans. They are a different lot. But to keep a kirpan or a sword and to entertain fear is inconsistent. This may react to your cause. I do not grudge this concession to the Sikhs. I will ask the Sikhs to take control of the country and rule. They may be able to rule because they have the capacity, they have the resources and they have also the necessary courage. In any field, either agriculture, engineering or the army, i.e., in any walk of life, you have proved your mettle. Why do you think low of yourself? That is why I am asking the Scheduled Castes also to forget that they are Scheduled Castes. Although it is difficult for them to forget it, it is not difficult for the Sikhs to do so. Therefore, when you acknowledge with gratefulness the concession that we have given, I am grateful to you.

In this country, we want an atmosphere of peace and harmony now not of suspicion but of trust. We want to grow. India today is suffering from want of blood. It is completely anaemic. Unless you put blood into its veins, even if we quarrel about concessions or reservations, we may get nothing. We have to build up this country on solid foundations. As I told you, I was trembling on the day I was appointed as Chairman of this Committee, but I felt proud and today also I feel proud and I hope the House will feel proud that we are able to bring about almost unanimity in removing the past blots in our Constitution (Hear, Hear) and to lay, with the grace of God and with the blessings of the Almighty, the foundations of a true secular democratic State, where everybody has an equal chance. Let God give us the wisdom and the courage to do the right thing to all manner of people.

26 May 1949

Excerpted with permission from A Plain, Blunt Man: The Essential Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, edited by Urvish Kothari, Aleph Book Company.