Justice Markandey Katju
On Wednesday 31st October, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the almost 600 feet ( 182 meters ) tall statue of Sardar Patel, ( called Statue of Unity ) reputedly the tallest in the world, 4 times as tall as the Statue of Liberty in New York, built at a huge cost of about Rs 3000 crores or 480 million dollars
Patel, former Deputy Prime Minister of India, on whose 193rd birth anniversary the statue was unveiled, is called the Great Unifier and the Iron Man of India, because he is said to have abolished the princely states and made them part of India after 1947, and was reputedly a strong administrator.
But I look upon him differently.
I regard Partition of India in 1947, which resulted in over 500,000 horrible deaths and millions being displaced, as the greatest crime against India in its 5000-year-old history. It was a historical British swindle, based on the bogus two nation theory, and the culmination of the nefarious British divide and rule policy (see my article ‘ The Truth about Pakistan ‘ and B.N.Pande’s ‘History in the service of Imperialism’ online ) whose terrible effects we are still suffering today. Therefore, all Indian political leaders of that time who agreed to it, Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru and Patel, are in my eyes criminals whom Indian history will never forgive and will condemn one day. Should statues be erected in honor of these persons?
India and Pakistan are really one country. We were one since Mughal times ( in fact the Mughal Empire even included Afghanistan ). We share the same culture, look like each other, and speak a common language Hindustani (called Hindi in India and Urdu in Pakistan). When I meet Pakistanis I feel no different from them, and when Indians and Pakistanis meet in foreign countries they socialize as if Partition had never taken place.
Partition did not merely result in the killings and displacement of large number of people in 1947. It had long term effects. Because of it people of our subcontinent are still poor and suffer from a host of problems like massive unemployment and malnourishment, widespread farmers distress (which has resulted in over 300,000 farmers suicides in India till date), almost total lack of healthcare and good education for our masses, atrocities on minorities etc. Let me explain this.
If we had remained united under a strong secular modern minded govt by now we would have emerged as a world industrial giant like China, since we have a huge pool of thousands of bright engineers and scientists ( many of whom are manning Silicon Valley in America or are professors in science, math, and engineering departments in Western countries ) , as well as immense natural resources, and then our people would have enjoyed a high standard of living like Westerners.
But instead we are still poor and bogged down in religious communalism and casteism, and our priorities are building Ram Mandir, ghar wapasi, and cow protection ( including lynching of Muslims ) in India, and terrorizing Ahmadis and minorities in Pakistan.
We are so industrially backward that we had to buy the bronze cladding used in the statue of Patel from China, since our own foundries do not know how to make it.
We spend billions of dollars on buying foreign arms (India is the biggest purchaser of foreign arms in the world) in view of the permanently hostile relations between India and Pakistan, and this expenditure is a heavy drain on the meagre resources of our poor countries (though no doubt it increases the profits of foreign arms manufacturers). Much of this money could have gone on the welfare of our people.
India was, and still is, a semi-feudal country. In feudal and semi-feudal countries there is latent communalism in society since religion is a powerful force. This communalism could have been destroyed or considerably reduced by rapid industrialization, which would have definitely taken place in a united India under a strong secular modern minded Indian Government, which while upholding religious freedom would not have tolerated religious extremism and bigotry, and crushed it with an iron hand.
But Partition resulted in increasing communalism, by bringing the latent communalism in our society to the surface, thereby exacerbating it. This impedes our progress, since many Hindus and Muslims regard each other as enemies, and so we fight with each other, instead of regarding poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, lack of healthcare and good education as the common enemy and unitedly fighting against them.
So, all those who had a hand in Partition, including Patel, did enormous damage to India. Why then should we erect statues in their honor?
We are so industrially backward that the bronze cladding used in the statue of Patel had to be bought from China, since our own foundries do not know how to make it.
We spend billions of dollars buying foreign arms in view of the permanently hostile relations between India and Pakistan, money which should be spent on the welfare of our people.
And our progress is greatly impeded because Hindus and Muslims still regard each other as enemies, instead of joining hands and fighting the common enemy which is poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, and lack of healthcare and good education.
So why should statues be erected for those who agreed to partition, which has led us into this morass ?
Unless the whole object is to benefit in the coming Parliamentary elections.
[Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are his own]