“We all villagers want to tell you with extreme grief that we will not welcome you on October 31. Even if you come here like an unwanted guest, you are not welcome here.”
This excerpt from an open letter by headmen of 22 villages near the Sardar Sarovar Dam to Prime Minister brings out the irony behind the idea of building world’s tallest statue for India’s Iron Man, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Built at a whopping cost of ₹2900 crore that came from the government and public sectors firms which doled out sums from their CSR budgets, the statue has irked the tribals from the neighbouring villages who are bracing for a shutdown on the day of its inauguration. The local leaders cite destruction of natural resources and land acquisition due to memorial as reasons for their boycott of the grand inaugural function.
The irony lies in the fact that the statue has managed to irk the very people Sardar Patel spent his life working for. Patel earned the title of Sardar while fighting for the rights of tribals against the British during the Kheda Satyagraha and now the tribals from land he belonged are standing in unity against the his Statue of unity. But why shouldn’t the tribals protest for what they allege to be a wastage of public money on a statue when they lack in basic facilities like schools, hospitals, etc.
“…the tribal community believes in very peaceful and harmonious co-existence but, if somebody tries to harm and cause damage to their natural resources, they do no shy away from fighting for their rights”, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann ki Baat on October 28, three days before the inauguration. Ironically, proving him right the tribals are in fact fighting for their rights against him.
But the irony does not just end here…
The statue is called Statue of Unity representative of Patel’s belief in unity of this diverse nation for which he worked relentlessly day and night. It seems ironical that the state where the statue stands today, the state of Sardar Patel is witnessing exodus of migrants fearing their safety, a direct attack to its unity. Thousands of migrants have moved out of the state in the past one month after a rape of minor, allegedly by a migrant. Thousands bore the brunt of one person’s crime for they happened to be a Hindi speaking minority from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
“Every Indian should now forget that he is a Rajput, a Sikh or a Jat. He must remember that he is an Indian and he has every right in this country but with certain dues.”, said Patel but ironically enough for quite some time it is this identity of the people that has been at the core of the issues in the recent past. Hindu, Musalmaan, Sikh, Chrisitian, SC/ST, Dalit, Hindi speaking, Non- Hindi speakers, Jat, Patel, Maratha, Gurjara, Rajput…we have become all this but not the “Indian” that Sardar Patel wished for.
Murmurs around the exorbitant price of the statue are also making some headlines. Approximately 3000 crore have been spent on the statue, amount equivalent to the “new” cost of two Rafale aircrafts. The statue’s inauguration will be an informal inauguration to PM Modi’s re-election campaign, who in 2014 general election appealed to the farmers to donate their used farm implements for the construction of this statue that would remind the country of Patel’s devotion to unity of this country and farmers of this nation. It’s ironical that the statue that stands today glitters with Chinese imported bronze not the farmers’ iron!
The statue, the tallest in the world, is no doubt an engineering marvel but is it really a tribute to the man it represents. Real tribute to Patel would have been agri-market reforms for the farmers who today suffer low prices of farm produce, high input costs and farm loans that are expected to reach the 2.7 lakh crore mark before the 2019 elections. Real tribute to Patel would have been action against those who have taken law in their hands targeting minorities be it religious or linguistic to ensure their safety in this united country. Real tribute would have been to build an India that Patel envisaged and not build a multi-crore Patel.