The Hero of Bardoli
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Bardoli is a Taluk in Gujarat. The people of this Taluk were in sheer distress, having suffered because of the floods and the famine. But, in this hour of distress, the foreign government raised the revenue taxes by thirty percent. The people did not know what to do. They went to Patel and said, You are our only hope. Said Patel, If you oppose the government your sufferings will multiply. You will lose your lands and houses, The Government will do its best to crush you. You will not have a grain of rice or a drop of milk, and the women and the children will suffer sheer misery. Consider well. If you are confident that you have the grit to face all this, let us fight. We are ready. We will die rather than bow to injustice, said the farmers.First of all, Patel wrote to the Governor, and appealed to him to reduce the taxes. But he turned a deaf ear to Patel. The Government even announced the date of the collection of the taxes.No one shall pay a pie as tax, Patel instructed the farmers. The bugles of war sounded.Patel divided Bardoli District into several zones. Each zone had a center, and a leader and some volunteers manned each center. There were messengers to carry messages from one center to another. Patel also appointed spies to report on the movements of Government officials.We shall use all our powers and crush the agitation, declared the Governor of Bombay. The Government sent ruffians to frighten the villagers.The ruffians would enter villages and beat up the villagers. They used to force their way into houses and carry away grain, goods and money. They insulted the women. But the farmers refused to yield. They did not pay a single pie.The government began to auction the houses and the lands. But not a single man came forward to buy them. Vallabh- bhai had appointed volunteers in every village to keep watch. As soon as he sighted the officials who were coming to auction the property, the volunteer would sound his bugle. The farmers would leave the village and hide in the jungles. The officials would find the entire village empty. They could never find out who owned a particular house.Patel was with the villagers all day and night, and infused courage in them. If you still have a shred of fear, he told them, throw it to the bottom of the well. It is the government which is now frightened, not we.
I, too, am a farmer, said Patel. I know the mind of the farmers. I want that the farmers should be respected and am able to hold their heads erect. I can have peace of mind only when that is achieved.Patel learnt that some rich men were coming from cities to buy the lands of the farmers, which were being auctioned. I am the Sardar (chief) in Gujarat, declared Patel; let them come, I know what to do. There was total social boycott of those who bought the lands. The rich men who had come from, outside could not get a grain of rice or a drop of water, and were glad to escape alive.Sardar Patel Several members of the Bombay Legislative Assembly opposed the unjust policies of the government and resigned. Government, too, lost heart. The peoples agitation triumphed. Vallabhbhai came to be known as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The farmers of Bardoli presented him with an address and praised his greatness and leadership. In reply Patel said: It was Mahatma Gandhi who gave me the herb of Satyagraha. All that I did was to administer the medicine. And you strictly followed that doctors instructions. So all that you have said in praise of me in your address should belong to him and to you; all that remains for me is the blank sheet of paper. The prosperity of the country is in the hands of the youth. Do not forget - in every country it is the young who have won and consolidated freedom, and passed it on to later generations.All India now knew Patel as the Sardar.