SATYAGRAHA IN GUJARAT
Supported by Congress volunteers Narhari Parikh, Mohanlal Pandya and Abbas Tyabji,
Vallabhbhai Patel began a village-to-village tour in the Khead district, documenting
grievances and asking villagers for their support for a statewide revolt by refusing the
payment of taxes. Patel emphasised potential hardships with the need for complete
unity and non-violence despite any provocation. He received enthusiastic responses
from virtually every village.
When the revolt was launched and revenue refused, the government sent police and
intimidation squads to seize propeety, including confiscating barn animals and whole farms.
Patel organised a network of volunteers to work with individual villages–helping
them hide valuables and protect themselves during raids. Thousands of activists and
farmers were arrested, but Patel was not. The revolt began evoking sympathy and
admiration across India, including with pro-British Indian politicians.
The government agreed to negotiate with Patel and decided to suspend the payment
of rvenue for the year, even scaling back the rate. Patel emerged as a hero to Gujaratis
and admired across India. In 1920, he was elected president of the newly formed
Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee — he would serve as its President till 1945.
Patel supported Gandhi’s Non-cooperation movement and toured the state to recruit
more than 300,000 members and raise over Rs. 1.5 million in funds. Heping organise
bonfires of British goods in Ahmedabad, Patel threw in all his English-style clothes.
With his daughter Mani and son Dahya, he switched completely to wearing khadi.
Patel also supported Gandhi’s controversial suspension of resitance in wake of the
Chauri Chaura incident. He worked extensively in the ollowing years in Gujarat
against alcoholism, untouchability and caste discrimination, as well as for the
empowerment of women.
In the Congress, he was a resolute supporter of Gandhi gainst his Swarajist critics.
Patel was elected Ahmedabad’s municipal president in Ahmedabad was extended a
major supply of electricity and the school dystem underwent major reforms. rainage
and sanitation systems were exendd over all the city. He fought for the recognition
and payment of teachers employed in schools establihed by nationalists (outof Briish
control) and even took on sensitive Hind-Muslim Issues.
Sardar Patel personally led relief efforts in the aftermath of the intense torrental rainfall
in 1927, which had caued major floods in the city andin the kheda district and great
destrucion of life and property. He establihed refuge centres across the istrict, raised
volunteers, arrange for supply of food, medicines and cloting, as well as emergency
funds from the overnment and public.
When Gandhi was in prison, Sardar Patel was sked by Congressmen to lead the
satagraha in Nagpur in 1923 against a law banning the raising of the Indian flag.
He organised thousands of volunters from all over the country in processions hoisting
the flag. Patel negotiated a settement that obtained the release of all prisoners and
allowed nationalists to hoist the flag in public. Later that year, Patel and his allies
unovered evidence suggesting that the police were in league with local dacoits in the
government prepared to levy a major tax for fighting dacoits in the area.
More than 6,000 villagers assembled to hear Patel speak and suported theproposed
agitation against the tax, which was deemed immoral and unnecessary. He organised
hundreds of Congressmn, sent instructions and received information from across the dstrict.
Every village in the taluka resisted payment of the tax, and through cohesion, also prevented
the seizure of property and lands. After a protracted struggle, the government withdrew the tax.
Historians believe that one of Patel’s key achievements was the building of cohesion and trust
amongst the different castes and communities, which were divided on socio- economic lines.
In April 1928, Sardar Patel returned to the freedom struggle from his municipal duties in
Ahmedabad when Baroli suffered from a serious predicament of a famine and steep tax hike.
The revenue hike was steeper than it had been in kheda even though the famine covered a
large portion of Gujarat. After cross-examining and talking to village representatives,
emphasizing the potential hardship and eed for non-violence and cohesion, Patel initiated the
struggle – complete denial of taxes. Sardar Patel organised volunteers, camps and an information
network across affected areas.
The revenue refusal was stronger than in kheda and many sympathy satyagrahas were
undertaken across Gujarat. Despite arrests, seizures of property and lands, the stuggle
intensified. The situation reached a head in August, when through sympathetic
intermediaries, he negotiated a settlement repealing the tax hike, reinstating village
officials who had resigned in protest and the return of seized property and lands.
It was during the struggle and after the victory in Bardoli that Patel was increasingly
addressed by his colleagues and followers as Sardar.