Forgotten Delhi house of Sardar Patel

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BY VIVEK SHUKLA
New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS)
It was from 1, Aurangzeb Road, which is now known as APJ Abdul Kalam Road, that the Iron man of India, Sardar Patel, ensured smooth integration of the troubled domains by not allowing the situation to deteriorate into civil unrest.
Sardar Patel had shifted to Delhi in 1946 when the interim government was formed in 1946 under the prime ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru. Patel was the home minister in the interim government. Once India got freedom, Sardar Patel became the Deputy Prime Minister and retained his Home portfolio as well as the Aurangzeb Road house that he had been occupying since coming to Delhi.
The house was owned by his friend, Banwari Lal. It is said that when he came to Delhi to join the interim government, Banwari Lal requested him to stay at his house. Patel agreed and started living there with his daughter, Manibehn Patel. Patel, who led a simple life, used a small part of the house.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to show that Patel, revered as one of India’s most astute politicians, lived in the house — there is not so much as a plaque that 1, APJ Abdul Kalam Road was once his home.
It is a private house but even that could also be converted into his memorial.
“If Birla House where Gandhiji lived during the last 144 days of his life and 26, Alipore Road where Dr B.R. Ambedkar lived till his death in 1956 can be made their memorials, 1 Aurangzeb Road should also be made the memorial of Sardar Patel,” feels Madan Thapliyal, a veteran writer and former Director of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).
But for Sardar Patel, almost all the top national leaders have dedicated memorials in Delhi. “While the ‘Statue of Unity’ in Gujarat is a fitting memorial to Sardar Patel, Delhi too should have his memorial acknowledging his role in nation building. A statue at Patel Chowk is not sufficient. It is time to do justice to the architect and unifier of modern India,” says noted social worker Pritam Dhaliwal, adding: “Sadly, nobody cleans the statue on a regular basis.”
A senior government official said that when Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, there were some efforts in 2002 to convert 1, Aurangzeb Road into a Sardar Patel memorial. However, the effort could not see the light of day as Banwari Lal’s family was not ready to give the property to build a memorial. Currently, it is occupied by Vipul Khandelwal, grandson of Banwari Lal.
Meanwhile, around 10 km from APJ Kalam Road, things are no better at Metcalfe House at Civil Lines. Here too you will not find any plaque that commemorates Patel’s historic address to Indian Civil Servants on April 21, 1947. That day, in this very Metcalfe House, which was earlier the headquarters of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel spoke to the first batch of Indian Administrative Service officers.
Discussing the importance of Surajya’ with them, Patel talked about the huge responsibilities before them in free India.
“Your predecessors were brought up in the traditions in which they e kept themselves aloof from the common run of the people. It will be your bounden duty to treat the common men in India as your own,” he said on April 21, a date marked ever since as ‘Civil Services Day’.
“Sardar Patel was the life and soul of Indian bureaucracy. It was he who laid down the modern-day IAS institution in place of the Raj-era Indian Civil Services (ICS),” says R.K. Sinha, writer-turned-BJP Rajya Sabha MP, adding: “The least we could do now is to rename Metcalfe House as Sardar Patel Bhawan. Why we are so fond of the name of Metcalfe House?”
In 1999, Badruddin Tyabji, a 1934 batch ICS officer, told this writer at his plush Shanti Nikaten house that Sardar Patel always encouraged honest officers to work fearlessly. His doors were always open for them. “However, he was a very demanding minister. He did not tolerate non-performers.” Badruddin Tyabji also served as Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. His daughter, Laila Tyabji runs Dastkar, a NGO in Delhi.

(The writer is author of Gandhi’s Delhi)

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