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Historians refute Advani's claim that Patel did not want RSS banned.

JASWANT Singh's charge that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel could not be a part of the BJP's core ideology as he banned the RSS has touched a raw nerve. L.K. Advani on Friday said Patel banned the RSS -- in the wake of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination -- only because Jawaharlal Nehru asked him to. But that is a claim eminent historians do not sympathise with.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, elaborating the point made by Advani in the Shimla chintan baithak, said: "Advani ji described Sardar Patel's contribution to the unification of more than 700 principalities into the Indian state as a superhuman effort. Jaswant Singh has tried to denigrate it. Jaswant Singh said the RSS was banned by Sardar Patel. But Advani ji pointed out that Patel banned the RSS because Nehru asked him to. And within a month, he wrote to Nehru saying the RSS had nothing to do with Gandhi's assassination."

Advani's assertion was an attempt to reclaim Patel as part of Sangh Parivar's pantheon of venerated national leaders. The BJP has carried out a sustained campaign to appropriate Patel, with both Advani and Narendra Modi revelling in references to themselves as 'Loh Purush' and 'Chhote Sardar' respectively. But many historians do not agree with Advani. "What Advani is saying is part of the RSS's quest for nationalist ancestors. Because they do not have such icons of their own, they try to appropriate them. But Patel was a

staunch follower of Gandhi. He had no truck with the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha or any variety of Hindu nationalists. And there is no question of him taking directions from Nehru. He banned the RSS because he felt there was sufficient reason for it," said Mridula Mukherjee, director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

According to Bipan Chandra, it is "slanderous" for Advani to suggest that Patel was taking directions from Nehru. "Patel was very much his own person. He would never have done something that his conscience did not allow just because Nehru wanted it done. It is also wrong and inappropriate for the RSS to appropriate Gandhi and Patel," said Chandra. Historian Irfan Habib said while Patel did say there may be no direct evidence to link the RSS with Gandhi's assassination, he also blamed the RSS for creating the atmosphere for it. "We must keep in mind that Patel was home minister through a very difficult period," he said. "The problem with these people is that they are more concerned with the Partition than with Independence."

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Aug 22, 2009
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