Lessons From Sardar Patel: How India Can Prevent the Coming Civil War

Lessons From Sardar Patel: How India Can Prevent the Coming Civil War

Muslims are an oppressive majority and a turbulent minority. Nothing illustrates this adage more starkly than this clip (1) of a handful of policemen running for their lives from a massive mob in Delhi’s Seelampur area. The violent crowd is ostensibly protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) but since Seelampur is a hub of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, it is clear they are intent on burning the country that gives them sustenance.

The officer who falls down while the mob overruns him and his men is Deputy Commissioner of Police Rohit Rajbir Singh. As Rohit falls, one of the officers can be seen stopping to rescue their chief. It is a commendable act under danger as the crazed mob is just metres behind the cops. It is a tribute to their fitness level and their superior Haryanvi physique that they did not get lynched by this largely Bangladeshi mob. Many of these officers were injured, including Rohit, who sustained a head injury and was hospitalised.

The video is both depressing and frightening because it shows there is a section of society that’s ready to riot and kill at the slightest provocation. Not many Indians realise that only a handful of brave police officers stand between them and these mobs.

DCP Rohit Rajbir Singh, an IPS officer, is incidentally the son of the late ACP Rajbir Singh of Delhi Police. ACP Rajbir Singh was one of India’s top terrorist hunters, and among the many cases he cracked (in just 72 hours) was the Red Fort attack of 2000. A few years later when some crooked cops and a sold journalist in Lutyens Delhi teamed up to destroy his career by accusing him of corruption, he told me: “In my career I have eliminated many terrorists, sometimes at point blank range. On several occasions when I had my rifle pointed inches from their forehead and was moments from pulling the trigger, these terrorists had literally begged me to spare them, and offered me millions if I let them escape. I never once accepted these offers.” You get a sense of déjà vu – father and son fighting the same jehadi forces with whom the corrupt and secular forces are colluding. (2)

Holding the country to ransom

Large parts of the country, especially Bengal, Delhi and UP, are burning exactly as they did in the pre-Partition years. Civil unrest is no joke because it has the potential to destroy the peace of the nation and derail economic growth. For the first time in more than a millennium, India has the opportunity to achieve breakthrough growth that could propel it to the status of an OECD country in a couple of decades. But the massive – and in many cases deliberate – destruction of public property such as trains and railway stations impede and push back progress. It needs to be emphasised that the hundreds of private buses, cars and two-wheelers burnt across the country are individual tragedies. Each vehicle burnt is a personal loss. Many small entrepreneurs would have been put out of business; many families would have suffered the anguish of losing their only car or two-wheeler. In the backdrop of the economic slowdown, it’s also harder to recoup such losses.

The irony of the protests against CAA is that the people wanting citizenship or claiming to be citizens are totally prepared to burn down the country in which they want citizenship. This is unheard of anywhere in the world. It can only mean that the anger is directed at the nation – the vandalising of Hindu temples is a pointer to that. (3) (4)

It is in this backdrop that philosopher and nationalist Sri Aurobindo said Hindu-Muslim unity – also known as Hindu secularism – should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Today, when ‘secular’ chief ministers are opening Haj houses and exclusive colleges for Muslims, offering scholarships for Muslim women and banning Durga Puja in neighbourhoods with Muslim pockets, Sri Aurobindo’s words are prophetic.

In 1940 Congress leader Mohandas Gandhi had said: “If 80 million Muslims demand a separate State, what else are the 250 million Hindus to do but surrender? Otherwise there will be civil war.” Sri Aurobindo replied: “If you yield to the opposite party beforehand, naturally they will stick strongly to their claims. It means that the minority will rule and the majority must submit. The minority is allowed its say, ‘We shall be the ruler and you our servants. Our hard [word] will be law; you will have to obey’.” (5)

Referring to the 1916 Lucknow Pact (an agreement reached between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League to allow overrepresentation of religious minorities in the provincial legislatures) Sri Aurobindo said: “The Mahomedans, they want to rule India.”

While significant numbers of Muslims would rather go about their daily life in peace and harmony, there are many who are stuck in the 1940s when Muslims of undivided India dreamt of becoming masters of the subcontinent after the British left. Since Hindus were too strong in number to allow that to happen, the Muslims rioted their way to get Pakistan. However, Ghazwa-e-Hind – or the conquest of India for Islam – is a recurring dream among many subcontinental Muslims, and this is the reason why the Muslims won’t behave like a minority. (6)

How Sardar Patel dealt with civil unrest

Very quickly after independence on August 15, 1947 India faced great danger from communal riots because of the trauma and chaos of Partition. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was made the Deputy Prime Minister in view of the huge task he had to first unify the country and then provide it with a good administration, had hoped that after Partition peace would prevail in India. This was due to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s words to the people of Pakistan that the creation of two new states gave their citizens an opportunity to show the world they could live in peace.

But the situation after Partition turned out to be the exact opposite as the Muslim masses in Pakistan regarded Hindus and Sikhs as enemies and began attacking them in West Punjab. This situation led to religious riots in Amritsar. Some of the refugee Sikhs planned to attack the trains carrying Muslim refugees to Pakistan.

Patel reached Amritsar and spoke to a yellow turbaned Sikh: “I find it difficult to put into word my feelings I do not blame you wanting to take revenge on the Muslims. But you are noble people who carry the sacred kirpan to protect the weak and the helpless. Forgiveness is the mark of the brave.” Thus the Sikhs agreed to allow the Muslim refugees’ train to pass through the following day. (8)

As more Hindu and Sikh refugees arrived in Delhi with tales of atrocities in Punjab and Sindh, Patel took immediate measures to send armed police to Muslim localities as a precaution and warned Hindus and Sikhs that they would be sternly dealt with if they attacked Muslims. Around 10,000 Muslims were taken inside the Red Fort and Patel organised free kitchens for them.

Meanwhile, the Muslims in Delhi had collected all sorts of arms in the mosques and tried to blow up government offices. (9) The Khaksars (equivalent to Muslim brown shirts) had planned to organise and equip the Muslim community with automatic weapons to create chaos in the capital. The riots began in Delhi on August 21, 1947 and spread quickly to other parts of India.

While Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as usual acted like a headless chicken, Patel called in army reinforcements from places like Pune and Chennai. It was a difficult task but Patel managed to bring the situation under control in a few weeks. And unlike today’s Congress politicians, the provincial governments followed Patel’s instructions to deny the rioters any space. (9)

Patel declared that nobody, whether Hindu or Muslim, would be allowed to create disturbances. When some of the Muslims of Delhi took up arms against the country, Patel confiscated a large haul of weapons. Some of the plotters were killed. Patel later displayed a large number of weapons seized by security forces in the Jama Masjid area.

Congress leader Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was unabashedly Islamist, (10) complained to Nehru that Patel was unnecessarily harsh. Both Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi supported his baseless allegations. According to M.C. Bhatt, former Deputy Secretary for Finance, “Nehru’s approach on communal issues was sentimental and he wanted to show the world that in India a Muslim minority was safe with the Hindu majority. Thus he tended to side with Azad. Patel also wanted the Muslim community to feel safe in India but he crushed the anti-national activities of the Muslims.” (11)

Bhatt writes: Patel knew that his measures were opposed by the Muslims, as their loyalty appeared to be towards Pakistan. Gandhi and Nehru appealed to them to regard India as their homeland. But the Muslims were not satisfied. Patel said that those Muslims who wanted to remain in India must think and act as Indians. In a speech at Lucknow, Patel said: “I am a true friend of Muslims, although I am described as their greatest enemy. I want to tell my Muslim community that mere declarations of loyalty to the Indian Union will not help them. They must give practical proof of their loyalty. Those who want to go to Pakistan can go there and live in peace.”

Give the security forces a free hand

The massive disturbances currently being witnessed across India can be attributed to three factors:

  1. Radicalised mobs: There are student protestors from places such as Kerala and UP who have openly displayed their jehadi outlook. Their motivation seems to be hatred of Hindus and India. (12) At the same time, it would be fair to say many ordinary Muslims are misinformed about CAA and feel they may lose their citizenship.
  2. Political parties adding fuel to the fire: According to a report by the Hindustan Times, senior IPS officer O.P. Singh says members of radical Islamic organisations such as the Popular Front of India and its political front, the Social Democratic Party of India, and political parties like the Samajwadi Party are involved in instigating Muslim mobs to indulge in violence against the CAA. (13) (14)
  3. Media fanning the flames: Journalists, Bollywood actors, leftists and seculars can be seen 24/7 on social media, misleading Muslims and the youth about CAA. Actors like Farhan Akhtar and his family as well as other Bollywood players have been hyperactive both on Twitter as well as on the ground, adding to the incendiary mix. In fact, senior IPS officer Sandeep Mittal accused Akhtar of breaking the law when he invited people to join him in the protests in Mumbai. (15)

In the backdrop of influential sections of society practically inviting lumpen elements to bring India to a standstill, it is important that the security forces be given a free hand to restore peace and order. In India where the formal sector is tiny, millions of people depend on daily wages and small independent businesses to feed their families. Think of the millions of children going hungry right now because their parents could not conduct business at the local market or railway station.

Patel did not allow sentimental lotus eaters such as Nehru and Gandhi to interfere in his work. Rajesh Pilot, the late Congress leader, wrote in an article titled ‘Administrative Approach of Sardar Patel’ that granting autonomy to the officials was critical for running a successful administration. Pilot quotes Patel, “The most dangerous thing democracy was to interfere with the services.”

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has shown how to deal with rioters by invoking a national law which allows the state to attach the property of those who destroy public property. This levels the field because many people would think twice before stepping out to burn trains, vehicles and buildings. Karnataka has also declared the police will seize the assets of those who destroy public property.


For generations, ordinary Indians have suffered because of protests and hartals that are called by all sorts of unsavoury groups – political parties, trade unions and religious fundamentalists. For instance, Kerala on average has 90 days of strikes per year. With a preponderance of political parties and minority religious groups, the small southern state is the hartal leader of India. The situation is so comical that the communist parties often call for a hartal in the state where they rule. The upshot: industry has abandoned Kerala because the state is closed virtually every fourth day. Millions of Malayali youth today have two options after graduation – migrate or starve. What the people of ‘God’s Own Country’ endure daily could be India’s dystopian future if the CAA protests become a playbook for antinational groups.

The apocalyptic 1940s when the entire country was ravaged by communal riots could return any time this century as the Muslim population mark nears the 25 per cent mark. It needs to be emphasised that during the pre-Partition riots, the Muslims acted on their own (although sometimes they received support from the scheming British). Unlike today, the Congress party was not supporting the rioters. There were no low-IQ Bollywood actors or the Lutyens media opportunists fanning the flames of hatred. Today all these groups are aligned with radicals and supporting their jehadi agenda. This presents a greater danger to the country as people are being provoked by the tweets and speeches of these groups. If the government shows the leniency exhibited by Nehru and Gandhi, India could see a repeat of Calcutta, Naokhali and Punjab all over again.

Radical section among the Muslim community should be informed that their destiny is inextricably linked to the peace and prosperity of the country. They should avoid being used as bait by the ‘secular’ parties. If there’s civil war, India will of course be the loser, but Muslims will be the biggest losers.


  1. Twitter,
  2. Swarajya Magazine, Ishrat Jahan Case And India’s Encounters’ History From A Specialist’s Point,
  3. Opindia,
  4. TFT Post,
  5. A Selection From Sri Aurobindo’s Writings, Talks And Speeches, Chapter V – 1938-1940: Talks (2nd series)
  6. Tarek Fatah,
  7. A Selection From Sri Aurobindo’s Writings, Talks And Speeches, Chapter I – 1893-1910: Revolutionary Writings
  8. M.C. Bhatt, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Administrator and Statesman, from Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, edited by Ravindra, page 34
  9. M.C. Bhatt, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Administrator and Statesman, from Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, edited by Ravindra, page 35
  11. M.C. Bhatt, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Administrator and Statesman, from Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, edited by Ravindra, page 35
  12. India Today,
  13. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also pointed to the Congress playing guerrilla protests.

Featured Image: India Today

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Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter-terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.