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Manibehn: A Great Daughter of the Great Sardar

Manibehn Vallabhbhai Patel was one of those few great and brave Indian women who with a sense of sacrifice and service came on the forefront of national freedom movement of India in the Gandhian era [1918-42].

Born in April, 1903 in a Patel-Patidar Community of Karamsad village of Kaira district, Gujarat Manibehn had the unique combination of simplicity, service, honesty, faith and devotion in her personality. She was the only daughter of Sardar Patel, the Ironman as well as the Maker of United India.

Manibehn’s education started from the Queen Mary’s school, Mumbai and from there in 1917 she was admitted to the Government High School, Ahmedabad. But with the establishment of Gujarat Vidyapeeth by Gandhiji in 1920, she joined it and successfully completed her graduation from here. 

Inspired by the teaching of Gandhiji, in 1918 at the age of just 15, she started taking part in activities relating to national liberation movement of India and in constrictive works started by the Mahatma. She used to visit the Sabarmati Ashram regularly and besides helping people in daily routines of the Ashram, rendered services required for conduction of different activities pertaining to the Kaira Satyagraha. Further, she participated in Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movement [1920], Bardoli Satyagraha [1928] and Civil Disobedience Movement [1930]. For, she was imprisoned many times. Along with Kasturba Gandhi she was arrested in Rajkot in 1939 in course of Satyagraha demanding peoples’ rights and freedom from the Ruler of the State. Likewise, Manibehn was a part of Individual Satyagraha [1940] and Quit India Movement [1942] respectively. The total period of her imprisonment was twelve years.                   

Along with this, since 1930 Manibehn Patel became active in all the constructive programmes started from time-to-time by Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel.  Her endeavours and work in saving the people of Borsad from the Plague in 1935 remained exemplary. Similarly after the freedom of the country, the services rendered by her as a member of the Managing Committees of the Central Social Welfare Board [1953-8], and the Western Railways Reform Board [1953-61], and as a lifelong trustee of the Kasturba Memorial Trust, Indore, the Kasturba Memorial Maternity Home, Kaira and the Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad also remained exemplary.        

   Throughout her life, while leading a life of a virgin Manibehn Patel not only helped her great father, the Sardar, in all his national work, but cared for his life and work. She protected Vallabhbhai from the kind of embarrassment that so many Chief Ministers, weakened Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers have suffered on account of weak-minded or unscrupulous personal secretaries or assistants. For, G. V. Mavlankar, the first Speaker of Lok Sabha had said, “India will ever remain grateful to her, as she was serving India through her service to her father.”  

Moreover, she also managed the daily routine of the Sardar and working as the secretary to him kept a record of thousands of documents, letters and information that were related to the life and works of the Sardar and also to the series of events pertaining to national liberation movement of India in the Gandhian era, which is indeed a priceless treasure of Indian history today.

Besides becoming a CWC member and Treasurer of the Indian National Congress in 1950, Manibehn Vallabhbhai Patel was several times elected to both the Houses of Parliament–Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha between 1952 and 1980. In 1988 at the age of 85, she passed away in Ahmedabad. In his rich tribute to Manibehn, N. G. Ranga had pointed out, “India owes a debt of gratitude to the silent but iron-willed daughter of the Sardar, for her exemplary public spirit, integrity and loyalty…” She was a great daughter of the great Sardar.

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