New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday raked up the anti-Sikh violence that followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi this day 30 years ago and said it was a "dagger" in the centuries-old fabric of India's unity as he dedicated the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as National Unity Day.
Got up as an event to accord Sardar Patel, the 'Iron Man of India', his place in history, the Government said it was not an attempt to belittle the contribution of any other leader.
Flagging off run for unity on the 139th birth anniversary of the first Home Minister of the country celebrated as "Rashtriya Ekta Divas", Modi noted that the day was being commemorated as death anniversary of Indira Gandhi but made a veiled reference to the anti-Sikh riots that followed her assassination.
Modi said Patel devoted his life for the unity of the Nation and it was unfortunate that "our very own people" were killed on his birth anniversary 30 years ago.
"...In the same country, 30 years ago, on the birth anniversary of the same leader something happened which cast a blow to the unity of the nation.
"Hamare apne logon ko maut ke ghaat utar diya gaya (our own people were killed on that day. That incident was not a wound in the heart of any community. It was a dagger in the centuries-old fabric of India's unity," he said.
"Patel never deviated from his vision of national unity despite facing obstacles in his political life. It is a misfortune of this country that 30 years ago on the birth anniversary of such a leader an incident which shook the unity of nation took place," Modi said.
Paying tributes to Patel's contribution to the integration and unity of the country, the Prime Minister said, "Let us not forget that a nation that disregards its history can never create one...Don't divide history, legacy in narrow confines of ideology."
The Modi government recently decided that it would be involved in commemoration of birth and death anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel while leaving it to trusts and societies to mark the memory of other leaders.
Government had also decided that no memorials will be built in memory of other leaders.
Remembering the contribution of Patel in the Independence movement, Modi said Mahatma Gandhi had entrusted him with planning of the historical Dandi march which he successfully did.
"When we see Ramakrishna Paramhans he appears to be incomplete without Swami Vivekananda. Similarly when we see Mahatma Gandhi, he also appears incomplete without Sardar Patel," he said.
Modi also compared Patel with Chanakya, saying, "The country can never forget Sardar Patel. Centuries ago, Chanakya conducted a successful experiment of establishing a strong set up by uniting small princely states.
"Post Independence, the same great work was done by the man whose birth anniversary we are celebrating today, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel," he said.
"It is unfortunate that the man who dedicated his life for the unity of India, faced criticisms and opposition, suffered hurdles in his political career but was never deterred from his goal of uniting the country," the PM said.
Modi said Sardar Patel unified the country through his skill, vision and patriotism.
Recalling his role in uniting the entire country after partition, Modi said "Sardar Patel demolished Britishers' plan to divide India in many small regions. He single handedly merged all 550 regions with the country."
Earlier welcoming the Prime Minister, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, "Had Sardar Patel been the first Prime Minister of the country, history would have been different. This is how many people feel."
He also said the celebration was not aimed at belittling the contribution of any other political leader.
Sangh has always felt that successive governments had held the contribution of Jawahar Lal Nehru and those of the Nehru-Gandhi family in higher regard over others.
As soon as he flagged off the run, participants asked the Prime Minister to lead them and he led the run for some distance.
Sports personalities Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh, Virendra Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were among those who participated in the run.
Flanked by Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj, Naidu, Arun Jaitely among others, the Prime Minister administered the oath of unity to participants
Modi also offered floral tributes to the statue of Sardar Patel at Patel Chowk which was decked up for the occasion.