The High Commission of India in New Zealand celebrated Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) at the High Commission’s offices in Wellington on 27 October.

The day marks the birth anniversary of Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, independent India’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister – who was endearingly known as Sardar Patel – which falls on 31 October.

This year’s observance of the day was special, as it is part of the yearlong global celebrations of the seventy-fifth anniversary of India’s independence, termed Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

A small group of Indian community leaders and association heads was hosted by the High Commission to pay tributes to the great contributions of Sardar Patel, most significant being the amalgamation of some 565 Princely States into the newly formed Union of India following independence in 1947.    

The event, which was held with all Alert Level 2 protocols in place, saw several guests pay tributes to Sardar Patel and the importance of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas. The common refrain was that the message of unity is the demand of the hour and urged everyone to follow Sardar Patel’s vision of oneness and unity in achieving the goal of universal peace and wellbeing. 

High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi interacted with all the community leaders and listened to their ideas and views, and acknowledged the presence of the strong and vibrant Indian diaspora in New Zealand, also appreciating their role in cementing the relationship between India and New Zealand.

A similar function to celebrate Rashtriya Ekta Diwas will be held in Auckland.

The country’s first Deputy Prime Minister 1947 till his passing in 1950, he oversaw India’s transformation into a republic on 26 January 1950, celebrated every year as Republic Day. He was an Indian barrister and a senior leader of the Indian National Congress who played a leading role in the country's struggle for independence and guided its integration into a united, independent nation.

Psardar atel was born in Nadiad, Kheda district, Gujarat. A successful lawyer, he was one of Mahatma Gandhi's earliest political lieutenants. He was appointed as the 49th President of Indian National Congress, organising the party for elections in 1934 and 1937 while promoting the Quit India Movement.

His commitment to national integration in the newly independent country was total and uncompromising, earning him the sobriquet ‘Iron Man of India’. The Statue of Unity, the world's tallest statue, was dedicated to him on 31 October 2018 and is approximately 182 metres (597 ft) in height.