KEVADIA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday suggested building a "virtual museum" near the Statue of Unity in Gujarat in the memory of the erstwhile royals, who had "sacrificed" their princely states for the unity of India under Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
While unveiling the 182-metre-tall statue of the country's first home minister here in Narmada district of Gujarat, Modi said, "A virtual museum should be constructed near the statue to honour the sacrifice of the former rulers of over 550 princely states that were annexed to India."
The giant Statue of Unity, built on an islet -- Sadhu Bet -- near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty in the US and taller than the 153-metre Spring Temple Buddha in China.
"We should not forget the sacrifice made by the then rulers of these princely states, who agreed to merge their states with India by honouring a call given by Sardar Patel for the unification of the country.
"I dream that a virtual museum of the then rulers of over 550 princely states be set up near this statue. They had taken an initiative for the country's unity. This (museum) will help the next generation understand (their sacrifice). These rulers gave all their assets to the nation. We should also remember them," Modi said.
Hailing the "sacrifice" made by the royals, he added that even a democratically elected president of a tehsil was reluctant nowadays to step down before the completion of his term and such a demand resulted into a "political storm".
"Today, if you ask a democratically elected president of a tehsil to step down a year before the end of his tenure, there will be a huge (political) storm. On the other hand, these rulers gave away their ancestral assets that had been accumulated over centuries to the nation," Modi said.
Former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela had written a letter to the prime minister, suggesting a dedicated museum for the former rulers of the princely states, "who had sacrificed their kingdoms for the unity of India", near the Statue of Unity.
Vaghela thanked Modi for "accepting" his proposal.
The former Congress leader had also suggested that a ceremony should be held in Delhi to felicitate the surviving family members of the rulers of the erstwhile princely states.
"Thank you very much, PM Narendra Modi, for accepting the proposal from my letter to you regarding the museum of Rajwadas who strengthened the dream of united India by giving their kingdom and I wish that you may invite them to Delhi and have a reception for honouring their families there," Vaghela said in a tweet.
Vallabhbhai Patel, the first home minister of Independent India, is credited with merging 550 princely states with the Union of India.
He had used force to annex the princely states of Junagadh, ruled by the Nawab, and Hyderabad, ruled by the Nizam, both of whom did not want their states to merge with India.