Lala Lajpat Rai

The Land which is drained by the sweet water of five rivers. The Land which yields golden crops and satiates the hunger of millions. The Land which has braved numerous invasions, has given India, a brave son – Punjab Kesari – The Lion of Punjab – Lala Lajpat Rai. Lala Lajpat Rai was born on 28th January, 1865 to Munshi Radha Krishna Azad and Gulab Devi in Dudhke village of Ferozepur district. He received his initial education in Government Higher Secondary School, Rewari in late 1870s and early 1880s, where his father Radha Krishna was an Urdu teacher.

In 1880, Lalaji joined the government college at Lahore to study law. While in college, he came in contact with patriots and future freedom fighters like Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt. In 1886, his family shifted to Hissar in Haryana and he became a follower of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. In 1892, he moved to Lahore to practice before the high court. The high court responsibilities however, could not stop him from thinking about the miseries of the people. He constantly worked for the improvement of the society. In 1895, he established the Punjab National Bank demonstrating his concern for self-help and enterprise. In 1897, he founded the Hindu Orphan Relief Movement and set up orphanages to keep the Christian missionaries from securing the custody of these children. In 1900, in the National Congress, Lalaji stressed on the importance of constructive nation building activities and programmes on self-reliance.

Gradually, Lalaji curtailed his legal practice and concentrated on activities that would help in the freedom of the nation. To strengthen the spirit of self-reliance the Swadeshi movement was started. This movement broadened its appeal among the middle class and brought forth towering leaders. The most important among them were – Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Maharashtra, Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal, and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab. The three were known as Lal Bal Pal. This alliteration conveyed the all India character of the freedom struggle. These leaders advocated militant opposition to colonial rule.

In 1917, he founded the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York In 1920, after his return from America, Lalaji was invited to preside over a special meeting of Congress in Calcutta. Thus, Lalaji plunged into the Non Cooperation Movement In 1921, Lalaji along with Lala Achint Ram founded the Servants Of People Society in Lahore. It was inaugurated by Gandhiji. Lalaji even donated his own bungalow for this purpose. The Presidents of the Society have been many dignitaries like Purushottam Das Tandon, Balvantray Mehta, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Krishan Kant. The Society runs many educational and charitable institutions for children, women and the underprivileged. In 1928, the British government wanted to vest the Indians with a mild dose of self-governance, but the Indians were not happy with it. The Simon Commission came to decide the fate of Indian self-governance but with no Indian members.  A peaceful procession headed by Lalaji was launched. Many members of the Hindustan Republican Association including Bhagat Singh participated in the march.

Intercepting the march the Superintendent of Police Scott ordered his men to lathicharge. The police targeted Lalaji in particular and hit him on the chest. He died two weeks later. His death was widely attributed to the mental if not physical shock he had suffered due to the lathicharge. Bhagat Singh along with the members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association vowed to avenge the death of Lalaji. Bhagat Singh and his associates Sukhdev and Rajguru plotted the assassination of Scott, but the revolutionaries mistaking J.P Saunders as Assistant Superintendent of Police for Scott killed Saunders instead.

We should feel proud when learning about such revolutionaries. Vande Mataram !

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