At the concluding ceremony of a function to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai at his birthplace, Dhudike in this district, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal spoke less about him and more about the contributions of his own Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the freedom struggle.
“I am happy and proud to serve a party that remained in the forefront of the freedom movement and continued to protect the interests of farmers and poor people even later. You can’t compare any other party with us,” he told the gathering. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Kamal Sharma and industries and commerce minister Madan Mohan Mittal also paid tributes to the legendary freedom fighter at his memorial, after which Sukhbir laid the foundation stones of projects worth more than `10 crore at the village.
Punjab jails minister Sohan Singh Thandal and agriculture minister Tota Singh were also present, but nobody from the Union government came to the state-level function. “Like Lala Lajpat Rai Ji, the SAD as well was not behind in making sacrifices for the country in its difficult times,” said Sukhbir, adding: “When the rights of people were snatched away during Emergency in 1975, we the first party to launch an agitation.”
Recalling his recent visit to the old jail at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he said: “I imagined the plight in which our freedom fighters might have spent their difficult times there. Their names were on a wall. More than 80% belonged to Punjab and more than 85% of prisoners hanged to death there were also Punjabi. No wonder we are called ‘Shaheedan di Quam (community of martyrs).”
Later, the deputy CM laid the foundation stones of three projects at the village — an auditorium worth Rs 5 crore; a hockey Astroturf worth Rs 3.5 crore at Desh Bhagat Stadium; and the widening of the road link to the National Highway-95 via Churhchak. He announced that Ajitwal would be made a sub-tehsil and a library built at Lalaji’s memorial. He also sanctioned Rs 20 lakh for Dhudike’s Radha Krishna School.
Lala Lajpat Rai, popular as Punjab Kesari, was born on January 28, 1865, at Dhudike. As a leader in the freedom movement, he sustained serious injuries in a police lathicharge on peaceful protesters opposing Simon Commission and died within three weeks of it, on November 17, 1928.
Non-indian resident (NRI) Jagjeet Singh Gill Rana, a member of Lala Lajpat Rai Birthplace Committee (LLRBC), expressed resentment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not come to the function. “Had the PM arrived,” he said, “we could have raised issues regarding the development of the village.”