Lala Lajpat Rai: Valiant hero of freedom quest - Hindustan Times
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Lala Lajpat Rai: Valiant hero of freedom quest

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Nov 22, 2019 04:50 PM IST

This nationalist leader played a vital role in India’s independence movement. Popularly known as Punjab Kesari or the Lion of the Punjab, he was also a prominent member of the ‘Lal Bal Pal’ trio which included Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal.

Born on January 28, 1865 to Munshi Radha Krishan Agrawal and Gulab Devi Agrawal, in Dhudike, Punjab. Lajpat Rai attended the Government Higher Secondary School in Rewari where his father was teaching Urdu.

Lala Lajpat Rai founded the Indian Home Rule League in New York and launched a monthly journal, Young India as well as the Hindustan Information Services Association.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)
Lala Lajpat Rai founded the Indian Home Rule League in New York and launched a monthly journal, Young India as well as the Hindustan Information Services Association.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)

EDUCATION & CAREER

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In 1880, he began a law course at the Government College, Lahore, where he met Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt. He was influenced by Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s Hindu reformist movement and by Italian revolutionary leader Giuseppe Mazzini. Rai joined the Arya Samaj, Lahore, and became the founder editor of Arya Gazette.

In 1886, he moved to Hisar and started practising law. He was the founder member of the Bar Council of Hisar and Hisar district branch of the Indian National Congress. In 1888 and 1889, he was a delegate from Hisar to attend the annual session of the Indian National Congress in Allahabad. He also took up journalism and contributed articles to several newspapers such as The Tribune. In 1914, he quit practising law and focused on India’s freedom struggle.

PATRIOTISM

Due to his involvement with the Indian National Congress and participation in the political agitation in Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai was deported to Mandalay in Burma without trial in 1907. He returned the same year when the viceroy, Lord Minto, failed to produce evidence to further detain him for subversion. He founded the National College at the Bradlaugh Hall in Lahore and enrolled Bhagat Singh as a student. In 1920, Lala Lajpat Rai was elected president of the Indian National Congress. In a travelogue that he penned in 1916, he narrated his experiences during a tour of the United States where he took the opportunity to meet representatives of the Sikh community.

Rai urged many powerful countries to realise the atrocious subjugation of India under the British rule. He went to Britain in 1914 and was in the USA from 1917 to 1920. He founded the Indian Home Rule League in New York and launched a monthly journal, Young India as well as the Hindustan Information Services Association.

Rai wrote a 32-page petition to the Foreign affairs committee of US Senate in which he highlighted the maladministration of the British Raj and sought the international community’s moral support for the freedom movement in India. He believed that India needed Purna Swaraj (complete independence). He was in jail from 1921 to 1923 and, after his release, was elected to the legislative assembly.

The Simon Commission

In 1928, the British government set up the Simon Commission, without any Indian member, to discuss constitutional reforms in India. The step agitated the people and the Indian political parties boycotted the commission. When the Commission visited Lahore on October 30, 1928, Rai led non-violent march to protest the commission but sustained severe head injuries during an assault by the police official James Scott. Refusing to buckle down, the freedom fighter said, “I declare that the blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India.” Rai did not recover from the blows received during the protest and died on November 17, 1928 following a heart attack. Doctors believed that the assault by Scott had led to his death.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. While the British Parliament refused to accept any role in the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, revolutionaries Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and their associates, however, vowed to avenge his death. They plotted to assassinate James Scott, the British official who led the attack on Lala Lajpat Rai’s protest march but ended up shooting another official, JP Saunders, after mistaking him for Scott.

2. Lala Lajpat Rai frequently contributed to several major Hindi, Punjabi, English and Urdu newspapers and magazines. He had authored many books that includes The Story of My Deportation (1908), Arya Samaj (1915), Unhappy India (1928), England’s Debt to India (1917) and Young India: An Interpretation and a History of the Nationalist Movement from Within (1916).

3. In 1927, Lala Lajpat Rai established a trust named after his mother Gulab Devi to run a tuberculosis hospital for women in Lahore, Pakistan where his mother had died of the same disease.

SOURCE: Wikipedia, Culturalindia.net

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