- Rehan Fazal
- bbc correspondent
After the departure of Lord Curzon, who was the Viceroy of India during the British rule, around 1925, a large section of those who loudly raised the demand for independence emerged in the whole of India. Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab were leading it. Later on, they came to be known as ‘Garam Dal’.
Together they campaigned to increase the use of indigenous goods and boycott foreign goods, especially foreign clothes in India. The success of the campaign can be gauged from the fact that when Lieutenant Governor of East Bengal, Lancelot Hare, expressed his desire to buy cloth made in Manchester in Barisal, he was told that for this he should contact Ashwani Kumar Dutta, a nationalist leader in East Bengal. Permission has to be taken.
When chanting of ‘Bande Mataram’ in public was banned in Bengal, it was strongly opposed in Punjab. Lala Lajpat Rai was leading it.
In the coming days, Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab became strongholds of opposition to the British and their leaders Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai were given the title of ‘Lal-Bal-Pal’.
major role in famine relief
In 1882, at the age of 17, Lala Lajpat Rai started doing social service as soon as he became a member of the Arya Samaj. Together with Swami Dayanand Saraswati, he made Arya Samaj popular in Punjab. He also promoted Dayanand Anglovedic (DAV) schools.
In 1896, when there was a severe famine in central India, news came to the fore of Christian missionaries trying to convert a large number of people in that area to Christianity. Lala Lajpat Rai started a campaign for the children orphaned in the famine. He brought about 250 orphan children from Jabalpur and Bilaspur region to Punjab and gave them shelter in orphanages.
Apart from being a social reformer, Lalaji was also a good writer. He wrote biographies of Italian politicians Mazzini and Garibaldi in Urdu. It was Lala Lajpat Rai who started publishing an Urdu weekly ‘Vande Mataram’ and an English weekly ‘The People’.
deported to Burma
After becoming a member of Congress and participating in political activities in Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai was expelled from the country and sent to Burma (present-day Myanmar). Lalaji was sent there by a special train in which all the windows were closed. He was not treated well in jail.
Dr. Lal Bahadur Singh Chauhan, biographer of Lala Lajpat Rai Writes, “Lala Lajpat Rai was kept in a small cell. He was given a cot, a chair and a table to sleep, but he was neither provided with a newspaper to read nor was he allowed to meet anyone.” He was allowed to do so. He had to beg for a barber to shave. His cell was dark. He was given two candles to light the room only after asking several times. Lalaji also provided clothes and medicines. had to repeatedly tell the British officers.
In 1914, Lala Lajpat Rai first went to Britain with the aim of arousing worldwide sympathy for India’s independence and then from there he turned to America.
Due to the start of the First World War, he had to stay in America till 1920. When he returned to India, he was made the president of the party in the Calcutta session of the Congress. It was he who established Punjab National Bank and Lakshmi Insurance Company.
Along with this, he also established the All India Trade Union Congress and became its first president. In 1921, he founded the Servants of the People Society.
In 1922, when Mahatma Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement after the Chauri Chaura incident, Lajpat Rai did not like it. Due to this difference, he also had to leave the Congress for some time.
Had no objection to working with Jinnah
Although Lala Lajpat Rai’s image was of a Hindu leader, he did not face any problem in working with Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
In the days before the non-cooperation movement, both had worked together on many occasions, but when Gandhi’s importance increased in the Congress, Jina left the Congress party, but when Lajpat Rai became a member of the assembly, he had to face him many times on Hindu-Muslim issues. Got a chance to talk to Jinnah.
Firoz Chand Lalaji In Lajpat Rai’s biography ‘Lajpat Rai Life and Work’, he writes, “Lala Lajpat Rai and Jinnah used to have differences on many issues and they used to publicly criticize each other, but both of them knew on which issues. But their views don’t match and to what extent they could work with each other.”
“The issue of the Simon Commission was one of them. During assembly sessions, Jinnah would often go to Lala Lajpat Rai’s room unannounced. Sometimes both would go together to talk to Madan Mohan Malaviya in his room. Hindu-Muslim Lalaji and Jinnah may not have agreed on issues, but on other issues both were often seen together”.
hit the streets of lahore
When the Simon Commission came to India in 1927, the Congress opposed it by saying that not a single member was an Indian. Lajpat Rai was in Etawah on 27 and 28 October. As soon as he got information that Simon Commission was reaching his home town Lahore, he immediately left for Lahore to oppose it.
As soon as Simon landed at the railway station in Lahore, people greeted him by showing black flags and chanting ‘Simon go back’. Lala Lajpat Rai was leading the protest procession. Section 144 was imposed there and the police officers warned the procession.
Lalaji replied, “The public has come here leaving the attachment of their lives. Do whatever you like, I am doing my work.”
But the police had already made up their mind to attack the protesters.
Superintendent of Police Scott hit Lalaji with a stick
The police got orders to blindly lathicharge the crowd. Firoz Chand writes in his book, “Senior Superintendent of Police James Scott himself was at the forefront of lathi charge on the crowd. He was supported by his assistant John Saunders. His target was Lala Lajpat, standing under an umbrella and holding a walking stick.” Rai. He bravely faced the lathis of the British police.”
He did not run away from there, nor did he incite the crowd to retaliate against the police. His supporters surrounded him but the British police targeted Lalaji and lathicharged him. Meanwhile, Lalaji shouted and asked the name of the British officer who was lathi-hitting. He retaliated and fired his lathi.”
When the lathicharge stopped, Lala Lajpat Rai, despite being badly injured, led the procession while walking at the front.
In the evening, a protest meeting was called by the people of Lahore to protest against this action of the police outside Bhati Gate. Lala Lajpat Rai also attended this meeting and he told the people present there what had happened to him.
Lala Lajpat Rai thanked the people for their patience and uttered a sentence which was forever recorded in the pages of history.
He said, “Every attack on us will prove to be a nail driven into the coffin of the British Empire.”
He also said that “if he dies and those youths whom he stopped from doing something, if they think about passing away, his soul will continue to bless them wherever they are.
lied to the police
The next day, orders were given to investigate this incident. The police were found innocent in the investigation. Two weeks later, another inquiry committee was formed under the leadership of Rawalpindi Commissioner DJ Boyd.
Lala Lajpat Rai and his companions refused to appear before this inquiry committee. After the attack, when the doctors examined Lala Lajpat Rai, they found deep injury marks at two places on the left side of his chest.
His photograph was taken 29 hours after the incident and it appeared in newspapers the next day. He gave full details of the incident in his newspaper. The headline of his newspaper that day was ‘How the Guardians of Law Behave’.
He wrote in this report that “an iron wire fence was pulled five feet outside the compound of the Railway Industrial School. Neither I nor my colleagues had any intention of breaking that fence. The inquiry committee says that I and My comrades tried to break down that barricade, a blatant lie to justify their cowardly attack on the mob.”
In this report, Lalaji wrote, “Whoever has made this report, I can only say that he is a big liar. If I am wrong, then he can file a case against me. I am the governor. I want to ask whether he will rule the state with the help of these people.”
Injured Lalaji conference
Despite being badly injured, Lala Lajpat Rai did not stop working. He even went there to attend the Congress convention to be held in Delhi on November 3 and 4. He not only participated in the conference but also gave a speech there, but during that time his pain increased and he had to leave Delhi and come back to Lahore.
He wrote in his newspaper, “Initially it seemed that the injury I received from the lathis in Lahore was not so serious but it caused a deep shock to my whole body. On Monday I could not address a public meeting because I had fever .”
Referring to this, Jawaharlal Nehru also writes in his autobiography, “Lala Lajpat Rai came to the Congress meeting in Delhi even after being beaten up while opposing the Simon Commission. His body still bore the marks of injuries and he was suffering from its effects.” He was struggling with it. Even after coming back from Delhi, he did not stop working.
He had put on hold the advice of the doctors which said that he was in dire need of rest.
increased chest pain
Lala Lajpat Rai’s biographer Firoz Chand writes, “Lala ji was very fond of celebrating Diwali, so on the day of Diwali, on November 12, he invited some of his friends for dinner. It was not lofty and somewhat subdued. His friends were sitting in his bedroom and he was talking to them while lying on the bed.”
Firoz Chand writes, “On the morning of November 16, his doctor NR Dharamveer came to see him. He had asked the doctor to take him for a car drive in the evening. But he had left for a walk before the doctor arrived. After returning from the walk, when the doctor examined him, it was found that he was having pain all over his body due to fatigue or injuries. The pain was more on the right side of the chest near the spine. The doctor gave him aspirin and at night 11 took leave of him at o’clock.”
Lala ji passed away
On the morning of 17 November, some people came running to the old house where their servants used to live. Those people were not even awake yet. When those people ran to Lalaji’s room, they found his wife, son and daughter standing around his bed.
Everyone was waiting for the doctor. The doctor declared Lala Lajpat Rai dead as soon as he arrived.
All the doctors believed that the cause of Lalaji’s death was the police lathis lying on his body on the afternoon of 30 October. Within a few moments, this news spread like lightning all over Lahore.
There was a wave of mourning all around. By afternoon, lakhs of people went towards the banks of Ravi to pay their last respects to Lala Lajpat Rai.
Bhagat Singh took revenge
James Scott, one of the lathi-wielders on Lalaji, was quietly posted out of Lahore in a hurry. Exactly a month after the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, on December 17, in the evening, gunshots were heard in front of the district police office.
The attackers wanted to kill Scott but the target was Scott’s close aide Sanders. He died on the spot itself.
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, “Bhagat Singh became popular not because he killed a British officer, but because he restored the honor of Lala Lajpat Rai in the eyes of his countrymen. He became a symbol. was forgotten and within a few months every town and village in Punjab and North India resounded with his name.”
In 1907, the British government had expelled Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh from the country. Both of them were kept under house arrest in the same fort but were not allowed to meet even once.
After being released, both were brought back to Lahore by the same train. Bhagat Singh was the nephew of the same Ajit Singh, who had avenged the death of Lala Lajpat Rai by shooting at the British police officer.
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