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Ludhiana Personality :: Lala Lajpat Rai

Lala Lajpat Rai

Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian politician who is chiefly remembered as a leader in the Indian fight for freedom from the British Raj. The freedom fighter was popularly known as Punjab Kesari (Lion of the Punjab).

Early Life:
Rai was born on January 28, 1865 in village Dhudi Ke, near Jagraon, Ludhiana. He was the eldest son of Munshi Radha Kishan Azad and Gulab Devi, Aggarwal Banias. His father had a chequered relationship with Hinduism - having converted to Islam and then reverted back to Hinduism, which had a lasting effect on Rai's attitude towards religions other than Hinduism.

Political Life:
He was one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist members of the Indian National Congress, who fought for, and gave their lives during the Indian independence movement in the first half of the twentieth century. The other two were Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Maharashtra and Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal. Collectively, they were dubbed Lal-Bal-Pal, and formed the extremist Hindu faction of the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the moderate faction led first by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and later by Mahatma Gandhi. Rai was also a member of the Hindu Maha Sabha, a forerunner of the current day Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party

It was the Partition of Bengal in 1905 that aroused their robust nationalism and set them firmly on the path to fighting for freedom. The repressive measures of the British Government against the growing nationalist movement inspired them to infuse greater national pride and self-respect into the populace. The trio wanted a degree of self-government that was considered radical at the time. They were the first Indian leaders to demand complete political independence.

Rai presided over the first session of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1920. He also went to Geneva to attend the eighth International Labour Conference in 1926 as a representative of Indian labour. He had an opportunity to watch the labour movement in the USA and England where he was required to prolong his stay for political reasons.

Rai led the Punjab protests against the Amritsar Massacre (1919) and the Non-Cooperation Movement (1919 - 1922). He was repeatedly arrested. Rai however disagreed with Mohandas Gandhi's suspension of the movement due to the Chauri Chaura incident, and formed the Congress Independence Party, which was particularly pro-Hindu in voice and policy.

He was not only a good orator but also a prolific and versatile writer. His journal Arya Gazette concentrated mainly on subjects related to the Arya Samaj. Bande Mataram and People, contained his inspiring speeches to end oppression by the foreign rulers. He founded the Servants of the People Society, which worked for the freedom movement as well as for social reform in the country. He also wrote an autobiography in English titled The Story of My Life.

Arya Smaj Life:
Lajpat Rai came early under the influence of the dynamic Hindu reformer, Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj. In conjunction with like minded people like Mahatma Hans Raj and Lala Sain Das, he was instrumental in laying the foundations of a strong Arya Samaj presence among the Punjabi Hindu urban populace. This was accomplished through the establishment of a network of schools and colleges (the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) educational institutions) which met the aspirations of urban Hindu mercantile classes (Khatris, Aroras and Banias etc.) for an anglicized education leavened with traditional Hindu learning. These parochial institutions also served to spread the refomist message of the Arya Samaj during the late 19th century, a period when there was a fierce contest in the neighboring North Western Provinces (NWP, later renamed UP (United Provinces of Agra and Awadh, now called Uttar Pradesh) between the newly resurgent Hindi and Urdu for supremacy as the second official language after English. This debate spilled over to the Punjab, and Rai and the Arya Samaj were major players in it. Prior to the advent of the Arya Samaj on the Punjab scene, the urban Hindu Khatri and Arora communities enjoyed very cordial relationships with the Sikh communities. Dayanand Saraswati's intemperate attacks on the Sikh Gurus, and Rai's campaign for Hindi have caused schisms between the communities which still persist.

Simon Commission:
A strong believer in leading by example, he himself led a procession with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya to demonstrate against the Simon Commission, which was to prove fatal for him. He was made the target of a brutal lathi charge in which he was injured badly. A meeting was held the same evening where he spoke with such vigour that his words, "Every blow aimed at me is a nail in the coffin of British imperialism", became historic. Though he recovered from the fever and pain within three days yet his health had received a permanent setback and on November 17, 1928, he succumbed to the fatal injuries.

Memorials:
Lajpat Rai was one of the most important nationalist leaders from the Punjab, where he is remembered reverently by Hindu nationalists today. He was a key mentor of nationalists like Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad.

Lajpat Nagar and Lajpat Nagar Central Market in New Delhi, Lala Lajpat Rai Hall of Residence at Indian Institue of Technology Kharagpur and Lala Lajpat Rai Institute of Engineering and Technology, Moga are named in his honor.

Lala Lajpat Rai     Lala Lajpat Rai