Lala Lajpat Rai

Lala Lajpat Rai ( 28 January 1865 – 17 November 1928) was an Indian freedom fighter. He played a pivotal role in the Indian Independence movement. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari. He was one third of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate.[1] He was also associated with activities of Punjab National Bank and Lakshmi Insurance Company in their early stages in 1894.

Lajpat Rai was born on 28 January 1865 in a Jain family,[2] as a son of Urdu and Persian government school teacher Munshi Radha Krishan Agrawal and his wife Gulab Devi Agrawal, in Dhudike [3][4][5] In 1877, he was married to Radha Devi Agrawal, with whom had two sons, Amrit Rai Agrawal and Pyarelal Agrawal, and a daughter, Parvati Agrawal.

In the late 1870s, his father was transferred to Rewari, where he had his initial education in Government Higher Secondary School, Rewari, Punjab province , where his father was posted as an Urdu teacher. During his early life, Rai's liberal views and belief in Hinduism were shaped by his father and deeply religious mother respectively, which he successfully applied to create a career of reforming the religion and Indian policy through politics and journalistic writing.[6] In 1880, Lajpat Rai joined Government College at Lahore to study Law, where he came in contact with patriots and future freedom fighters, such as Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt. While studying at Lahore he was influenced by the Hindu reformist movement of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, became a member of existing Arya Samaj Lahore (founded 1877) and founder editor of Lahore-based Arya Gazette.[7] When studying law, he became a firm believer in the idea that Hinduism, above nationality, was the pivotal point upon which an Indian lifestyle must be based. He believed, Hinduism, led to practices of peace to humanity, and the idea that when nationalist ideas were added to this peaceful belief system, a secular nation could be formed. His involvement with Hindu Mahasabha leaders gathered criticism from the Naujawan Bharat Sabha as the Mahasabhas were non-secular, which did not conform with the system laid out by the Indian National Congress.[8] This focus on Hindu practices in the subcontinent would ultimately lead him to the continuation of peaceful movements to create successful demonstrations for Indian independence.[7]

In 1884, his father was transferred to Rohtak and Rai came along after the completion of his studies at Lahore. In 1886, he moved to Hisar where his father was transferred, and started to practice law and became founding member of Bar council of Hisar along with Babu Churamani. Since childhood he also had a desire to serve his country and therefore took a pledge to free it from foreign rule, in the same year he also founded the Hisar district branch of the Indian National Congress and reformist Arya Samaj with Babu Churamani (lawyer), three Tayal brothers (Chandu Lal Tayal, Hari Lal Tayal and Balmokand Tayal), Dr. Ramji Lal Hooda, Dr. Dhani Ram, Arya Samaj Pandit Murari Lal,[9] Seth Chhaju Ram Jat (founder of Jat School, Hisar) and Dev Raj Sandhir. In 1888 and again in 1889, he had the honor of being one of the four delegates from Hisar to attend the annual session of the Congress at Allahabad, along with Babu Churamani, Lala Chhabil Das and Seth Gauri Shankar. In 1892, he moved to Lahore to practice before the Lahore High Court. To shape the political policy of India to gain independence, he also practiced journalism and was a regular contributor to several newspapers including The Tribune. In 1886, he helped Mahatma Hansraj establish the nationalistic Dayananda Anglo-Vedic School, Lahore

In 1914, he quit law practice to dedicate himself to the freedom of India and went to Britain in 1914 and then to the United States in 1917. In October 1917, he founded the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York. He stayed in the United States from 1917 to 1920.

After joining the Indian National Congress and taking part in political agitation in Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai was deported to Mandalay, Burma (now Myanmar), without trial in May 1907. In November, however, he was allowed to return when the viceroy, Lord Minto, decided that there was insufficient evidence to hold him for subversion. Lajpat Rai's supporters attempted to secure his election to the presidency of the party session at Surat in December 1907, but he did not succeed.

Graduates of the National College, which he founded inside the Bradlaugh Hall at Lahore as an alternative to British institutions, included Bhagat Singh.[10] He was elected President of the Indian National Congress in the Calcutta Special Session of 1920.[11] In 1921, he founded Servants of the People Society, a non-profit welfare organisation, in Lahore, which shifted its base to Delhi after partition, and has branches in many parts of India.[12]

A banquet given in honour of Lala Lajpat Rai by the California Chapter of the Hindustan Association of America at Hotel Shattuck in Berkeley on 12 February 1916.

Lajpat Rai travelled to the US in 1907, and then returned during World War I. He toured Sikh communities along the US West Coast; visited Tuskegee University in Alabama; and met with workers in the Philippines. His travelogue, The United States of America (1916), details these travels and features extensive quotations from leading African American intellectuals, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Fredrick Douglass. While in America he had founded the Indian Home Rule League in New York and a monthly journal Young India and Hindustan Information Services Association. He had petitioned the Foreign affairs committee of Senate of American Parliament giving a vivid picture of maladministration of British Raj in India, the aspirations of the people of India for freedom amongst many other points strongly seeking the moral support of the international community for the attainment of independence of India. The 32-page petition which was prepared overnight was discussed in the U.S. Senate during October 1917.[13] The book also argues for the notion of "color-caste," suggesting sociological similarities between race in the US and caste in India. During World War I, Lajpat Rai lived in the United States, but he returned to India in 1919 and in the following year led the special session of the Congress Party that launched the non-co-operation movement. He was imprisoned from 1921 to 1923 and elected to the legislative assembly on his release.[13]

In 1928, the British government set up the Commission, headed by Sir John Simon (Later, Lord Simon, 1st Viscount Simon) to report on the political situation in India. The Indian political parties boycotted the Commission, because it did not include a single Indian in its membership, and it met with country-wide protests. When the Commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, Lajpat Rai led non-violent march in protest against it. The protesters chanted "Simon go back" and carried black flags.

The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi (baton) charge the protesters and personally assaulted Rai.[14] Despite being extremely injured, Rai subsequently addressed the crowd and said, "I declare that the blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India".[15]

He did not fully recover from his injuries and died on 17 November 1928. Doctors thought that Scott's blows had hastened his death.[14] However, when the matter was raised in the British Parliament, the British Government denied any role in Rai's death.[16] Although Bhagat Singh did not witness the event,[17] he vowed to take revenge as it was a murder of a very tall leader in the freedom movement,[16] and joined other revolutionaries, Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad, in a plot to kill Scott to send a message to British Raj.[18] However, in a case of mistaken identity, Bhagat Singh was signalled to shoot on the appearance of John P. Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police. He was shot by Rajguru and Bhagat Singh while leaving the District Police Headquarters in Lahore on 17 December 1928.[19] Chanan Singh, a Head Constable who was chasing them, was fatally injured by Azad's covering fire.[20]

This case did not stop Bhagat Singh and his fellow-members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association from claiming that retribution had been exacted.[18]

Lajpat Rai was a heavyweight veteran leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement, Indian independence movement led by the Indian National Congress, Hindu reform movements and Arya Samaj, who inspired young men of his generation and kindled latent spirit of patriotism in their hearts with journalistic writings and lead-by-example activism. Young men, such as Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh, were driven to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of their Motherland following Rai's example.

In late 19th and early 20th century Lala Lajpat Rai himself was founder of many organisations, including Arya Gazaette are Lahore, Hisar congress, Hisar Arya Samaj, Hisar Bar Council, national DAV managing Committee. Lala Lajpat Rai was also head of the "Lakshmi Insurance Company," and commissioned the Lakshmi Building in Karachi, which still bears a plaque in remembrance of him. Lakhsmi Insurance Company was merged with Life Insurance Corporation of India when en masse nationalisation of Life Insurance business happened during 1956.

In 1927, Lajpat Rai established a trust in her mother's memory to build and run a tuberculosis hospital for women, reportedly at the location where his mother, Gulab Devi, had died of tuberculosis in Lahore.[21] This became known as the Gulab Devi Chest Hospital and opened on 17 July 1934. Now the Gulab Devi Memorial hospital is one of the biggest hospital of present Pakistan which services over 2000 patients at a time as its patients.

Erected in the early 20th century, a statue of Lajpat Rai at Lahore, was later moved central square in Shimla after the partition of India. In 1959, the Lala Lajpat Rai trust was formed on the eve of his Centenary Birth Celebration by a group of Punjabi philanthropists (including R.P Gupta and B.M Grover) who have settled and prospered in the Indian State of Maharashtra, which runs the in Mumbai. Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, Meerut is named after him.[22] In 1998, was named after him. In 2010, the Government of Haryana set up the in Hisar in his memory.

Lajpat Nagar and Lala Lajpat Rai square with his statue in Hisar;[23] Lajpat Nagar and Lajpat Nagar Central Market in New Delhi,Lala Lajpat Rai memorial park in Lajpat Nagar, Lajpat Rai Market in Chandani Chowk, Delhi; Lala Lajpat Rai Hall of Residence at Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur and Kharagpur; Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital in Kanpur; the bus terminus, several institutes, schools and libraries in his hometown of Jagraon are named in his honor. Further, there are several roads named after him in numerous metropolis and other towns of India.

Along with founding Arya Gazaette as its editor, he regularly contributed to several major Hindi, Punjabi, English and Urdu newspapers and magazines. He also authored the following published books.