Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lala Lajpat Rai


Lajpat Rai was born on 28th Jan, 1865 at a village named Dhudike in Ferozepur District of Punjab. His father,Munshi Radha Krishan Azad was a great scholar of Persian and Urdu. Lalaji's mother, Shrimati Gulab Devi, a strict religious lady, inculcated in her children strong morals values. Lalaji was brought up in a family background that allowed freedom of having different faiths and beliefs. Since childhood he had a desire to serve his country and its people, and therefore took a pledge to free it from foreign rule.

In 1884 his father was transferred to Rohtak and Lala Lajpat Rai came along. He became the secretary of Arya Samaj in Rohtak. In 1886 he passed his Law exams and he started his practice in Rohtak but moved to Hissar where some of his friends were also practicing Law. Lalaji's early legal practice at Hissar was very successful. His life of six years in Hissar became the apprenticeship for public service. He was elected to the Hissar municipality as a member and later as secretary. Besides practicing, Lalaji collected funds for the Daya Nand College, attended Arya Samaj functions. After the death of Swami Dayananda, Lalaji with his associates toiled to develop the Anglo-Vedic College. He came in contact with all the important Arya Samajis there.
In Hissar Lalaji started attending the meetings of the Congress Party and became an active worker in the Hissar-Rohtak region. When the Lieutenant Governor visited Hissar, Lalaji pleaded that the Welcome Address to be presented to him should be in Urdu. To satisfy the British officer a speech had already been prepared in English. Lalaji's suggestion made everyone nervous. But without a trace of fear, he presented the Address in Urdu and there by invited the wrath of the British.

Lala Lajpat Rai shifted to Lahore in 1892. Lalaji provided immense service toward the famine relief efforts during the famines of 1897 and 1899. He mobilized D A V college students and went to Bikaner and other areas of Rajasthan to rescue destitute children and bring them to Lahore. He believed that "a nation that does not protect its own orphan children cannot command respect at the hands of other people." When people fleeing the famine reached Lahore, they spent their first night at Lalaji's house. In 1898, Lalaji curtailed his legal practice and vowed to devote all his energy for the nation. The Kangra district of Panjab suffered destruction in the earthquake of 1905. Lalaji was there once again, organizing relief for extricating people from the debris.

His activities were multifarious. He was an ardent social reformer. He founded the Indian Home Rule League of America in October 1917, in New York and, a year later, he also set up, with himself as Director, the "Indian Information Bureau" in New York to serve as a Publicity Organization for India. Lala Lajpat Rai returned to India on Feb.20, 1920 as a great hero.
He plunged into Gandhi's non-cooperation movement, which in Panjab, under Lajpat Rai's leadership spread like wildfire in the province, and he soon came to be known as "The Lion of Panjab" or "Panjab Kesri". He traveled far and wide in India and his eloquence brought hundreds to the Congress fold. Lalaji injected new life in his countrymen. His writings and speeches were both hard hitting and effective. They swayed those they aimed to reach. He was a crusader, who knew no fear and championed every worthy cause with all the passion of his soul.

His love for service was insatiable. He founded educational institutions. He befriended the suppressed classes. In the political field he was indispensable. Lala Lajpat Rai's supreme sacrifice came when he led a procession in Lahore on Oct.30, 1928 to boycott the Simon Commission. The procession was sought to be broken up by the police and Lajpat Rai received lathi blows. While Lalaji tried his level best to keep the demonstration peaceful, the police targeted him and wounded him on his chest. The people were enraged at this insult and held a meeting the same evening. Lalaji, though in intense pain, gave a speech and declared "...every blow aimed at me is a nail in the coffin of British Imperialism....".


He recovered from the wounds left by the British but he remained emotionally scarred at the brutality of the "civilized" British. Why had he been specifically targeted by the British? Why had they lathi- charged against a peaceful gathering. These thoughts racked his spirit till the very end. Lalaji died on November 17, 1928 of heart failure.

1 comment:

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