Lala lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai About this sound pronunciation , (28 January 1865 – 17 November 1928) was an
Indian Punjabi author and politician who is chiefly remembered as a leader in the Indian
Independence movement. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari. He was one third of the Lal Bal
Pal triumvirate. He was also associated with activities of Punjab National Bank and Lakshmi
Insurance Company in their early stages. He sustained serious injuries by the police when leading
a non-violent protest against the Simon Commission and died less than three weeks later. His
death anniversary (17 November) is one of several days celebrated as Martyrs’ Day in India.
Lajpat Rai was born on 28 January 1865 in a Hindu Aggarwal, a community that claims its descent
from the legendary Maharaja Agrasen of Agroha, as a son of Urdu and Persian government school
teacher Munshi Radha Krishan Agrawal and his wife Gulab Devi Agrawal, in Dhudike (now in Moga
district, Punjab). 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 (now in Haryana, previously in joint Punjab), 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 created a career of reforming the religion and Indian policy through
politics and journalistic writing. In 1880, Latpat 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 Sarasvati, became a member of existing Arya Samaj Lahore (founded
1877) and founder editor of Lahore-based Arya Gazette. When studying law, he became a bigger
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. 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.
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 Hisar district branch of nationalist Indian
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 samaji
Pandit Murari Lal, 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 to establish the nationalistic Dayananda Anglo-Vedic School, Lahore which was converted
to Islamia College (Lahore) by Islamist zealots after 1947 partition of India.
In 1914, he quit law practice to dedicated himself to the freedom of India and went to Britain in
1914 and then to the USA in 1917. In October 1917, he founded the Indian Home Rule League of
America in New York. He stayed in the USA from 1917 to 1920.
After joining the Indian National Congress and taking part in political agitation in the Punjab,
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 elements favouring
co-operation with the British refused to accept him, and the party split.
Graduates of the National College, which he founded inside the Bradlaugh Hall at Lahore as an
alternative to British institutions, included Bhagat Singh. He was elected President of the
Indian National Congress in the Calcutta Special Session of 1920. In 1921, He founded Servants of
the People Society, a non-profit welfare organisation, in Lahore, which shifted based to Delhi
after partition, and has branches in many parts of India.
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 affiars 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 senate of American Parliament during October 1917.
Demand for separate state for Muslims
He controversially demanded “a clear partition of India into a Muslim India and Hindu State
India” in The Tribune on 14 December1923.
Protests against Simon Commission
Photo of Rai printed in the February 1920 issue of Young India.
In 1928, the British government set up the Commission, headed by Sir John 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 silent march in protest against
it. The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi (baton) charge the
protesters and personally assaulted Rai. Despite being 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”.
He did not fully recover from his injuries and died on 17 November 1928 of a heart attack.
Doctors thought that Scott’s blows had hastened his death. However, when the matter was raised in
the British Parliament, the British Government denied any role in Rai’s death. Although Bhagat
Singh did not witness the event, he vowed to take revenge, and joined other revolutionaries,
Shivaram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar and Chandrashekhar Azad, in a plot to kill Scott. 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. Chanan Singh, a Head
Constable who was chasing them, was fatally injured by Azad’s covering fire.
This case of mistaken identity did not stop Bhagat Singh and his fellow-members of the Hindustan
Socialist Republican Association from claiming that retribution had been exacted.
Lajpat Rai was a heavyweight veteran leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement, Indian
independence movement, 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 Inurance 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 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. 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 serv