Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lala Lajpat Rai - Biography

Lion of Punjab - Lala Lajpat Rai

Lajpat Rai was born in Dhudike (now in Moga district, Punjab) on 28 January 1865. Rai had his initial education in Government Higher Secondary School, Rewari (now in Haryana) His father, Radha Krishan, was an Urdu teacher. Rai believed in Hinduism. He was convinced of the idea that Hinduism, above nationality, was the pivotal point upon which an Indian lifestyle must be based. Hinduism, he believed, led to practices of peace to humanity, and the idea that when nationalist ideas were added to this peaceful belief system, a great nation could be formed. His involvement with Hindu Mahasabha leaders was criticized by some as Hindu Mahasabha  did not conform with the system laid out by the Indian National Congress. This focus on Hindu practices in the subcontinent ultimately led him to follow the peaceful movement for Indian independence championed by Mahatma Gandyi. He followed Arya Samaj way of life and was editor of Arya Gazette, which he set up during his student time. He studied law at the Government College in Lahore, Lajpat Rai practised at Hissar and Lahore. He took part in the  establishment of  the nationalistic Dayananda Anglo-Vedic School. He joined the Indian National Congress, and for taking part in political agitation in the Punjab, Lajpat Rai was deported to Mandalay, Burma (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 proposed his name for the president post of the Congress party session at Surat in December 1907. But he was not accepted by moderates of the party and the party split over the issues.

Lajpat Rai travelled to the US in 1907. He once again went to USA  during World War I. He toured Sikh communities along the US West Coast; visited Tuskegee University in Alabama.  His travelogue, The United States of America (1916), details these travels.  During World War I, Lajpat Rai lived in the United States. He returned to India in 1919 and in the following year led the special session of the Congress Party that launched the nonco-operation movement. He was elected President of the Congress party 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.

He was imprisoned from 1921 to 1923. He was elected to the legislative assembly on his release.

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 there were country-wide protests against Simon. 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 charge the protesters and personally assaulted Rai. He did not fully recover from his injuries and died on 17 November 1928 of a heart attack. Many Indians felt that Scott's blows had hastened his death.

Institutions and Memorials to Lala Lajpat Rai

Graduates of the National College, which he founded inside the Bradlaugh Hall at Lahore as an alternative to British institutions, included Bhagat Singh. Bhagat took revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.

The Lala Lajpat Rai Trust was formed in 1959 on the eve of his Centenary Birth Celebration, to promote education. The trust was founded 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. The Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, in Hisar, Haryana, is a state university was created in memory of Lajpat Rai. A statue of Lajpat Rai stands at the central square in Shimla, India (having been originally erected in Lahore and moved to Shimla in 1948). Lajpat Nagar and Lajpat Nagar Central Market in New Delhi, Lajpat Rai Market in Chandani Chowk, Delhi; Lala Lajpat Rai Hall of Residence at Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur and Kharagpur; as well as the Lala Lajpat Rai Institute of Engineering and Technology, Moga are named in his honour. Also many institutes, schools and libraries in his hometown of Jagraon, district Ludhiana are named after him. The bus terminus in Jagraon, Punjab, India is named after Lala Lajpat Rai. Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, Kanpur is also named in his honour. Further, there are several roads named after him in many metropolis and other towns of India.

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.

He was a founder of Punjab National Bank. The bank issued an advertisement on his 150th birth anniversary on 28 January 2015.

Biography of Lala Lajpat Rai in English - Documentary

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

Lajpat Rai's Death due to Lathi charge - Revenge by Bhagat Singh
Scene from film Rang De Basanti

UTV Motion Pictures Release upload


Picture Source:
The Speaker, Lok Sabha, Smt. Meira Kumar paying homage to Lala Lajpat Rai on his birth anniversary, at Parliament House, in New Delhi on January 28, 2014.

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