Born: January 28, 1865
Martyrdom: November17, 1928
Achievements: Popularly known as Lala Lajpat Rai; Founded the
Indian Home League Society of America; became Congress President in
Lala Lajpat Rai was one of the foremost leaders who fought against
British rule in India. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari (Lion of
Lala Lajpat Rai was born on January 28, 1865 in village Dhudike, in
present day Moga district of Punjab. He was the eldest son of Munshi
Radha Kishan Azad and Gulab Devi. His father was an Aggarwal Bania by
caste. His mother inculcated strong moral values in him.
Lala Lajpat Rai joined the Government College
at Lahore in 1880 to study Law. While in college he came in contact with
patriots and future freedom fighters like Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru
Dutt. The three became fast friends and joined the Arya Samaj founded by
Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. He passed his Vakilship Examination in Second
Division from Government College in 1885 and started his legal practice
in Hissar. Besides practicing, Lalaji collected funds for the Daya Nand
College, attended Arya Samaj functions and participated in Congress
activities. He was elected to the Hissar municipality as a member and
later as secretary. He shifted to Lahore in 1892.
Lala Lajpat Rai was one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist
members of the Indian National Congress. He was part of the Lal-Bal-Pal
trio. The other two members of the trio were Bal Gangadhar Tilak and
Bipin Chandra Pal. They formed the extremist faction of the Indian
National Congress, as opposed to the moderate one led first by Gopal
Krishna Gokhale. Lalaji actively participated in the struggle against
partition of Bengal. Along with Surendra Nath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra
Pal and Aurorbindo Ghosh, he galvanized Bengal and the nation in a
vigorous campaign of Swadeshi. Lalaji was arrested on May 3, 1907 for
creating "turmoil" in Rawalpindi. He was put in Mandalay jail
for six months and was released on November 11, 1907.
Lalaji believed that it was important for the national cause to
organize propaganda in foreign countries to explain India's position
because the freedom struggle had taken a militant turn. He left for
Britain in April 1914 for this purpose. At this time First World War
broke out and he was unable to return to India. He went to USA to
galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society
of America and wrote a book called "Young India". The book
severely indicted British rule in India and was banned in Britain and
India even before it was published. He was able to return to India in
1920 after the end of World War.
After his return, Lala Lajpat Rai,led the Punjab protests against the
Jalianwala Bagh Massacre and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was
arrested several times. He disagreed with Gandhiji's suspension of
Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri-Chaura incident, and formed
the Congress Independence Party, which had a pro-Hindu slant.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India
to discuss constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member.
This greatly angered Indians. In 1929, when the Commisssion came to
India there were protests all over India. Lala Lajpat Rai himself led
one such procession against Simon Commission. While the procession was
peaceful, British Government brutally lathicharged the procession. Lala
Lajpat Rai received severe head injuries and died on November17, 1928.