Lala Lajpat Rai was popularly known as Punjab Kesari meaning “The Lion of Punjab” also known as “Sher-E- Punjab” in Punjabi. He was an Indian freedom fighter who played a pivotal role in Indian Independent movement.
He was part of the triumvirate Lal Bal Pal of assertive nationalists that included Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal from 1905 to 1918 in British-ruled India. His fierce brand of patriotism and potent vocalism against the British rule earned him the title of ‘Punjab Kesari‘ or the Lion of Punjab.
He was a delegate to the annual sessions of Indian National Congress (INC) and was elected as its President in the Calcutta Special Session of 1920. He was also associated with the foundation of Punjab National Bank in 1895 and later Lakshmi Insurance Company and helped in establishing the nationalistic Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School and became a follower of Dayanand Saraswati (founder of the Arya Samaj).
Some of the books he has written are The Story of My Deportation (1908), Arya Samaj (1915), The United States of America: A Hindu’s Impression (1916), Unhappy India (1928), Young India(1916).
Born on 28 January 1865 in a Hindu family in Punjab State of India. His father’s name was Radha Krishan, who was an Urdu teacher. During his early life, Rai views and beliefs in Hinduism were shaped by his father and mother, which he successfully applied to create a career of reforming the religion and Indian policy through politics and journalistic writing.
He studied law in Lahore and in 2 years passed the first examination, which qualified him to practice. While as a student, he became active in the nationalist and revivalist Arya Samaj Society of Swami Dayananda. Rai joined the Samaj in 1882 and soon emerged as a prominent leader in its “Progressive,” or “College,” wing.
After completing his studies in Lahore, he came back and moved to Hisar where his father was transferred, and started to practice law and became a founding member of Bar Council of Hisar along with Babu Churamani.
He also taught at the Anglo-Vedic College, run by the Samaj; his fiery nationalism was largely the product of this involvement. The idea took root in his mind that the chains of Indian slavery should be broken. 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 the USA from 1914 until 1920 to galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society of America in New York 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.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India to discuss constitutional reforms. 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 a 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 died on 17 November 1928 after sustaining serious injuries in lathi charge carried by the police when he leading a non-violent protest against the Simon Commission.
Some Popular Quotes of Lala Lajpat Rai
- The shots that hit me are the last nails to the coffin of British rule in India.
- If I had the power to influence Indian journals, I would have the following headlines printed in bold letters on the first page: Milk for the infants , Food for the adults and Education for all.
- The Government which attacks its own innocent subjects has no claim to be called a civilized government. Bear in mind, such a government does not survive long. I declare that the blows struck at me will be the last nails in the coffin of the British rule in India.
- Since the cruel killing of cows and other animal have commenced, I have anxiety for the future generation.
- I do honestly and sincerely believe in the necessity or desirability of Hindu-Muslim unity. I am also fully prepared to trust the Muslim leaders. But what about the injunctions of the Koran and Hadis? The leaders cannot override them. Are we then doomed? I hope not. I hope your learned mind and wise head will find some way out of this difficulty.