Lala Lajpat Rai, one of the chief leaders of the Indian Independence Movement, was born on 28 January1865 in Punjab. He was an author and a politician and was associated with many nationalist activities of Banks including the Punjab National Bank and Lakshmi National Bank. Popularly known as Punjab Kesari, Rai was a part of the Lal-Bal-Pal triangle. As a follower of Arya Samaj, he was one of those who evolved the Hindu Nationalism and one responsible for mass awakening against the British. He rose to preside over the Indian National Congress at Kolkata in 1920. Years before Mahatma Gandhi entered the national political arena, Rai, along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, laid the foundation of a militant, assertive nationalism within the Indian National Congress that Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru later built upon. Known as the “Lal Bal Pal” trinity, these three figures are held responsible for the radicalisation of the Indian National Congress.
“Revolutionaries have to die,” 23 year old Bhagat Singh had said, “because the cause they represent is strengthened by sacrifice- not by an appeal in court.” Karl Marx was his guru. When the wardon Charit Singh whispered into his ears to pray to Wahe Guru after his last bath, his reply was : “All my life I have never prayed. As a matter of fact, I have many a time abused God for the miseries of the poor. If I have to ask for forgiveness, He will say, ‘Here is a coward who seeks forgiveness because his end has come.” He declined praying and smiled before being hanged along with Sukhdev and Rajguru on 23 March 1931 at Lahore Central Jail.
Bhagat Singh had an abiding respect for Lala Lajpat Rai. On 30 October 1928, Lala took out protest march in Lahore against the Simon Commission and Bhagat Singh rallied behind him. Suprintendent of Police J.A. Scott ordered a lathi-charge. Scott spotted Lala and his men attacked the venerable leader till he fell down bleeding profusely. Even after such injuries, Rai said, "I declare that the blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India."
Singh was determined to avenge the attack on Lajpat Rai and make Scott pay for the insults he had heaped up on the Indians. Rai died on 17 November 19 28. On 17 December 1928, two youths mistook Assistant Superintendent of Police J.P. Saunders for Scott and shot him down. Posters appeared at several places in Lahore:
“Hindustan Socialist Republic Army
J.P. Saunders is dead; Lala Lajpat Rai avenged”
Bhagat Singh wrote multiple thought pieces in Indian newspapers under various pen-names. His thoughts awakened the need to revolt against the British-raj amongst the youth of India. He became popular amongst the youth and a person of interest for the British government. He shaved off his bear and cut short his hair to avoid his arrest for the killing of the Assistant Superintendent.
In 1929, Bhagat Singh resurfaced, and only later it was understood that he didn’t want to escape that time. To protest the formulation of the Defence of India Act, he along with Batukeshwar Dutt bombed the assembly premises where the ordinance was in motion. The blast was not meant to harm anyone but further the revolution, both Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt surrendered later.
He believed the regeneration of the glorious Hindu spirit was essential for attaining independence from the British. In fact, it was Rai who much before Muhammed Ali Jinnah or the Muslim League proposed that Hindus and Muslims were different nations and there should be a partition to separate the two. For him, the Indian National Congress was an extension of his political ideology. There was no separation in his mind of Hindu revivalism and the independence of India.
Next Column: An Institution Builder Dattopant Thengadi
1. Lala Lajpat Rai
2. A Trinity: Lal, Bal and Pal