November 17 is the death anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai, the firebrand Indian nationalist leader affectionately called ‘Punjab Kesari’. Rai is remembered for his role during the Swadeshi movement and for his advocacy of education. The patriot died at Lahore in 1928 after he was attacked by police during a protest rally against the Simon Commission.
Born at Dhudike near Ludhiana in Punjab in 1865, Rai studied law at the Government College, Lahore (now called GCU, Lahore), and had a legal practice in that city. Early in life, he became a follower of Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, and went on to become one of the society’s leaders. In 1881, he joined the Indian National Congress at the age of 16. In 1885, Rai established the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School in Lahore and remained a committed educationist throughout his life.
During the Lahore Session of the Congress in 1893, Rai met Bal Gangadhar Tilak, another nationalist, and the two became lifelong associates. Rai, Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal (called Lal-Bal-Pal) fervently advocated the use of Swadeshi goods and mass agitation in the aftermath of the controversial Partition of Bengal in 1905 by Lord Curzon.
Lala Lajpat Rai is remembered for his role during the Swadeshi movement and for his advocacy of education. Rai affectionately called ‘Punjab Kesari’ breathed his last on November 17, 1928 after getting hurt due to a baton charge ordered by the superintendent of police James A. Scott.
Lala Lajpat Rai’s contribution:
- Lala Lajpat Rai assisted in the foundation of the Punjab National Bank.
- At the time of studying Law at Lahore, Rai helped in establishing the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School(DAV).
- Lala Lajpat Rai was greatly influenced by Hinduism and worked in the reformation of many Indian policies.
- Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal formed a triumvirate ‘Lal Bal Pal’ and fought for the Independence of India and promoted the Swadeshi movement.
- Rai was delineated as the pillar of nationalism in India.
How Lala Lapat Rai’s Death inspired Bhagat Singh to seek revenge:
Bhagat Singh, a 1907-born youth (barely 22-23 years old) was absolutely revolted by the British brutality. He was a student of Lahore’s DAV college and was assured that peaceful protests were not going to stir the British colonists to leave India.
The trio of Bhagat Singh-Rajguru-Sukhdev shot British police officer John Saunders eight times from within the DAV (now Islamia College Civil Lines) college in Lahore. The amazingly fearless Chandrashekhar Azad gave cover fire and shot dead Charan Singh, the British-employed police constable who chased Bhagat Singh and Rajguru as they fled and entered the college after targeting Saunders. As per archives accessed by The Dawn, they all escaped through the college hostels.