Lala of Lahore And Lion of Punjab: Lala Lajpat Rai
By Ravi Nitesh
31 January, 2016
Freedom struggle in British India witnessed emergence of many leaders in society who fought at their levels to achieve the common goal of getting freedom from British reign. During freedom struggle movements, Lahore (then in British India, now in Pakistan) played an important role, as this city was one of the main centers of revolution. Many freedom fighters stayed here and even started their movements from this city. Lahore was also the place where ‘Purna Swaraj’ (complete self rule) was demanded first time during the Congress Convention in 1930.
Lala Lajpat Rai was born in Dhudike, Moga district of Punjab (now in India), went to Lahore in 1880 to study law from Government College. His father Munshi Radha Krishan was a Urdu teacher. He started practice in Hisar and later in Lahore. He gave major share of his income to DAV College, Lahore and to other schemes of social welfare.
Lala Lajpat Rai started various movements against British Raj. During Simon Commission arrival to India in October, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led the protest against Simon Commission and got injured in police lathicharge. After some time, he died in Lahore on 17th November due to heart attack but it is believed that injuries hastened his death, with which British Parliament denied any role. Later, Bhagat Singh along with Sukhdev and Azad planned to take revenge from Scott, the police officer who was responsible for injury of Lala lajpat Rai.
His works are still among us. He thought and fought for independence through various ways. Very few people know that he was also founder of Punjab National Bank and Lakshmi Insurance Company. Actually he was one of the pioneer politicians who took interest in insurance and banking on practical grounds.
He was popularly known as ‘Punjab Kesari’ or Lion of Punjab. After his death, many institutions have been named after him. There are colleges, libraries, roads, markets upon his name. Lala ji was fond of writing and had written many articles and books. One of his famous quote reads ‘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’. He founded ‘People’ weekly and daily ‘Bandematram’. He wrote books on Arya Samaj, England’s debt to India, Young India and others. During his jail days in Mandalay jail, he wrote ‘The story of my deportation’. He founded National College, Tilak School of Politics and Dwarkadas Library. Bhagat Singh was also a student of National College. Servants of the People Society was founded by him in Lahore and still running for social welfare. During an event of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Secretary of Servants of the people society participated and shared that still there are memories of Lala Lajpat Rai in Lahore and which are well-preserved. He also informed that how many people who traveled there found it so mesmerizing to see the connected past of India and Pakistan that has history of heritage and role of people.
Lala ji founded a hospital Gulab Devi Chest Hospital in Lahore, in the memory of his mother who was died due to tuberculosis. This hospital still exists and operational as a part of Fatima medical college. In 1947, when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited this hospital, he wrote “I visited the Gulab Devi Hospital which is now tending to the refugees on 6th November, 1947. Those who are incharge of it viz Doctors, Nurses and other are doing excellent work and deserve our thanks for their selfless devotion to this humanitarian work”.
Though his way of politics was not very aligned with Gandhian principles and he was also seen as hindu nationalists with his affiliation to Hindu Mahasabha but there could be reasons behind that and many writers and researchers have seen that none of his activities led any attack over minorities. Though there were differences with Gandhian principles, but on his death, Gandhi ji wrote in Young India ‘ Men like Lalaji cannot die so long as the sun shines in the Indian sky’. Whatever was his own alignment, that can be one of the angles to see him, but his greater role and broader motivation towards freedom struggle and towards social welfare schemes through school, colleges, hospitals, banks and libraries cannot be ignored and these activities served the society through their works.
As, Lala Lajpat Rai is famous as "Lion of Punjab", I find that he has so strong connection with Lahore that we can call him as Lala of Lahore as well. Present India and Pakistan are actually the same piece of land for which Lala ji and others sacrificed their life. But, it is unfortunate that the two countries have developed many conflicts by the time. It must be remembered that those who fought against British rule were actually belonged to India and Pakistan both and they fought for all the people who were living in British India. Now, it is turn of present generation to move together, to make these sacrifices meaningful. Keeping it in mind will be important in terms of the motivation that it can provide, for working genuinely towards common betterment with the true sense and emotions of love.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer by profession and founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative. Follow on twitter: www.twitter.com/ravinitesh Blog: www.ravinitesh.blogspot.com