In News: November 17 was the death anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai, the firebrand Indian nationalist leader affectionately called ‘Punjab Kesari’ who died at Lahore in 1928 after he was attacked by police during a protest rally against the Simon Commission.

About Lala Lajpat Rai: 

  • Born at Dhudike near Ludhiana in Punjab in 1865.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai was a multi-faceted personality and led a life of ceaseless activity dedicated to selfless service to the nation.
  • He became a follower of Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj.
  • 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.
  • In 1907, colonial authorities deported Lala Lajpat Rai to Mandalay in present-day Myanmar without trial.

Role of Lala Lajpat Rai in India's independence movement:

  • Hindu Relief Movement: He founded Hindu Relief movement in 1897 to provide help to the famine -stricken people and thus preventing them falling into the clutches of the missionaries.
  • Swadeshi movement: Along with Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal (called Lal-Bal-Pal), He advocated the use of Swadeshi goods and mass agitation in the aftermath of the controversial Partition of Bengal in 1905 by Lord Curzon.
  • Indian Home Rule League of America in New York City in 1917: He founded Indian Home Rule League of America during his stay (1913-1920) in Japan, England, and the United States.
  • Indian National Congress: He was elected President of the Indian National Congress during its Special Session in Kolkata (1920), which saw the launch of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement. He was also elected as the President of the All India Trade Union Congress. He was actively associated with the Hindu Mahasabha, which had leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya.
  • Simon Commission: Rai was among the leaders of the movement who opposed the Commission and was severely lathi-charged during a protest in Lahore on October 30, 1928. Lajpat Rai led a non-violent march in protest against it. 

Rai famously said “The blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India.”  

Lala Lajpat Rai’s important works include:

  • ‘The Arya Samaj’
  • ‘Young India’
  • ‘England’s Debt to India’
  • ‘Evolution of Japan’
  • ‘India’s Will to Freedom’ 
  • ‘Message of the Bhagavad Gita’
  • ‘Political Future of India’
  • ‘Problem of National Education in India’
  • ‘The Depressed Glasses’, and the travelogue ‘United States of America’.
  • He founded the Punjab National Bank, the Lakshmi Insurance Company and the Servants of the People’s Society at Lahore.

Simon commission: The Indian Statutory Commission

  • Group of 7 lawmakers arrived in India to study the implementation of the Government of India Act, 1919.  It came to be known as the Simon Commission after its chairman Sir John Simon.
  • Congress, Muslim League boycotted it. However, the Justice Party sided with the government.

Why was it opposed?

  • No Indian representation in the commission: The Commission was composed entirely of British members with not a single Indian member being included in it. This was seen as an insult to Indians who were right in saying that their destiny could not be determined by a bunch of British people alone.

Arya samaj:

  • The Arya Samaj was founded in 1875 by Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1824-83). 
  • He was a Sanskrit scholar with no English education. He gave the call “Go back to the Vedas”. 
  • Disbelief in polytheism and image worship, opposition to caste-based restrictions, child marriage, opposition to the prohibition of sea voyages, and advocating female education and widow remarriage were important programmes common to the followers of Arya samaj.