“The correct thing for us to do is to strive for a democratic Raj in which the Hindus, the Muslims and the other communities may participate as Indians and not as followers of any particular religion.”
– Lala Lajpat Rai
Punjab Kesari, as he was referred to, Lala Lajpat Rai is synonymous with India’s struggle for political autonomy as well as its cultural awakening in the 19th century. Born in 1865 in Ferozepur, a city on the banks of the Sutlej, Lala Lajpat Rai was greatly influenced by both his parents. While his thirst for knowledge and fervor for religion was largely due to paternal influence, his more compassionate characteristics were passed down to him by his mother. He was also greatly inspired by the eminent Indian educationist, Mahatma Hansraj and the founder of the Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati,.
Lala Lajpat Rai was a social and religious reformer, who vehemently argued that the root cause for national backwardness was the existent superstitious beliefs and social apathy in the Indian society. His zeal for social upliftment and constructive work led him to the doorsteps of the foremost social, religious and political organizations of the time. He joined the Arya Samaj in 1882 and entered the political arena in 1881. He had realised very early on that the social and cultural reforms he intended to bring about in the subcontinent would not be possible in the presence of alien rule. Indian freedom was therefore a primary necessity for the nation to also emerge out of its cultural and intellectual slumber. He was one of the first advocates for the use of Swadeshi cloth. The campaign had the dual intention of aiding the penetration of Swadeshi clothes in the market, and hence uplifting social pride and self respect of the people of the subcontinent, while empowering the downtrodden and depressed classes.
Lala Lajpat Rai regularly conducted comparative analysis of nations around the world, writing on the USA and the evolution of Japan. He also published works on the Indian national movement and the evils of the British Raj, propagating and promoting arguments for home rule. His greatest contribution, however, was the infusion of radicalism in the national movement in partnership with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal. The three formed a deep bond over their ideological similarities and worked in tandem to change the ways of the moderates led congress to one with more dynamism and action.
Lala Lajpat Rai was also a critic of the vision and methods of the Non-cooperation movement. However, in the interest of the freedom struggle, he, along with other critics of the movement, agreed to implement the same. The dissolution of the movement post the Chauri Chaura incident plunged the subcontinent into greater religious tensions, towards which Lalaji would direct his political expediency for the rest of his life.
The contributions of the tall leader to the Indian freedom struggle and renaissance have been immense. His writings have shaped the way the Indian populace thinks and views its history and interprets the same. His staunch support to the Swadeshi movement is what helped it find success. He contributed to the Home rule movement from the USA where he had been banished to. He was greatly admired and looked up to by various young leaders, including Bhagat Singh. The Saunders’ murder, one of the cases for which young Bhagat and Rajguru were charged, had been to avenge the death of the Sher-e-Punjab. He was popular throughout the subcontinent for his relentless struggle for freedom and efforts for social and religious reforms.
SINGH, D. P. “LALA LAJPAT RAI: His Life, Times and Contributions to Indian Polity.” The Indian Journal of Political Science, vol. 52, no. 1, 1991, pp. 125–36. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41855539. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.