January 28 marks the birth anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai, a towering figure in India’s freedom struggle, fondly remembered as “Punjab Kesari”, or the Lion of Punjab. His unwavering dedication to self-governance, fiery oratory, and commitment to social reform continue to inspire generations.
Born in 1865 in Dhudike village, Punjab, Lajpat Rai embraced public service early on. He co-founded the Arya Samaj, a social reform movement advocating education and women’s rights. He also established the Punjab National Bank and the Lala Lajpat Rai College in Jagraon, demonstrating his dedication to social and economic upliftment.
Lajpat Rai’s political journey began with the Indian National Congress. He, along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, formed the fiery Lal-Bal-Pal trio, advocating for Swaraj or self-rule through self-reliant economic development and assertive protests.
Lajpat Rai championed the Swadeshi movement, urging Indians to boycott British goods and embrace indigenous products. He was a powerful orator, captivating audiences with his passionate speeches against colonial rule. His call for “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it” resonated across the nation.
Lajpat Rai’s unwavering opposition to British injustice came at a cost. In 1928, he led a peaceful protest against the Simon Commission, tasked with constitutional reforms in India. The British responded with brutal force, and Lajpat Rai sustained severe injuries from a lathi charge. He succumbed to his wounds 18 days later, his death becoming a rallying cry for the freedom movement.
Lala Lajpat Rai’s legacy lives on not only in his contributions to the freedom struggle but also in his unwavering commitment to social reforms. He championed education for girls, fought against caste discrimination, and advocated for economic self-reliance. His life and work continue to inspire generations of Indians to fight for justice and equality.
Here are some inspirational quotes by the Punjab Kesari
- “The Government which attacks its own innocent subjects has no claim to be called a civilised Government. Bear in mind, such a government does not survive long.”
- “Defeat and failure are sometimes necessary steps of victory.”
- “The shots that hit me are the last nails to the coffin of British rule in India.”
- “A person should be courageous and honest in worshipping the truth, without being concerned about receiving worldly benefits.”
- “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 adults and Education for all.”
- “Since the cruel killing of cows and other animals have commenced, I have anxiety for the future generation.”
- “The attempt to fulfil the objective by peaceful means with full devotion and honesty is called non-violence.”
- “I do honestly and sincerely believe in the necessity or desirability of Hindu-Muslim unity. I am also fully prepared to trust Muslim leaders. But what about the injunctions of the Koran and Hadis? The leaders cannot override them.”
- “I always believed that my silence on several topics will be an advantage in the long run.”
Lala Lajpat Rai’s birth anniversary is a reminder that the fight for freedom is a continuous process. It is a day to celebrate his unyielding spirit, his dedication to social justice, and his unwavering belief in a self-governing India. As we remember the Lion of Punjab, let us also renew our commitment to the values he espoused and strive to build a nation that truly embodies his vision of liberty, equality, and fraternity.