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Lala Lajpat Rai

(1865 – 1928) – (Punjab)

Lala Lajpat Rai (Aged 63) was born on January 28, 1865, in Dhudike, Ludhiana, Punjab, India. He was the son of Munshi Radha Krishan and Gulab Devi, who belonged to an Agrawal Jain family, and his father was a teacher of Urdu and Persian in government school. In 1892, he moved to Lahore to practice law before the Lahore High Court and work towards India’s independence.

In 1914, Lajpat Rai gave up his law practice to commit himself fully to the Indian independence movement. He travelled to Britain and then to the United States in 1917. He established the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York in October 1917. He remained in the United States from 1917 to 1920, and his early struggle for freedom was influenced by Arya Samaj and communal representation.

In 1921, he founded the Servants of the People Society, a non-profit welfare organization, in Lahore, which later moved to Delhi after partition and has branches in various parts of India.

In 1928, the Simon Commission was set up by the United Kingdom to report on the political situation in India, headed by Sir John Simon. When the Commission visited Lahore on October 30, 1928, Lajpat Rai led a non-violent protest march against it and coined the slogan “Simon Go Back”. The protesters chanted the slogan and carried black flags. The police superintendent in Lahore, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi-charge the protesters and personally assaulted Rai.

Despite being severely injured, Rai subsequently addressed the crowd and declared, “I declare that the blows struck at me today will be the last nails in the coffin of British rule in India.” Rai never fully recovered from his injuries and died on November 17, 1928. Doctors believed that Scott’s blows had hastened his death.

Bhagat Singh, an HSRA revolutionary who witnessed the event, vowed to avenge the death of Rai, a significant leader of the Indian independence movement. On December 17, 1928, Singh and Rajguru shot dead the superintendent while he was leaving the District Police Headquarters in Lahore.