Lala Lajpat Rai and the Brave Demonstration against the Simon Commission
"Every blow aimed at me is a nail in the coffin of British Imperialism… I do not know whether I shall remain, but you should never worry. My spirit after me will go on exhorting you to make more sacrifices for liberty".
"Sara Shareer Lahu Se Bhiga Diya,
Par Buzdilee Ke Dagh Se Matha Bacha Liya".
Implying, "He got his body drenched in blood, but saved himself from being called a coward". The colonial government had imposed Section 144 at Lahore to restrain the people from showing their resentment at the way the Simon Commission had been constituted.
When Lala Lajpat Rai, popularly known as Punjab Kesari (the Lion of Punjab) and named as an institution by Mahatma Gandhiji, came to know of the imposition by the colonial regime, he immediately returned to Lahore and led the procession against the Simon Commission. He was made the target of a brutal lathi-charge by the police; even then he maintained his presence of mind and requested the people to remain calm and peaceful.
Eight or ten days before this incident, Lalaji had gone to Ludhiana to address a meeting. On the same day, the Governor of Punjab was to come there and so the city was decorated with flags. Lalaji was on a procession there, and when the procession was passing through the bazar, some students tore away some of the paper buntings. When Lalaji started his speech, he apologized for the action of the students. The British bureaucracy never thought to apologize or express regret for inflicting injuries on him at Lahore. They did not know the art of winning over people with love and affection.
People were enraged at the humiliating insult of their beloved leader. A mammoth meeting was held on the same evening outside the Mori Gate. Lalaji, though wounded and aching in pain, spoke with such vigour that his words became historic. He said, "Every blow aimed at me is a nail in the coffin of British Imperialism… I do not know whether I shall remain, but you should never worry. My spirit after me will go on exhorting you to make more sacrifices for liberty".
The injuries inflicted on him had their effect on his aging body. Though he recovered from the fever and pain, his health had received a permanent setback. The colonial government's attitude added fuel to the fire. This shock completely shattered Lalaji, and his health deteriorated day by day. It is truly said that 'coming events cast their shadows before.
Lalaji eventually lost his life on 17 November 1928, almost two and a half weeks later after being severely beaten by the colonial authorities. Homage was paid to the leader from far and wide.
On this day in history, we remember his bravery and the sacrifice he made for the Motherland. Salute to the martyr!
Source: Reproduced from Advance – A Pageant of Punjab's Life and Culture (1965). Vol. XII. No. 1. Published by the Director, Public Relations and Tourism, Punjab, Chandigarh.
Special thanks to Vandana Ma'am and staff at the Library, NAI, from Dr. Sanjay Garg and Dr. Divya Sethi.