Lala Lajapat Rai Beginning As Congress Leader and Helping The Poor

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Lala Lajapat Rai Beginning As Congress Leader and Helping The Poor

Beginning As Congress Leader

In 1888, still a budding lawyer, he entered politics. The Indian National Congress was fighting for the country’s freedom. Lalaji joined the Congress as a freedom fighter. Sir Syed Ahmed who was in the Congress had just then left it. He had begun to argue that Muslims should not join the Congress and that they should support the British government. Lalaji wrote bitter open letters to him in the Urdu weekly Koh-i-noor’.

The letters earned high praise in political circles. The same year in the Congress session at Allahabad, when Lalaji arrived with eighty delegates from Punjab, he received a tumultuous welcome. His heroic speech in Urdu there had a great effect on the Congress leaders. Lalaji was a young man of 23 years. His fame spread quickly in Congress.

Lalaji was proud of the ancient values and rich heritage of India. The session of the Indian National Congress at Allahabad in December 1888 marked the beginning of his political career. At the next session of Congress at Bombay in 1889 he spoke in support of Tilak’s amendment. Bipin Chandra Pal and Gokhale too supported Tilak. Though his name was linked with Tilak and Pal as the leaders of the extremists, he always made efforts to reconcile the differing elements.

The small town of Hissar proved inadequate for his growing social work. After qualifying to practice as an advocate in the Punjab High Court, he settled down in Lahore in 1892. The Congress session of 1893 was held at Lahore. The first Indian to become a member of the British Parliament, Dadabhai Naoroji, was the president of the session. Lalaji served as an enthusiastic volunteer.

Lalaji worked like a bee. There was no time for rest. When he was immersed in Congress work there was a split in the Arya Sarnaj. Lalaji gave a new shape to the D.A.V. College and stood by it.

After the advent of Gandhi Lajpat Rai found a different world of politics, not really much to his liking, especially when he was called upon to preside over the Special Congress Session in Calcutta in 1920. Gandhi’s politics looked to him as that of a visionary.

Helping The Poor

The sense of service shown by Lala Lajpat Rai and his devoted endeavour to help the poor, the downtrodden and those in difficulties bestowed lustre on his multifarious exertions. A terrible famine struck the Central Provinces in 1896. The drought shook people. No one can forget the part played by Lalaji at that time. Orphans and the destitute were at the mercy of the Christian missionaries and were being converted to Christianity.

Lalaji began a movement to help the orphans. He saved 250 orphan children from Jabalpur, Bilaspur and other districts, brought them to Punjab and admitted them to the orphanages of the Arya Samaj. He realized that he did not have sufficient time for both social service and legal practice; so in 1898 he reduced his legal practice. In 1899 a worse famine struck Punjab, Rajasthan, Kathiawad and Central Provinces. Again Lalaji led the movement by the Arya Samaj to save helpless children.

It was a trying time for Lalaji. He organized an extraordinary movement. Not only were 2,000 helpless persons saved but they were also provided with food, clothing, education and employment. In this movement sometimes there were clashes with Christian missionaries. Government set up a famine relief commission in 1901 and got Lalaji’s views. His account of famine conditions and his views led to a change in the government’s attitude to the destitute. Hindus and people of other religions were able to establish orphanages for destitute children of their folds.

In 1905, an occasion arose for Lalaji to dive deeper into another matter. There was an earthquake in Kangra district resulting in enormous loss of life and property. The Arya Samaj of Lahore set up a relief committee, As its secretary Lalaji toured Punjab province extensively and collected money for the committee. His service to the people at that time was unforgettable.

Lajpat Rai was always ready to help his countrymen whenever he found them in distress. He established a Home for the consumptives (T.B. Patients) known as the Gulabdevi hospital at Jullundhar, and also many orphanages, schools and widow-homes.