While in college Lala Lajpat Rai joined the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. Soon he became one of the three most prominent Hindu Nationalist members of the Indian National Congress, the Lal-Bal-Pal trio. They formed the extremist faction of the Indian National Congress, as opposed to the moderate one led first by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and then Gandhiji. Lalaji actively participated in the struggle against partition of Bengal. Along with Surendra Nath Banerjee, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurorbindo Ghosh, he galvanized Bengal and the nation in a vigorous campaign of Swadeshi. Lalaji was arrested on May 3, 1907 for creating “turmoil” in Rawalpindi. He was put in Mandalay jail for six months.
He left for Britain in April 1914 to organize propaganda in foreign countries about freedom struggle. At this time First World War broke out and he was unable to return to India. He went to USA to galvanize support for India. He founded the Indian Home League Society of America and wrote a book called “Young India”. He was able to return to India in 1920 after the end of World War. After his return, Lala Lajpat Rai, led the Punjab protests against the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre and the Non-Cooperation Movement. He was arrested several times. He disagreed with Gandhiji’s suspension of Non-Cooperation movement due to the Chauri-Chaura incident, and formed the Congress Independence Party, which had a pro-Hindu slant.
In 1928, British Government decided to send Simon Commission to India to discuss constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member. This greatly angered Indians. In 1929, when the Commisssion came to India there were protests all over India. Lala Lajpat Rai himself led one such procession against Simon Commission on October 30, 1928 in Lahore. While the procession was peaceful, James Scott, superintendent of Police brutally lathicharged the procession. Lala Lajpat Rai received severe head injuries and died on November17, 1928. Subsequently to avenge Lalaji’s death, Bhagat Singh and others planned to kill James Scott, however ended up killing John P. Saunders, Assistant Superintendent of Police, in case of a mistaken identity.
Annie Besant, Irish activist in London, fought for the causes she thought were right, such as, women’s rights, secularism, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers’ rights. In 1893, Besant became a part of the Theosophical Society and came to India. The society is based in Chennai and is known as the Theosophical Society, Adyar. Besant spent most of her time on the betterment of society and even towards India’s freedom struggle. Annie Besant went on to establish the All India Home Rule League on 1st August 1916, which was a political organization which aimed at self-government, termed as “Home Rule”. The league wanted to secure for India the statue of a dominion within the British Empire, such as countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland then. Besant’s league had an All India character, but was founded on Besant’s Theosophical contacts; it reached its zenith in year’s time with 27,000 members. The Home Rule League organized discussions and lectures and set up reading rooms, also distributing pamphlets educating people of what they sought to achieve through this movement. Members of the league were powerful orators and petitions of thousands of Indians were submitted to the British authorities.
The philosophy of the league was a combination of theosophy, social reform, ancient Hindu wisdom and the claims of achievement of the West which had already been anticipated by Hindu Rishis many years before they happened. The league influenced a lot of people by its philosophy, primarily because the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj had not reached the majority by then. A lot of young men groomed by the home rule movement went on to become future leaders in Indian politics, namely Satyamuri of Chennai, Jitendralal Banerji of Kolkata, Jawaharlal Nehru and Khaliquzzaman of Allahabad, Jamunadas Dwarkadas and Indulal Yajnik, among others.
The popularity of the Home Rule League began declining with the coming of the Satyagraha Movement by Mahatma Gandhi. By 1920 the Home Rule League elected Gandhi as its President and within a year from then it would merge into the Indian National Congress forming a united political front.